Saint Dominic and the Order of Preachers, Appendix

cover of the ebook 'Saint Dominic and the Order of Preachers'. The cover image a detail of a stained glass window of Saint Dominic, date and artist unknown. It is in the Saint-Suplice church in Fougères, France, was photographed on 28 December 2017 by GO69, and swiped from Wikimedia CommonsLETTER OF POPE BENEDICT XV

To the Most Reverend Father Master Louis Theissling Master General of the Dominican Order On the occasion of the Seventh Centenary of the Confirmation of the Order. Beloved Son, Health and Apostolic Benediction:


At the congress of Dominican Tertiaries held at Florence three years ago, at which We and many other Bishops were present, it was decided with our entire approval and advice, that another congress of the same kind, but of far greater solemnity, should be held at Bologna during the solemn festivities that were shortly to be observed in memory of the seventh centenary of the confirmation of the Dominican Order. Little did We then suspect what the decrees of God had in store for Our unworthiness and what He so soon was to bestow upon Us; but certain personal and special reasons seemed to prompt Us to honor the Institute and the memory of the most holy Patriarch Saint Dominic, since We were, so to speak, the defenders and guardians of his sacred ashes, and since, moreover, We venerate among those of Dominic’s sons who have been raised to the altars of the Church a member of Our own family. But now, since by the will of God it happens that at the approach of this centenary We find Ourselves no longer in the Seat of Saint Petronius, but in the very Chair of the Prince of the Apostles, therefore is it seemly that We should take into account the enduring benefits in behalf of the Church due to the Dominican Order rather than any private ties of Our own, and that We should give some singular proof of apostolic charity towards this illustrious Order.

Our predecessor Honorius III seemed, indeed, divinely illuminated when he foretold the glories of the Dominican family. For on December 22, 1216, when he confirmed the Order founded nine years before, he again addressed apostolic letters to the holy Founder. “Considering,” he wrote, “that the Brethren of your Order will be champions of the Faith and true lights of the world, We do hereby confirm your Order.” How truly he spoke, the history of the Dominicans from that day down to our own times is a shining proof.


For in respect to their labors and struggles for the Faith, it is certain that there were never any who opposed more strongly or more constantly the adversaries of Christian truth. First of all, with what great strength did they not crush the audacity of the Albigenses, for whose defeat, indeed, they were divinely raised up! Then, how strenuously and learnedly did they not oppose, by their teaching, preaching and writing, the Cathari, the Patarines, the Hussites, the Reformers and all the heretics that followed! Nor rarely were there found among them lose who sealed their faith by the outpouring of their blood. As an example We need but mention the illustrious Peter Martyr, the glory of Verona.

With what zeal they cherished and guarded the integrity of Faith and of Christian life among the people, who does not know? To pass over other things beneficially introduced by them to this end, such as the Holy Name Society, the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament, the Third Order of Saint Dominic, undoubtedly it was from the hands of Saint Dominic and his children that the Church received the Rosary of the Blessed Virgin, “that great protection against heresies and vices.” Nor did they labor less zealously and usefully in propagating the Faith. For we know that from the very beginning of the Order their missionaries carried the Word of God with great fruit to the barbarians of Asia and Northern Africa; with even greater success did they spread the truths of Christianity in Europe, especially among the Poles and Hungarians. And when America was discovered, the Dominicans, in particular those of Spain, felt that a new and immense field had been opened to their apostolic zeal. In such manner did they at all times conduct their apostolate in the New World, that the result was a rich harvest of souls and honorable renown.

Most conspicuous among these Dominican missionaries to America were Louis Bertrand and Bartholomew de las Casas. The one by the splendor of his virtues and the greatness of his miracles renewed the illustrious example of the Apostles. The other is deservedly ranked as one of the great vindicators of the dignity of human nature, because not only did he free the Indians from the slavery of Satan, but also protected them from the domination and persecution of wicked men.

Finally, that which above all else proves the sincere and unsullied Faith of the Dominican Order is its especial and uninterrupted devotion to this Holy See.

For it should never be forgotten that when the Papal authority was contumaciously attacked by the civil power, the Dominicans especially suffered much because of their unfailing loyalty to the Popes; whenever there was need to uphold the rights of the Roman Pontiff, the Dominicans were the first to undertake their defense. Furthermore, as long as the memory of Catherine of Sienna endures, the singular bond that unites the Dominican family to the Apostolic See will be sufficiently manifest.


There can be no question whatever but that the light which the Dominicans have shed upon the world to Our own day has come chiefly from their learning. It is known to all what great industry they have always exercised in those higher studies which promote the true progress of the race in right living; nor is it necessary to mention those among them whose genius and erudition have been immortalized by writings, vast and profound.

For who is there familiar with the highest studies who does not stand in amazement at the volumes of Albert the Great, of Antoninus and of Cajetan? Who is there devoted to the graver sciences, who will not most highly esteem, most earnestly love, most religiously follow Thomas Aquinas, the light of whose doctrine has been granted the Church by divine providence for the confirmation of truth and the refutation of all the errors of time to come? Praise is due this Order not merely because it produced the Angelic Doctor, but also because it never afterwards deviated a hair’s breadth from his teaching. But the Dominican Order is characterized not only by the light of learning, but also by that diviner light of holiness.

At every period of its history, great multitudes of this religious family have by the sanctity of their lives, in which, indeed, some surpassed others, attained to the blessedness of heaven, and from there they illuminate for the faithful the pathway to every virtue. This choir of Saints is led by their Father Dominic, and after him, shining with lesser glory, follow in wonderful variety Aquinas, Ferrer, Raymond, the Virgin of Sienna, and she who was the first by the fame of her sanctity to glorify the shores of South America.

Considering these things one cannot wonder that the Dominican Order has always been held in high regard by the Apostolic See, which, indeed, was itself most worthily occupied by four Dominican Popes. Hence the Roman Pontiffs often conferred upon the members of this Order the highest dignities and entrusted to them the gravest duties; and certain offices, instituted for the protection of the Faith, were committed to the Order as a commendation of the soundness of its discipline and doctrine.

Now We, Beloved Son, having regard of all these things, first of all do render supreme thanks to God, the Author and Giver of all good, for that, according to His kindness, He has till this present time favored the Institute of your Founder, and We suppliantly pray that He may deign in a similar way to cherish and assist it in the future. Therefore from Our heart We congratulate you and all the members of your threefold Order, and We exhort you that you continue to show yourselves worthy to be children of so great a Father and recipients of such an inheritance. We think it augurs well for you yourself that you begin the government of the Order at the approach of this happy commemoration, and We wish you a term of office marked by prosperity and fruitful to the Church. In order that this centenary festivity, which falls on December 22d of this year, may be celebrated with greater spiritual profit and joy, it has pleased us to enrich it with a Pontifical indulgence. Therefore, We grant, for one time, and under the usual conditions, a plenary indulgence to all those who visit any church or public oratory of the first, second or third Order of Saint Dominic, in which the seventh centenary is being commemorated by a triduum or by the observance of the feast day only. Moreover, We grant not only for the day of the solemnity, but also for the other two days of the triduum, where this is held, that the Mass of Saint Dominic may be celebrated.

Meanwhile as a pledge of heavenly gifts and as a proof of our fatherly good-will most lovingly do We grant to you, Beloved Son, and to your entire Order the Apostolic Benediction.

Given at Rome at Saint Peter’s, the 29th day of October, 1916, in the third year of Our Pontificate. BENEDICT XV, Pope


To our Venerable Brethren, the Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, Bishops, and Other Local Ordinaries, Having Peace and Communion with the Apostolic See, Benedict XV, Pope: concerning the celebration of the seven-hundredth anniversary of the celestial birthday of Saint Dominic.

Venerable Brethren, Health and the Apostolic Blessing:

The happy day approaches of the seven-hundredth anniversary of the passing of Saint Dominic, that light of sanctity, from the miseries of this life to the mansions of the Blessed. We, who have long been one of his most devoted clients, especially from the time we undertook the charge of the church of Bologna which most faithfully guards his ashes, are very glad, therefore, to exhort the faithful from this Apostolic See to honor the memory of that holy man; for thus We not only satisfy our own piety, but perform a duty of gratitude to that Patriarch and lawgiver, as well as his illustrious Order.

Saint Dominic and Preaching

As this Saint was entirely a man of God and rightly called Dominic (man of the Lord), so in like manner was he wholly a man of the Church. In him the Church found a most unconquerable champion, and in his Order a wonderful defender of the Holy See. Wherefore, not only did he strengthen the temple in his days,{1} but also provided for its continual defense in after times, so much so that the words of Honorius III, when approving the Order seem prophetic: “Considering that the brethren of your Order will be defenders of the faith and true lights of the world.”

As all are well aware, our Lord used no other means to spread His Kingdom than the preaching of the Gospel, that is, the living voice of His heralds who carried His heavenly doctrines to every quarter of the world. “Teach ye all nations,”{2} He said; “preach the Gospel to every creature.”{3} Accordingly from the preaching of the Apostles, especially of Saint Paul, which was followed by the teaching and instruction of the Fathers and Doctors, it came to pass that the minds of men were illumined with heavenly truth, and their hearts inflamed with the love of all virtues. Saint Dominic used this very same method for promoting the salvation of souls when he made this the motto of his Order: “To deliver to others the fruits of contemplation.” For this reason he enjoined as a sacred and solemn duty, that his Institute should carefully unite the practice of poverty, innocence and religious discipline with sacred studies and the preaching of the truth.

Now there have been three characteristics of Dominican preaching: great solidity of doctrine, complete loyalty to the Holy See, and particular devotion to the Virgin Mother.

Solidity of Doctrine

Although Saint Dominic, at an early age, felt he was destined to be a preacher, yet he did not undertake that office until after he had made long studies in philosophy and theology at the University of Palencia, and, by constant and extensive reading of the Fathers, had succeeded, under their guidance, in converting, as it were, the riches of Sacred Scripture, in particular of Saint Paul, into his own blood and marrow. How much this knowledge of divine things availed him was soon manifested in his controversies with heretics, for although these were armed with every art and fallacy against the doctrines of our faith, it is marvelous how powerfully he refuted and confounded them. This was seen especially at Toulouse, a city which was then considered as the headquarters of the heretics. There all their ablest men were gathered. We learn from history that he and his first companions, powerful in word and work, successfully resisted the pride of the heretics, restrained their ferocity, and so softened their spirits by eloquence and charity that vast numbers of them were brought back to the Church. Nor was divine help wanting to Dominic in this encounter for when he had accepted the challenge of the heretics; that each contender should cast his own book into the flame, it happened miraculously that while the works of the heretics were utterly consumed, that of Dominic remained unharmed. Thus through Saint Dominic was Europe saved from the perils of the Albigensian heresy.

The Saint commanded that the members of his Order should be distinguished by this same merit of solid doctrine. Scarcely had his foundation been approved by the Holy See and been honored with the title of “Order of Preachers,” when he made it a rule that his houses should be located as near as possible to the most celebrated universities, so that their members might be able to cultivate all the branches of learning, and might attract to the new Order great numbers of persons devoted to higher studies. Therefore the Dominican Order, from its very beginning, was distinctively an Order of learning and at all times its proper work and duty has been to minister to the various diseases caused by error and to shed abroad the light of Christian faith. since there is nothing more prejudicial to eternal salvation than false teachings and ignorance of the truth. It was not strange, then that the power of this new apostolate drew all eyes to itself, based as it was upon the Gospel and the Fathers and recommended by a wealth of knowledge of every sort.

Indeed Divine Wisdom Itself seemed to speak through the Dominicans, since among them were found such illustrious preachers and defenders of Christian wisdom as Hyacinth of Poland, Peter Martyr, and Vincent Ferrer, as well as men who united with surpassing intellectual gifts the highest erudition. Of these latter were Albert the Great, Raymund of Penafort, and Saint Thomas Aquinas, that son of Saint Dominic in whom above all God has deigned to illuminate His Church. Although this Order was always highly esteemed as a teacher of the truth, it obtained an extraordinary glory when the Church declared the teaching of Thomas its own, and when the Popes, having extolled this great Doctor in terms of unusual praise, made him the master and patron of all Catholic schools.

Loyalty to Holy See

With this intense zeal for preserving and defending the faith went hand in hand Dominic’s supreme devotion to the Holy See. Thus we learn that, casting himself at the feet of Innocent III, he dedicated his life to the defense of the Roman Pontiff, and that on the following night this same Innocent, our Predecessor, beheld in a dream Dominic courageously offering his shoulders to uphold the mighty weight of the Lateran Basilica which seemed about to fall. From history we also learn that when the Saint had formed his first disciples in Christian perfection, he planned to bring together from the pious and devout laity a certain sacred militia which would at once defend the rights of the Church and strenuously set itself against heretics. This was the origin of the Third Order of Dominicans which, by popularizing among those in the world the way to perfection, was to provide very great adornments and helps for Holy Mother Church.

This loyalty to the Holy See was transmitted by Saint Dominic to his sons as a tradition and an inheritance. Whenever, therefore it has happened that people and rulers, deluded by error, have attacked the Church, the Dominicans, arising in defense of truth and justice, have shown themselves towards this Apostolic See a most opportune help for preserving the splendor of its authority. Who does not know how glorious in this respect were the deeds of Catherine of Sienna, that great virgin of the Dominican Order? Moved by the love of Christ, she struggled against incredible difficulties, and, when the Popes had been absent from Rome for seventy years, she persuaded the Sovereign Pontiff – a thing that no one else had been able to do – to return to his Roman See. Later when the Western Church was torn by a dire schism, Saint Catherine kept a great number of the faithful loyal and obedient to the rightful Pontiff.

While passing over other things, we must not neglect to mention that the Dominican Order has given four great Popes to the Church. The last of these Saint Pius V, has by his immortal deeds deserved most highly both of Christianity and of civil society. When, after unceasing efforts and urging he had leagued together the Catholic princes, he was able, with the protection and assistance of the Virgin Mother of God, – whom, in consequence, he ordered to be saluted thereafter as “Help of Christians,” – to cast down forever in the Gulf of Lepanto the power of the Turks.

Devotion to the Mother of God

This event clearly manifests that third quality of Dominican preaching mentioned before, viz., a most fervent devotion towards the great Mother of God. It is said that the victory of Lepanto was revealed to the Pontiff at the very time when throughout the Catholic world the Rosary sodalities were invoking Mary in that form of prayer which Saint Dominic had instituted and which his children had propagated far and wide. Loving the Blessed Virgin with filial devotion, Dominic confided especially in her protection when he undertook his task of defending the faith. Among other dogmas denied by the Albigenses were those of the divine maternity and virginity of Mary, which doctrines they pursued with every form of insult. Dominic, therefore, defended to the utmost of his strength these privileges of Mary and called on her for assistance, praying often in the words, “Make me worthy to praise thee, O Holy Virgin; give me power against thy enemies.” How pleased was heaven’s Queen with her pious servant, can easily be gathered from the fact that Dominic became the chosen instrument whom Mary employed to teach the Holy Rosary to her Son’s Spouse, the Church. This form of prayer, at once mental and vocal, in which the chief mysteries of our faith are contemplated, while fifteen Our Fathers and as many decades of the Hail Mary are repeated, is most calculated to arouse and increase in the people piety and every virtue. Rightly then, did Dominic require of his sons that in preaching the Word of God to the faithful they should frequently and carefully inculcate devotion to the Rosary; for of its usefulness he had had ample experience. On the other hand, he well knew that so great is the power of Mary with her Son that whatever graces He bestows on men come through her administration and apportionment; and on the other hand, that so kind and merciful is she as to be wont to relieve the misery even of those who do not invoke her, while she is unable to refuse those who have recourse to her patronage. Hence the Church has always found Mary to be, especially through the Rosary, that which she is called in the customary salutations, namely, “Mother of grace” and “Mother of mercy.” For this reason the Roman Pontiffs have neglected no opportunity down to our own times of highly commending the Rosary of the Blessed Virgin, and have enriched it with apostolic indulgences.

Need of the Dominican Order Today

Now the Dominican Order, as you yourselves understand, Venerable Brethren, is not less opportune in our times than it was in the day of its Founder. How many there are today destitute of the bread of life, that is, of heavenly doctrine, and who waste the appearance of truth and are kept from the faith by sundry errors! That priests may suitably minister to the needs of all these, how necessary is it that they should be zealous for the salvation of their neighbor and be solidly grounded in a knowledge of divine things! Moreover, how many ungrateful and forgetful children of the Church are turned away from the Vicar of Christ either through ignorance or malice, whom it is necessary to bring back to the bosom of their common parent! For remedying these and other evils of all kinds that afflict our ages, how much do we need the Motherly patronage of Mary!

The Dominicans have, then, an almost boundless field in which they can labor most usefully for the common welfare. Wherefore it is Our earnest desire that, on the occasion of this centenary celebration, they may renew their spirit after the example of their most holy Founder, and resolve to be every day more worthy of such a Father. In this, as is fitting, the members of the First Order should take the lead. Let them be ever more zealous in so preaching the divine Word that loyalty to the Successor of Saint Peter and devotion to the Blessed Virgin may grow, together with a knowledge and defense of the truth. From the Dominican Tertiaries also the Church expects much good, if, by instructing the ignorant and the unlettered in the precepts of Christian doctrine, they try to conform themselves to the spirit of their Founder. It is our hope and desire that many of them will be constant in this work, since it is a matter of supreme importance to souls. Finally, we wish that all Dominicans will take special interest in promoting among the people the practice of reciting the Rosary. This practice We have already urged upon the faithful when occasion offered, following in this the example of Our Predecessors, especially Leo XIII of happy memory. In these troubled days we most earnestly repeat Our exhortation, which, if it be heeded, we shall regard this centenary celebration as having borne sufficient fruit.

Meanwhile, Beloved Brethren, as a pledge of divine blessings and as a sign of our benevolence, We impart most lovingly in the Lord the Apostolic benediction to you, your clergy and your people.

Given at Rome, at Saint Peter’s, on the feast of the Princes of the Apostles, June 29, 1921, in the seventh year of Our Pontificate. BENEDICT XV, Pope.