St. Dominic died in 1221 at the age of 51, exhausted by a life of relentless preaching, which involved walking from Spain to France and to Italy, begging his sustenance on the way, and facing every kind of obstacle such as inhospitable terrain, rivers in flood, and even attempts on his life. He founded the Order of Preachers for preaching and the salvation of souls. By the power of the Word of God which he loved, meditated upon and preached, he strengthened the spiritual foundations of the Church of the 13th century, along with St. Francis of Assisi, his contemporary who founded the Friars Minor.
St. Dominic lived and worked within the mainstream of the Church movements of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries when the laity awoke to the possibility of taking up spiritual leadership roles as in the case of the Cathari and the Waldensians. They vehemently criticised the clergy for their lapse morals, preoccupation with wealth, and ignorance. Unfortunately, in spite of the good intentions to live an authentic Gospel life, having had no grounding in philosophy and theology, these lay movements were plagued by erroneous doctrines. St. Dominic and his followers engaged them in disputations and vanquished them with the sword of the Word of God.The Friars Preachers were the first and only religious order that has been established with the specific purpose of preaching the Gospel. Their very system of organization offered great freedom of action and movement. They substituted manual work with study, preaching and teaching, and elected every superior democratically. Voluntary poverty and mendicancy unbound them to wander the world freely to provide for the needs of the Church. They went everywhere “with the praise of God on their lips and a two-edged sword in their hand” (Ps. 149: 6).
St. Dominic and his brethren sought to win back the heretics by preaching the Christian doctrine based on the Bible and Church tradition. Several strands of influence led him to found an order that sought to imitate the apostles in preaching in mendicant poverty. First of all he had a very profound love of the Word of God. Having been a Cathedral Canon he insisted on common recitation of the Divine Office. The example of mendicant preachers like Robert Arbrissel, and Norbert of Xanten (who founded the Norbertines) encouraged St. Dominic to found an order that would have its members wander around the globe to preach like the apostles. He made study almost as important as prayer since his followers were to be preachers. He emphasized community life and liturgy which also nourished contemplation and gave impetus to the apostolate of preaching. It is said that he always spoke either to God or about God. By day he preached and by night he prayed, interceding for those to whom he preached.
Founded nearly 800 years ago, today the Dominicans are present in 102 countries across the globe. This year they are celebrating the golden jubilee of their arrival in Nagpur, India, in 1959. In all 24 Irish Dominicans have laboured in India. The first to arrive in 1959 were Frs. Gerard Mannes Cussen, Hugh Marquess, Ephrem McCarthy, and Thomas Ryan. The Dominican community they planted became a Province in 1997. The Irish Province has been generously assisting the Indian foundation with men and money all these 50 years. The Indian Province has been blessed by abundant vocations. It now has 138 members in 15 communities spread about in different states of India. The recent economic meltdown has forced the Province to put many of its projects on backburner for lack of funds. It is hoped that in the forthcoming General Chapter in 2010 the Order will discover ways to make all its Provinces share their resources of personnel and finances to make preaching the primary thrust of the Order across the globe.