BRIEF HISTORY OF THE ORDER
Dominican Order or Order of Preachers was founded by St. Dominic of Guzman who was a man of flesh and blood walking this earth in Spain, France, and Italy. He was born in Caleruega, in Old Castile, in Spain, in 1170. Educated as a young boy by an archpriest uncle in a nearby town, he later enrolled at the University of Palencia where, after finishing six years of Liberal Arts, he followed a four-year course of Theology and Sacred Scriptures. Ordained a priest, he joined the community of Canons Regular of the Cathedral of Burgo de Osma. There, “the man of letters and the theologian lived the life of a contemplative religious, becoming a truly “vir evangelicus”, (Man of the Gospel). After such a thorough intellectual and spiritual preparation, Dominic, now in his mid-thirties, was to become “vir apostolicus”, (an Apostolic Man); and this, not just to comply with the Pope’s orders, but as a new vocation in his life.
The 12th and 13th centuries were centuries of strong faith in Europe, but they also saw the emergence and spread of heresies and witnessed their devastating effects on the people of God. One such heresy was the albigensian (so called because it was centered around the city of Albi, in the district of Languedoc, in what is now Southern France). Albigenses believed in the old Manichaean theory of two principles of creation: on good, and one evil; and, therefore, in two realms: one good (the spiritual) and the other evil (the material). They accepted part of the Scriptures and called themselves Christian. Their leaders, known as “perfecti”, and regarded as the pure and authentic representatives of the Gospel, lived in utmost austerity and wandered about barefoot, preaching their brand of Christianity. In the process, they disparaged the Church’s authority and many of its teachings, with the subsequent disruption of genuine Catholic life.
After getting acquainted with the teaching and ways of the Albigenses, Dominic decided to meet them on their own ground. Through public disputations on the Scriptures, Theology and Church History, he unmasked the fallacies with which the heretics confused the minds of simple people. Moreover, by going about on foot and living in total poverty, he showed that true gospel humility is not a matter of external appearance for the sake of creating an impression, but something that must come from the heart in a sincere imitation of the Lord Jesus. He was successful along the threats. However it was too much for one man. As the days went by, some young men joined him, offering their services to the mission at hand. A community of preachers was formed. With the suggestion of the Pope, St. Dominic chose the Rule of St. Augustine for his Order. Pope Honorius III gave the official name, “Order of Preachers”, “Dominicans”.
In 1216 the Order was well established. Throughout the centuries, Dominicans defended the faith of the Church and brought the true light of faith to the world, bearing their motto, “Veritas”, (Truth), in mind.