Fish Eaters: The Whys and Hows of Traditional Catholicism

``Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church'' Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D

Feast of St. Dominic

Around the year 1170, in the town of Caleruega in the northwest of Spain, the pregnant wife of Felix Guzman had a dream. The Golden Legend tells us that she "saw in her sleep that she bare a little whelp [puppy] in her belly which bare a burning brand in his mouth, and, when he was issued out of her womb, he burnt all the world." After her baby -- whom she named Dominic -- was born, he was baptized, and "it seemed to a woman that was godmother to him at the font and held him, that the child Dominic had a star right clear in his forehead, which enlumined all the world."

Indeed, signs foretold that Dominic was destined for greatness.

He was blessed to have been born into a family that took the Faith very seriously, and from the ages of 7 to 14, he was sent to study under his mother's brother who was a priest; afterward, he spent a decade studying at Spain's first, but now defunct, university -- the University of Palencia. While a student, he was known for his great charity, selling his books to get money to help the poor, and twice trying to sell himself as ransom to free captives held by the Moors.

When he was 24, he was ordained a priest and soon tasked by his Bishop with reforming the local cathedral's canons -- clergymen living communally and associated with a given church. He was successful and made their sub-prior.

In 1203, while accompanying a Bishop on a diplomatic mission, he went to Toulouse, France and saw how the the place was in spiritual ruins because of the Albigensian heresy (Catharism) that held that matter is evil, that the Second Person of the Trinity did not become true man, but was only spirit, that committing suicide to escape the body is a good thing, etc. These problems went unchallenged by the local religious who'd fallen into worldliness and decadence. So Dominic decided to found a religious order for the specific purpose of preaching, and fighting such heresies. He first built a monastery for women -- the Monastery of Our Lady of Prouille -- which you can visit today in Aude, France. It was there that St. Dominic had a vision of Our Lady in which she instructed him to formalize and spread the praying of the Rosary, which he, of course, did.

He then built a monastery for men consisting of those who became his disciples due to his intelligence and holiness. During the Fourth Lateran Council, in 1215, he went to Rome to seek formal approval for his new Order, and there he met St. Francis of Assisi. The two men admired each other greatly, as can be discerned from the account of their meeting related in The Assisi Compilation:

Those two bright lights of the world, namely, Saint Francis and Saint Dominic, were once in the City with the Lord of Ostia, who later became Supreme Pontiff [Pope Gregory IX]. As they took turns pouring out honey-sweet words about the Lord, the bishop finally said to them: "In the early Church the Church’s shepherds were poor, and men of charity, not on fire with greed. Why don’t we make bishops and prelates of your brothers who excel in teaching and example?"

There arose a disagreement between the saints about answering, neither wishing to go first, but rather each deferring to the other. Each urged the other to reply. Each seemed superior to the other, since each was devoted to the other. At last humility conquered Francis as he did not speak first, but it also conquered Dominic since, in speaking first, he humbly obeyed Francis. Blessed Dominic therefore answered the bishop, "My lord, my brothers are already raised to a good level, if they will only realise it, and as much as possible I would not allow them to obtain any other appearance of dignity." As this brief response ended, Blessed Francis bowed to the bishop and said: "My lord, my brothers are called ‘lesser’ precisely so they will not presume to become ‘greater.’ They have been called this to teach them to stay down to earth, and to follow the footprints of Christ’s humility, which in the end will exalt them above all others n the sight of the saints. If you want them to bear fruit in the Church of God, keep them in the status in which they were called and hold them to it. Bring them back down to ground level even against their will. Never allow them to rise to become prelates." These were the replies of the saints.

When they finished their replies, the Lord of Ostia was greatly edified by the words of both and gave unbounded thanks to God. And as they left that place, blessed Dominic asked Saint Francis to be kind enough to give him the cord he had tied around him. Francis was slow to do this, refusing out of humility what the other was requesting out of charity. At last the happy devotion of the petitioner won out, and he devoutly put on the gift under his inner tunic. Finally they clasped hands and commended themselves to each other with great sweetness. And so one saint said to the other: "Brother Francis, I wish your Order and mine might become one, so we could share the same form of life in the Church."

In 1216, the Dominican Order -- the "Order of Preachers" -- was formally approved by the Pope and became known as "God's Dogs" due to their Latin name's sounding like a combination of the words "Domini" (Lord) and "canis" (dog): Dominicanus. They adopted the Rule of St. Augustine, and have "Veritas" (Truth) as their motto. St. Dominic then traveled all over France, Italy, and Spain setting up monasteries and preaching.

And during these travels there were miracles!  One of his spiritual daughters, Blessed Cecilia, recounted how he, by the power of God, raised a widow's son from the dead, and did the same for a Cardinal's son. She also recounted how he cast out demons, was guided by an angel one night,  cured the sick. and miraculously multiplied bread and wine in the same sort of way the loaves and fishes were multiplied by Christ (Matthew 14:13–21; Mark 6:31–44; Luke 9:12–17; John 6:1–14). She described St. Dominic's appearance like this:

I would describe the appearance of Blessed Dominic in the following way. He was slender and of medium height. His face was handsome and somewhat ruddy. His hair and beard were reddish and his eyes beautiful. From his brow and eyes emanated a kind of radiance which drew everyone to revere and love him. He was always cheerful and gay, except when he was moved to compassion at the sight of someone's affliction. His hands were long and well-formed and his voice was of a pleasing resonance. He was never bald, although he wore the full corona, which was sprinkled with a few grey hairs.

The Dominican Order was given the Basilica of St. Sabina (Basilica di Santa Sabina all'Aventino), in Rome, as their mother church (this basilica is the station church for Ash Wednesday). In the garden there, St. Dominic planted an orange tree -- a tree that he brought from Spain and which still lives. It is said to be the first orange tree planted in Italy, and the oldest orange tree in all of Europe.

In Bologna in 1221, St. Dominic became ill and knew he was dying. He told his brothers, "I will be more useful and fruitful to you after death than I was in life." They gathered around him to pray the Office and commend his soul, and as he and they were doing the former, he died. He was canonized in 1234 and was embraced as the patron saint of astronomy. On May 241 of the same year he was canonized, his relics were translated from behind the alter to a more approachable and prominent place in the same Bolognese church. Blessed Jordan of Saxony wrote that when his tomb was opened, a lovely fragrance filled the air, and "its sweetness astonished those present, and they were filled with wonder at this strange occurrence. Everyone shed tears of joy, and fear and hope rose in all hearts."

His feast day is August 4 (August 8 in the Novus Ordo). He can be recognized in art by his Dominican black and white habit, the presence of a little dog with a torch in its mouth, and/or the presence of a star above his head or on his forehead, and/or the presence of a Rosary or lilies.

In the centuries that followed St. Dominic's death, the Dominican Order came to be the home of many of our greatest saints, including SS. Albert the Great, Thomas Aquinas, Rose of Lima, Catherine of Siena, Martin de Porres, Vincent Ferrer, and Peter Martyr. And because of this glorious Order, the odious and life-threatening errors of Catharism were stamped out,2 and the Rosary became a staple of Catholic devotional life.


Some may prepare for this feast with the Novena to St. Dominic, starting on July 30 and ending on August 7, the eve of his feast. For the feast itself, there is the Litany of St. Dominic, of course, and there is this 13th century prayer by Blessed Jordan of Saxony (c. 1190 – 1237), which has become known as "the Dominican blessing" and is perfect for the day:

May God the Father bless us.
May God the Son heal us.
May God the Holy Spirit enlighten us,
and give us
eyes to see with,
ears to hear with,
hands to do the work of God with,
feet to walk with,
a mouth to preach the word of salvation with,
and the angel of peace to watch over us and lead us at last,
by our Lord's gift, to the Kingdom. Amen.

As to music, there is this Sequence used by the Dominicans for their Founder's feast.

In caelesti hierarchia,
nova sonet harmonia,
ducta cantico:
Cui concordet in hac via,
nostri chori melodia,
congaudens Dominico.

Ex Aegypto vastitatis,
virum suae voluntatis
vocat Auctor saeculi,

In fiscella paupertatis,
flumen transit vanitatis,
pro salute populi.

In figura catuli,
praedicator saeculi
matri praemonstratur;

Portans ore faculam,
ad amoris regulam
populos hortatur.

Hic est novus legislator,
hic Elias aemulator,
et detestans crimina.

Vulpes dissipat Samsonis,
et in tuba Gedeonis,
hostis fugat agmina.

A defunctis revocatum,
matri vivum reddit natum,
m adhuc corpore:

Signo crucis imber cedit;
turba fratrum panem edit,
missum Dei munere.

Felix, per quem gaudia
tota jam ecclesia
sumens exaltatur.

Orbem replet semine,
in caelorum agmine
tandem collocatur.

Jacet granum occultatum,
sidus latet obumbratum:
sed Plasmator omnium,

OssaJoseph pullulare,
sidus jubet radiare,
in salutem gentium.

O quam probat carnis florem,
omnem superans odorem,
tumuli fragrantia!

Aegri currunt, et curantur,
caeci, claudi reparantur,
virtutum frequentia.

Laudes ergo Dominico
personemus mirifico,
voce plena:

Clama petens suffragia,
ejus sequens vestigia
plebs egena.

Sed tu pater pie, bone,
pastor gregis, et patrone,
prece semper sedula,

Apud curiam summi Regis,
derelicti vices gregis
commenda per saeculi.
Amen.  Alleluia.
Now new canticles ascending,
And new strains harmonious blending,
'Mid the hierarchies of heaven:
With our earthly choirs according,
Join this festival in lauding,
To our holy father given.

For the welfare of the nations,
Called from Egypt's desolations
By their God and Maker, he

Was the chosen one and glorious,
Passing o'er the wave victorious,
In the ark of poverty.

Ere his birth, the preacher brother
Is prefigured to his mother
By a hound with torch of fire;

So her son, his torch-light bearing,
Midst the nations dark appearing,
Leads them on with full desire.

He, another Moses, teacheth,
And Elias-like he preacheth,
Sin denouncing with his might

Samson-like his foxes sending,
And the foe his trumpet rending,
Gedeon-like he put to flight.

From death's sleep a child he waketh
Whom alive his mother taketh:
When the holy sign he makes,

Cease the floods; and bread from heaven
For his fainting sons is given
Which into their hands he breaks.

Happy he, whose elevation,
Is our mother's exa1tation,
Is her joy and weal indeed.

To his home by saints attended,
Hath his soul for aye ascended,
Having filled the earth with seed.

Like the hidden grain he bideth
Like the clouded star he hideth:
But the Maker of the spheres,

Joseph's dry bones readorning,
Will reveal the star of morning,
Till earth's darkness disappears.

O surpassing fragrance, telling
Of the virtues of that dwelling,
Which within the tomb doth lie!

Thither flock the sick for healing,
Blind and lame the grace revealing
That his body lives for aye.

Wherefore now with jubilation
Bless and praise him, every nation,
Cry aloud, and crave his care:

Sing Dominic the glorious,
Sing Dominic victorious,
Claim his help and promised prayer.

And thou, father, kind and loving,
Shepherd, patron, unreproving,
Kneeling heaven's high throne before,

Lift for us thy voice prevailing,
To our King with prayers availing
Evermore and evermore.
Amen. Alleluia.

On a much lighter note, there is a song most Catholics are familiar with that is not a liturgical work; it's, instead, a pop song -- called "Dominique" --  and was one of the biggest hits of 1963, believe it or not. It was sung by Jeannine Deckers, known as "Sœur Sourire," a Dominican nun. Below are the original French version by Sœur Sourire and an English version performed by Mary Ford, Les Paul's wife and musical partner:

Dominique, inique, inique
s’en allait tout simplement
Routier pauvre et chantant
En tous chemins, en tous lieux
Il ne parle que du bon Dieu
Il ne parle que du bon Dieu

A l'époque où Jean-sans-Terre
D’Angleterre était le Roi
Dominique, notre Père
Combattit les Albigeois

Certain jour un hérétique
Par des ronces le conduit
Mais notre père Dominique
Par sa joie le convertit

Ni chameau, ni diligence
Il parcourt l’Europe à pied
Scandinavie ou Provence
Dans la sainte pauvreté

Enflamma de toute école
Filles et garçons pleins d’ardeur
Et pour semer la Parole
Inventa les Frères-Prêcheurs

Chez Dominique et ses frères
Le pain s’en vint à manquer
Et deux anges se présentèrent
Portant de grands pains dorés

Dominique vit en rêve
Les prêcheurs du monde entier
Sous le manteau de la Vierge
En grand nombre rassemblés

Dominique, mon bon Père
Garde-nous simples et gais
Pour annoncer nos frères
La vie et la vérité
Dominique -inique - inique
over the land he plods along
and sings a little song
never asking for reward
he just talks about the Lord
he just talks about the Lord

At a time when Johnny Lackland
over England was the king
Dominique was in the backland
fighting sin like anything

Now a heretic one day
among the thorns forced him to crawl
Dominique with just one prayer
made him hear the good Lord's call

Withour horse or fancy wagon
he crossed Europe up and down
poverty was his companion
as he walked from town to town

One day in the budding Order
there was nothing left to eat
suddenly two angels walked in
with a load of bread and meat

Grant us now, oh Dominique
the grace of love and simple mirth
that we all may help to quicken
godly life and truth on earth

I can't leave the topic of Dominican-related music without letting you know about "the Hillbilly Thomists" -- a group of Dominican friars who make bluegrass music. A sample of their work to whet your appetite so you will go seek them out: this is a song called "Bourbon, Bluegrass, and the Bible":

There are no traditional foods for the day that I know of, but in honor of St. Dominic's orange tree, try an orange cake to make the day special:

Orange Cake (a Sicilian recipe)

3 eggs
1 1/8 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup butter, softened
1/3 c plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
1 large orange, washed and cut into 4 pieces, seeds removed, rind reserved
1 tsp vanilla

juice of one orange
1/3 cup sugar

Heat oven to 350°F. Prepare an 8" springform pan or loaf pan by lining in parchment paper. Spray the paper with cooking spray or grease with butter or oil

Place the sugar and eggs in a large bowl and beat with a mixer until light and fluffy. Sift the flour with the baking powder then add to the mixture in the bowl a little at a time along with the softened butter. Continue to mix until completely blended, then stir in the yogurt.

In a food processor or blender, process the whole orange, rind included (everything but the seeds) until it is almost pureed.

Add the orange to the cake mixture and stir until evenly combined, stir in vanilla, then put the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until it tests done. Allow to cool for about 15 minutes, then remove from pan.

To glaze: Mix the sugar and the orange juice together in a small pan and allow to simmer for a few minutes, until the liquid acquires a syrupy consistency. Brush or spoon over the top of the cake and allow to cool completely before cutting.

Option: If you want, you can prepare this cake so the top is covered with candied sliced oranges, which makes it pretty. To do this, follow the directions below:

3/4 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
2 oranges washed and sliced in 1/8" thick slices (peel retained)

Mix the water and sugar and bring to a boil over high heat. Once it's boiling, gently add the orange slices, lower the heat, and let simmer for 15 minutes. Take off the heat and let it cool such that you're able to touch the oranges. Once cooled, layer the oranges in the bottom of the cake pan before you add the batter, overlapping the slices a bit so the whole bottom is covered and so that the assemblage resembles fishes scales. Add the batter on top, and bake as usual. When the cake is done, cooled, and glazed, invert it so the oranges show on top.

In Praiano, Salerno, Italy, the triduum (three days) before St.Dominic's feast are marked, along with the feast itself, by the presence of thousands of torches and fire shows. The piazza and the little houses along the windy streets are decorated with candles and luminaria, making the place glitter at night.

St. Dominic is the patron of Marina di Camerota, Salerno, Italy, and his feast there is celebrated with processions, concerts, and fireworks.

In Managua, Nicaragua, St. Dominic's feast is kept by a procession that includes a great ship-shaped float that makes its rounds throughout the city. There are also bullfights, a "running with the bulls," and a dance called las vacas culonas in which the dancers wear colorful costumes that mimic bulls, with bulls' horns and big bull rear ends.

See also "The Nine Ways of Prayer of St. Dominic" on this site. For further reading, see the following books from this site's Catholic Library:


1 May 24 -- the Translation of St. Dominic -- is treated as the biggest Dominican feast by the Dominican Order.

2 A joke about that:

Two men considering a religious vocation were having a conversation. "What is similar about the Jesuit and Dominican Orders? " the one asked.

The second replied, "Well, they were both founded by Spaniards -- St. Dominic for the Dominicans, and St. Ignatius of Loyola for the Jesuits. They were also both founded to combat heresy -- the Dominicans to fight the Albigensians, and the Jesuits to fight the Protestants."

"What is different about the Jesuit and Dominican Orders?"

"Met any Albigensians lately?"

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