One of the lesser changes in the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council is the calendar of saints. Major changes occurred in the Mass and the sacraments, our reading of scripture has been greatly increased through the lectionary, but the council said little about the saints.
The saints proclaim the wonderful works of Christ and they give us examples to imitate, the council said, but in the liturgy preference should be given to the feasts of our Lord and the seasons that celebrate his mysteries.The only feasts of the saints to be celebrated by the universal Church are those that commemorate saints who are truly of universal importance. (SC 108,111)
What’s the universal importance of St. Dominic, whose feast we celebrate today?
At the beginning of the 13th century, Dominic faced the Albigensians a gnostic movement, strongly entrenched around Toulouse in France. He gathered preachers to bring the teaching of the gospel to the area. He wanted those who preach and teach to understand what they were preaching and what they were confronting, and so he established communities of Dominicans near universities like Paris and Bologna. They were to study and pray. Study and prayer and a simple life would help them know the truth and bring it to their world. His community still has that vital role in the church today.
The prayers for Dominic’s feast ask that the gifts of study and prayer and a simple life remain in the church. We need people who think and pray and preach.
One of Dominic’s biographers mentions something about him that’s true of all the saints, I think. Saints look redeemed. Dominic’s face was joyful, which came from a joyful heart and a soul at peace. He believed God was with him.
“He was a man of great equanimity, except when moved to compassion and mercy. And since a joyful heart animate the face, he displayed the peaceful composure of a spiritual man in the kindness he manifested outwardly and by the cheerfulness of his countenance.”
That same “cheerfulness of countenance” seems to be what people remark about Pope Francis. That doesn’t mean smiling continuously, but that joy is our “default,” it’s the attitude usually there. Fra Angelico seems to capture the peacefulness of Dominic in his portrait of the saint. (above)