art by Félix Hernández, OP
We told the story of the Croix du Sicaire in our first post of this Dominican Faith Series. We told it then because it’s inextricable from who Saint Dominic was and who Dominicans are today.
In sum, it is this: Saint Dominic was walking the path from Fanjeaux to Prouille and he was singing. Now, he had ample reasons to be unhappy: for one, he was walking barefoot, as he was said to have carried his shoes. Moreover, he was living among people who held very different beliefs, some of whom even wanted to murder him. In fact, some who wanted to murder him were hiding in the bushes on his trail waiting to do the very job.
As Dominic approached them, the assassins heard him singing and quickly changed their minds. It is said that they couldn’t murder a man so joyous. So they let him live, and he sang on.
On the pilgrimage, we, too, walked the path from Fanjeaux to Prouille, first singing “We Are People of the Holy Preaching” and then strolling in silence.
We were commemorating Dominic’s joyfulness, his contemplativeness, and also the yoke of walking a distance on a sandy path under the hot sun. Really, we were commemorating Dominic’s sense of itinerancy.
It is a Dominican call to be itinerant, to be ready to move.
However, itinerancy encompasses not just physical movement but also openness in mind and spirit. It is not just being stuck to one belief, but being open to many. It is being open to others, to challenges.
No doubt, there are some people to whom it is a pleasure to be open. But what about those from whom we guard ourselves? What about “contamination,” and the fear of the unknown that many strangers bring?
Dominic didn’t know who he would meet on his path, yet he always traveled on. When he met his supposed assassins, he did not shield himself with violence or with fear; he was open even to them.
It is no wonder that, years later, Saint Catherine of Siena wrote:
“The Dominican order has room for all people; it is a spacious, joyous, fragrant, and delightful garden with all flowers in it.”
Really, isn’t this the basic message of Jesus who touched lepers and walked with sinners? Jesus didn’t shun people. He didn’t shy away from any path out of fear. He, more than anyone, was open to others, to hardship, to life.
It is a Dominican call to be itinerant, to be ready to move, to be ready to take on all of the above.
Indeed, walking without fear brings with it the potential to have an unfortunate ending. But, as we see with Dominic, the openness of itinerancy also brings with it the possibility to come to a place of understanding, peace, and love
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For two weeks in June, a group of twenty-three people (about half sisters and half lay people) traced the footsteps that Saint Dominic laid in France over eight centuries ago. We learned about the life and ways of Saint Dominic so as to consider how we can live in a way that spreads his spirit today. This article is the seventh in the resulting series on Dominican faith. We will post these in the coming days as a countdown to Saint Dominic’s Feast Day, August 8th. For the entire series, click here.