Dominican leader: St. Dominic can teach Catholics how to overcome divisions 800 years after death

St. Dominic in prayer, by El Greco St. Dominic in prayer, by El Greco. | El Greco - Museum of Fine Arts Boston via Wikimedia (Public Domain).

St. Dominic, the founder of the Order of Preachers, can teach Catholics how to overcome divisions, the head of the order said on the 800th anniversary of the saint’s death.

Fr. Gerard Francisco Parco Timoner III, the Master General of the Dominican Order, highlighted St. Dominic’s gift for overcoming discord as the order commemorated its founder’s death on Aug. 6, 1221.

“Today we see that the Church, the body of Christ, is wounded by division and discord, and we see that,” Timoner, who was elected as the 87th successor of St. Dominic in 2019, told Vatican News.

“It is very painful to read sometimes Catholics writing against the pope, writing against the Church, as though they are not Catholics. That is very painful. And if the Church is the body of Christ, then the body of Christ is wounded by division, by discord.”

He continued: “Dominic actually tried to do something about that, because the order he founded, he gifted it with a communitarian form of government. It is not democratic, but communitarian, where it is an inclusive form of government, where discernment and decisions involve the brothers -- with different levels of responsibility, according to offices, yes.”

“But we have this system of chapters -- a conventual chapter in a convent, a provincial chapter in the province, and the entire order, a general chapter -- where everyone has a voice. Everyone has one vote, including the Master of the Order. He has only one vote.”

“And Pope Francis affirmed that this form of government is a synodal form of government that helps the order to adapt to the changing situation, to adapt its mission to the changing historical situation. And what is more important, we maintained communion, fraternal communion.”

Pope Francis praised the example set by St. Dominic in a letter in May marking the eighth centenary of the saint’s death in Bologna, Italy.

He wrote that the Spanish priest could “serve as an inspiration to all the baptized, who are called, as missionary disciples, to reach every ‘periphery’ of our world with the light of the Gospel and the merciful love of Christ.”

The Dominicans are celebrating a Jubilee Year in honor of the 800th anniversary, which began on Jan. 6 and will end on Jan. 6, 2022.

The theme is “At Table with St. Dominic,” inspired by the “Mascarella Table,” an object kept in the Church of Santa Maria della Mascarella in Bologna on which the first portrait of St. Dominic was painted after his canonization in 1234.

Timoner, from Camarines Norte in the Philippines, is the first Asian Master of the Order. He said that Dominicans around the world continued to serve on the “peripheries.”

“Even today we have a friar who is working with a group in looking for a vaccine for COVID that is cheaper and easier to distribute, because the present vaccines require refrigeration and it’s very complicated,” he said.

“So they’re doing something for those who are in the islands, for those who are in the mountains, where there is no refrigeration.”

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