Our Founder

Our Founder

Saint Dominic de Guzman, O.P.

Saint Dominic Adoring the Crucifixion

Responding to a crisis in the Church

Religious orders nearly always appear in response to some crisis in the Church, and it was no different for the Order of Preachers. Between the 12th and 14th centuries, a heresy known as Catharism spread throughout much of southern Europe.

Dominic de Guzman, a Spanish priest, encountered the Cathars in France while traveling with Diego d’Azevado, the Bishop of Osma. After spending the night in conversation with a confused innkeeper, Dominic became enflamed with zeal to convert the Cathars back to the Catholic faith.

The Cathars taught that all of reality was the result of a conflict between a good god and an evil god. The good god was seen as having created the spiritual realm, and the bad god as having created all physical matter. According to the Cathars, all physical matter was evil, including the human body, which was thought of as a prison for the soul. This was in direct contradiction to the true Christian faith which professed belief in one God who created all things and “saw that it was good.”

Dominic, inspired by his love of God and neighbor, sought the permission of the Holy Father to combat the heresy of Catharism. Joined by the Bishop of Osma and a small group of priests, he received a mandate from Pope Innocent III in 1205 to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the salvation of souls.


Committed to preaching the Word of God

By the end of 1215, Dominic and roughly 15 brother clerics had set up a base of operations at the church of Saint Romain in Toulouse, France. The brethren professed themselves to the Rule of Saint Augustine and committed their lives to preaching the Word of God, supported by prayer, study, and contemplation. Essential to the brothers’ success was their vowed religious life based on the evangelical counsels of poverty and chastity, both of which were subsumed under a single vow of obedience.

Dominic and his brothers held public debates with the Cathars throughout Toulouse. Blessed Jordan of Saxony, the second Master of the Order, often recounted a story of one of these debates. According to Bl. Jordan, a group of judges presiding over a dispute between Dominic and a Cathar were unable to determine a winner. As a solution, they sought recourse to the judgment of God by throwing both Dominic’s sacred text and the text of the Cathar into an open fire. Dominic’s book never caught fire, even after being tossed into the flames three times, while the Cathar's book was burned immediately.


Confirmation of the Order

Pope Honorius III confirmed the foundation of the Order of Preachers in 1216. Wasting little time, Dominic began sending his brothers out in groups of two throughout Spain, France, and Italy to preach and to establish new priories that would attract more brothers to his preaching mission. At the end of Dominic’s life in 1221, the Order of Preachers had established five provinces and at least 20 priories.

The brethren who knew Dominic reported that while he was virtually always joyful and sociable with others, he lived a life mostly immersed in the scriptures when he wasn’t preaching. He was known as a man who spoke only to God or about God. His brethren reported that he slept little, preferring to spend his nights praying in the chapel.

At the time of his death, Dominic wished to be buried under the feet of his brothers at the convent of Saint Nicholas in Bologna. Numerous miracles are reported to have occurred at the site of his tomb. The Order of Preachers spread far beyond Spain and France after Dominic’s death, and is credited with extinguishing the Catharist heresy from medieval Europe. Nearly 800 years later, Dominicans imitate their founder by preaching the true Catholic faith for the salvation of souls. Saint Dominic, pray for us.

Dominicans are not afraid to preach the truth.
- Andrew - Snohomish, WA
I grew tremendously under the influence of the Dominicans. They instilled in me a love for the liturgy, the Eucharist, evangelization, and justice - and above all, love for Christ.
- Anonymous
You can trust a Dominican priest to be sound theologically and intellectually challenging; while maintaining a pastoral concern for the people in his care.
- Anonymous
Before meeting the Dominicans I had no real thirst to seek the Truth, and now seeking the Truth has become my life's work.
- Bayli - Deming, WA
The Dominicans have helped us immensely in our spiritual growth with their dedication...to praise, to bless, and to preach [the Gospel].
- Elpidio and Maria - Vallejo, CA
The Dominicans are the best preachers I've ever known.
- Erlinda - Benicia, CA
Our Dominican priests and brothers are true gifts!
- Frank and Jan - Oregon City, OR
Dominican preaching is a strong witness to the Gospel!
- Gena - Anchorage, AK
I attended the Newman Center in Salt Lake City over twenty years ago. It was there that I experienced a reconversion of my faith. I truly believe in the Dominicans' mission of training priests to be great preachers. People need to be inspired by the word of God.
- Gretchen - Ellensburg, WA
I've greatly appreciated the service of Dominicans through their orthodox defense of the faith, inspiring preaching, and ministry at parishes and on university campuses.
- Joe - San Diego, CA
Dominicans impressed me as thoughtful, educated and caring. They have an inordinate sense of the importance of community which coupled with their intellectual gifts is truly compelling.
- Kathleen - San Francisco, CA
Dominican preaching has changed my life and reaffirmed my eternal faith.
- Keiko - Brooklyn, NY
The Dominicans preach the Gospel of our Lord Jesus powerfully and knowledgeably. I need this! And so does the Church and the world!
- Keith - Coeur d'Alene, ID
Through intelligent debate and real understanding of human nature, Dominicans model a brave example of Christianity.
- Lindsy - Glendale, CA
The Dominicans welcome, educate, and console us. I love them all.
- Luisa - Los Angeles, CA
As I listen [to Dominican preaching] I understand more the meaning of the Word of God. They easily connect with the people.
- Lydecia - San Diego, CA
Because of the welcoming of Dominicans and my Dad, I have returned to the Catholic Church.
- Margaret - Eugene, OR
So much of who I am today is because of the love, patience, wisdom, and preaching of the Dominicans. They showed me how to be relentless in seeking the truth, and I will be forever grateful. I want future generations to have Friars walking alongside them, teaching them how to fight for Truth, as they taught me
- Mariam - Seattle, WA
Please continue to form orthodox priests and brothers to teach and defend the faith with conviction and love!
- Mario and Theresa - Anchorage, AK
The Dominicans show great love for the people they serve.
- Mark and Patricia - Fairfield, CA
We feel fortunate to be part of the St. Dominic Benicia community, and value the friendship and guidance of many wonderful priests and brothers… Thank you for continuing to draw and form great men into service.
- Michael - Benicia, CA
What I most appreciate about the Dominicans is their joyful and unwavering defense of the Truth, and their annoying tenacity at making sure we understand (and make) distinctions!
- Michelle - Eastsound, WA
Dominican friars have been one of the largest influences on my faith, particularly while participating in their campus ministry at the University of Washington. Spending such a formative time with priests who not only openly and clearly preach the truth, but are also relatable models of how to live the Catholic faith, has taught me how to be an authentic Catholic young adult and show the beauty of God's love to others.
- Mikaela - Puyallup, WA
The Dominicans had a major influence on my learning and owning my faith while in college.
- Mikaela - Puyallup, WA
The Dominican priests helped me through the dark days of my father's passing, illness of a college friend, and loved ones coming down with cancer. Most of the outcomes can't be described other than miraculous! I feel the Dominicans have shown me a path that "turbo-charged" my faith through prayer, and how I can be helpful to others through prayer and corporal acts of mercy. This is something I have never thought could be possible until I witnessed it for myself.
- Mitzi - Antioch, CA
I have become a much stronger Catholic because of the preaching and writing of the Dominicans. I am so grateful for them.
- Nancy - Antioch, CA
We appreciate how Dominicans are committed to Mary, the Church, and defending the truth.
- Nick and Joy - Kirkland, WA
Dominicans taught me Truth, and have directed and inspired me in my personal spiritual life.
- Pat - Napa, CA
The first Mass I attended at a Dominican parish was so refreshingly orthodox and sacred, that I remained at that parish. More than educational, they provide and encourage so many catechetical opportunities to help us grow in our faith.
- Ronald and Toni - Anchorage, AK
We are so grateful for the tireless efforts of the Dominicans who serve us!
- Sarah - Anchorage, AK
The Dominicans impressed us with their consistent dedication to teaching the true faith. I cannot begin to describe the energy and focus these men bring to their work. The ministry that so many Dominicans have provided for my family has left us with a debt that could never be repaid, but we shall try.
- Sarah - Anchorage, AK
We appreciate the lively intellect of Dominicans and their comprehension of sacred texts. They discuss insightfully the internal life with God.
- Suzanne and Peter - Anchorage, AK
I just received your email with the link to "Catholic Spiritual Resources During the Coronavirus Outbreak" -- it is wonderful, much needed, and very much appreciated! In difficult times, the Sons of Dominic really do shine!
- Tara - Washington DC
Dominican friars awakened my faith as a college student through their ministry at the Catholic Newman Center.
- Tom - Littleton, CO
We appreciate the Dominicans for their charism of preaching and defending the truth of the faith.
- Tom and Mary - Ventura, CA
During my wife's life-threatening illness, I discovered the depth of my spirituality that Dominican friars have so graciously given me.
- William - Benicia, CA
We love our Dominican priests and their commitment, hard work, prayerfulness, and preaching.
- Christopher and Theresa - Los Angeles, CA
May God bless [the Dominicans] for bringing the Gospel to a world suffering from spiritual and intellectual poverty. Thank you for giving us hope.
- Daphne - Bellevue, WA
It is not for nothing that the Dominicans enjoy the nickname “God’s Hounds.” Their theological precision, liturgical reverence and pastoral solicitude, all informed and undergirded by a true love of Our Lady, have made them soul hunters of the best pedigree, even after 800 years. By the grace of God, may they have another 800!
- Christopher Check, President, Catholic Answers - San Diego, CA
[Dominicans] speak the truth from the pulpit and make it relatable to the average person.
- Mark and Patricia - Fairfield, CA
Holy Mass, devoutly prayed, with thoughtful and truthful homilies, matter more than ever. The Dominican mission is more important than ever.
- Anonymous Friend - Idaho
I just love and appreciate all the Dominican priests for their holiness, intelligence, preparation, and friendliness.
- Anonymous Friend - Washington State

Suggested Reading

Saint Dominic: The Grace of the Word by Fr. Guy Bedouelle, O.P.

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