Monday, July 27, 2009

Blackfriars in Gloucester and St Dominic of Ozma


Gloucester Blackfriars More Gloucester History tomorrow

You can see mainly pictures of the church below, including a view from the Sanctuary/Chancel area to the nave area. The shell having been restored to its more or less original state but with fireplaces where there should have been windows, possibly even stained glass. Many of the columns exposed bear traces of the original paint. Gloucester Council have designated the way where it stands, as Via Sacra. The grandeur and scale of the original church remain. The Lectern, although in the wrong place, shows the two insignia plaques of IHS carved. 'Iesu hominem Salvator'_Jesu Saviour of Men, later closely connected with Jesuits who kept the faith alive during the time of persecution. Today I visit the church and talk about St Dominic. Having been at Maryvale , being taught by Dominicans of Oxford, just last week, it was interesting but sad to see the alterations in what must have been a beautiful church.


Yesterday, I was able to take advantage of a special tour. Every Sunday at 3pm a tour is held of the Blackfriars building in Gloucester. I have seen it many times in Ladybellgate Street and have often wished to investigate, however, apparently the lack of electric lighting in the historic parts of the building have meant that these tours are confined to the summer. With several archeological digs having taken place and pending, the results have been fascinating and I can advise anyone who has not seen this jewel of a building, although knocked around a bit, with the church suffering the scars of its ‘conversion’ into a private dwelling , to have a look. Apart from the summer Sunday afternoon tours (£3.50 adults, free to English Heritage) tours can be arranged via Gloucester County Council and English heritage for adult groups and schoolchildren.

Tour Begins 3pm Sundays in July and August

Finally we went in through the gates of the monastery and towards the cloisters. To the left the entrance pointed to the church. I am not quite sure why, but the south aisle wall has been filled in with glass. Possibly the south wall of the church was too expensive to restore. There was an entrance in the south wall and also a stoup and what looked like a piscine, so possibly there was a Lady Chapel here with a side altar.You will see from the photographs it was a dull day.

The Church

The Church was large and had a very holy atmosphere in spite of its having been so spoiled. On two levels, the monastic end, had had its pulpitum removed, more importantly altar removed and replaced with a fireplace. Original windows had been filled in and other windows in a more Jacobean style put in. To the right of what had been the sanctuary there was a small door, on the next level (the staircase was now missing, where the friars ascended to their dorter or dormitory, and descended at night to the office of Mattins (at one time at two o’clock in the morning) with Lauds being at 6 or thereabouts. It was explained that St Dominic wanted the friars to be as close as possible for the night offices. Steps led down from the monastic end into the nave, which used to be much longer, and take in the space of another house, which had subsequently been built and is now disused behind the nave.

St Dominic of Guzman,Ozma Founder

St Dominic of Guzman was the son of Blessed Joan of Aza, a very holy woman, who was beatified herself by Pope Leo XII. When she was pregnant, his mother had a vision that her unborn child was a dog who would set the world on fire with a torch it carried in its mouth; a dog with a torch in its mouth became a symbol for the order which he founded, the Dominicans. Later in his life, he received from Our Blessed Mother the Rosary to combat the heresies of his time.

From his seventh to his fourteenth year he was schooled by his maternal uncle, an archpriest. In 1184 Saint Dominic entered the University of Palencia.
Here he remained for ten years working hard and with such success that throughout the superficial existence of that institution he achieved his excellent standard.. In the frivolous life of the university city, the life of the future saint was characterized by seriousness of purpose and an austerity of manner which singled him out as one from whom great things might be expected in the future. His love of learning and skill in theology was of prime importance in his plan, and found expression in every Dominican monastery, including Gloucester.

Tender hearted Saint

But more than once he proved that under this austere exterior he carried a tender heart. On one occasion he sold his books, annotated with his own hand, to relieve the starving poor of Palencia. His biographer and contemporary, Bartholomew of Trent, states that twice he tried to sell himself into slavery to obtain money for the liberation of those who were held in captivity by the Moors. These facts are worthy of mention in view of the cynical and saturnine character which some non-Catholic writers have endeavoured to foist upon one of the most noble and loving of men.

Sub Prior of a Cathedral

No one knows for certain when he was ordained. According to the deposition of Brother Stephen, Prior Provincial of Lombardy, given in the process of canonization, Dominic was still a student at Palencia when the Bishop of Osma, called him to membership in the cathedral chapter for the purpose of assisting in its reform. The bishop realized the importance to his plan of reform of having constantly before his canons the example of one of Dominic's eminent holiness. Nor was he disappointed in the result. In recognition of the part he had taken in converting its members into canons regular, Dominic was appointed sub-prior of the reformed chapter. On the accession of Don Diego d'Azevedo to the Bishopric of Osma in 1201, Dominic became superior of the chapter with the title of prior. As a canon of Osma, he spent nine years of his life hidden in God and rapt in contemplation, scarcely passing beyond the confines of the chapter house.

Saint like qualities reveal themselves and develop

The saint's increasing reputation for heroic sanctity, apostolic zeal, and profound learning caused him to be much sought after as a candidate for various bishoprics. Three distinct efforts were made to raise him to the episcopate but Saint Dominic absolutely refused all episcopal honours, saying that he would rather take flight in the night, with nothing but his staff, than accept a bishop’s position. From Muret Dominic returned to Carcassonne, where he resumed his preaching with unqualified success. It was not until 1214 that he returned to Toulouse. In the meantime the influence of his preaching and the eminent holiness of his life had drawn around him a little band of devoted disciples eager to follow wherever he might lead. Saint Dominic had never for a moment forgotten his purpose, formed eleven years before, of founding a religious order to combat heresy and propagate religious truth. The time now seemed opportune for the realization of his plan.


That Dominic and his companions might possess a fixed source of revenue Foulques made him chaplain of Fanjeaux and in July, 1215, canonically established the community as a religious congregation of his diocese, whose mission was the propagation of true doctrine and good morals, and the stamping out of heresy. However, Saint Dominic had dreamed of a world-order that would carry its apostolate to the ends of the earth. But, unknown to the saint, events were shaping themselves for the realization of his hopes. In November, 1215, an ecumenical council was to meet at Rome "to deliberate on the improvement of morals, the extinction of heresy, and the strengthening of the faith". This was identically the mission Saint Dominic had determined on for his order. With the Bishop of Toulouse, he was present at the deliberations of this council. From the very first session it seemed that events conspired to bring his plans to a successful result.

Rome Council 1215 (Year of Magna Carta, reign of King John)

The council bitterly accused the bishops of neglecting to preach adequately. In canon X they were directed to delegate capable men to preach the word of God to the people. Under these circumstances, it would reasonably appear that Dominic's request for confirmation of an order designed to carry out the mandates of the council would be joyfully granted. But while the council was anxious that these reforms should be put into effect as speedily as possible, it was at the same time opposed to the institution of any new religious orders, and had legislated to that effect in no uncertain terms. Preaching until then was confined to the bishops and. to bestow this office on an unknown and untried body of simple priests seemed too original and too bold in its conception to appeal to the conservative clergy who influenced the deliberations of the council. When, therefore, his petition for the approbation of his infant institute was refused, it could not have been wholly unexpected by Saint Dominic.

Disappointment that they had to follow rule of Augustine, no new orders allowed

Returning to Languedoc at the close of the council in December, 1215, the founder gathered about him his little band of followers and informed them of the wish of the council that there should be no new rules for religious orders. Thereupon they adopted the ancient rule of Saint Augustine, which on account of its generality, would easily lend itself to any form they might wish to give it. This done, Saint Dominic again appeared before the pope in the month of August, 1216, and again solicited the confirmation of his order. This time he was received more favourably, and on 22 December, 1216, the Bull of confirmation was issued.

Dominic in Rome

Saint Dominic spent the following Lent preaching in various churches in Rome, and before the Pope. It was at this time that he received the office and title of Master of the Sacred Palace, or Pope's Theologian. This office has been held uninterruptedly by members of the order from the founder's time to the present day.

Dominic send out his band of followers throughout Europe 1217

On 15 August, 1217, he gathered the brethren about him at Prouille to decide the affairs of the order. He had determined upon the heroic plan of dispersing his little band of seventeen unformed followers over all Europe. The result was spectacular testimony to trust in God.To facilitate the spread of the order, Honorius III, on 11 Feb., 1218, addressed a Bull to all archbishops, bishops, abbots, and priors, requesting their favour on behalf of the Order of Preachers.

By another Bull, dated 3 Dec, 1218, Pope Honorius III bestowed upon the order many churches. Dominic also helped the Pope to restore the Women’s Orders. He established houses in Bologna, Prouille, Toulouse, and many other places Lyon in France, Madrid, Toulouse and Paris, Limoges, Metz, Rheims, Poitiers and Orleans and finally Paris. Convents of Dominicans were founded all over Italy. Here he devoted several months to the religious formation of the brethren he found awaiting him. His arrival in Rome was the signal for the showering of new favours on the order. Notable among these marks of esteem were many complimentary letters addressed by Honorius to all those who had assisted the Fathers in all their foundations

On his return to Rome, towards the end of 1219, Dominic sent out letters to all the convents announcing the first General chapter of the order, to be held at Bologna on the feast of the following Pentecost. Shortly before, Honorius III, by a special Brief, had conferred upon the founder the title of Master General, which till then he had held only by tacit consent. At the very first session of the chapter in the following spring the saint startled his brethren by offering his resignation as master general. It is needless to say the resignation was not accepted and the founder remained at the head of the institute till the end of his life.

Dominic preached all over Italy and is said to have brought 10,000 unbelievers back to Christ. 30th May, 1221, found him again at Bologna presiding over the second general chapter of the order. At the close of the chapter he set out for Venice to visit Cardinal Ugolino, to whom he was especially indebted for many substantial acts of kindness. A fatal illness attacked him when he reached Bologna and. he died after three weeks, the many trials of which he bore with heroic patience. In a Bull dated at Spoleto, 13 July, 1234, Pope Gregory IX made his cult obligatory throughout the Church.

Life of St Dominic in the Service of God

The life of St. Dominic was one of tireless effort in the, service of God. While he journeyed from place to place he prayed and preached almost uninterruptedly. His penances were often extreme. While his charity was boundless he never permitted it to interfere with the stern sense of duty that guided every action of his life. If he hated false teaching and laboured untiringly for its extirpation it was because he loved truth and loved the souls of those among whom he laboured. He never failed to distinguish between sin and the sinner. It is not to be wondered at, therefore, if this athlete of Christ, who had conquered himself before attempting the reformation of others, was more than once chosen to proclaim the power of God.

The failure of the fire at Fanjeaux to consume the dissertation he had employed against the heretics, and which was thrice thrown into the flames; the raising to life of Napoleone Orsini; the appearance of the annals in the refectory of Saint Sixtus in response to his prayers, are but a few of the supernatural happenings by which God demonstrated the eminent holiness of His servant. We are not surprised, therefore, that, after signing the Bull of canonization on 13 July, 1234, Gregory IX declared that he no more doubted the saintliness of Saint Dominic than he did that of Saint Peter and Saint Paul.

Tomorrow: More of the Tour

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