Rorate Caeli

A Holy Meeting

Quasi stella matutina in medio nebulæ, et quasi luna plena in diebus suis, et quasi sol refulgens, sic iste effulsit in templo Dei
(Capitulum for First Vespers, Lauds, Terce for the Feast of Saint Dominic, Breviarium iuxta Ritum Ordinis Prædicatorum - cf. Ecclesiasticus, l, 6-7: As the morning star in the midst of a cloud, and as the moon at the full, and as the sun when it shineth, so did he shine in the temple of God.)

While the life-giving stream of God’s Word welled forth from the pure and saintly depths of Dominic’s heart, another man had been called of God to revive in His Church, amid the soul-destroying luxury of the age, the love and observance of Poverty. This sublime lover of Jesus Christ was born in the town of Assisi, at the foot of the Umbrian hills, and was the son of a rich, but miserly, merchant. Having learnt French in the interests of his father’s business, they called him Francis, although it was neither his baptismal nor family name. Returning from Rome at the age of twenty-four, he, often solicited by the Spirit of God, was now wholly taken possession of by the same. Being led by his father into the presence of the Bishop of Assisi in order that he might renounce all his family rights, the heroic young man, stripping himself of all his clothes, lad them at the Bishop’s feet, saying, “Now I can say with more truth than ever, ‘Our Father who art in heaven.’” A little later on, being present at the Holy Sacrifice, he heard that part of the Gospel read where Jesus Christ tells His Apostles to take nothing for their journey, neither staff, nor scrip, nor bread, nor money, neither to have two coats. On hearing these words, he was filled with an inexpressible joy; he took off his shoes, cast aside his staff, with horror threw away the little money he possessed, and during the remainder of his life wore no other garment than an under one, a tunic, and a cord. Even these appeared too great riches, and before his death he had himself laid on the pavement in the presence of his brethren, nude as in the day when, on his final conversion, he had placed his garments at the Bishop’s feet.

Whilst these events were occurring, Dominic, at peril of his life, was evangelizing Languedoc, and crushing heresy by his apostolic labors. Unknown to themselves, a wondrous harmony had been established between these two men, and the similarity of their career extended even to the events which followed their death. Dominic was the senior by two years; and having been trained in a more learned manner for his mission, was in due time joined by this young brother, who needed no universities to teach him the science of poverty and love. Almost at the same instant that Dominic was laying the foundation of his Order at Our Lady of Prouille, at the foot of the Pyrenees, Francis was laying the foundation of his at Our Lady of the Angels, at the foot of the Apennines. An ancient sanctuary of the Blessed Virgin, Mother of God, was the sweet and lowly corner-stone of both these edifices. Our Lady of Prouille was Dominic’s cherished spot; while Our Lady of the Angels was the one spot of ground for which Francis had reserved a place in the immensity of a heart detached from all things visible. Both had commenced their public life by a pilgrimage to Rome, whither they returned to solicit for their Orders the approbation of the Holy Father. At first Innocent III refused their appeal, but was afterwards constrained by the same vision to give a verbal and conditional approval to both. As Francis, so Dominic, embraced within the flexible austerity of his Rule, men, women, and people of the world, making three Orders on single power combating for Jesus Christ with the arms of nature and grace; the only difference was, that while the first members of Dominic’s Order were women, those of St. Francis’ were men. The same Sovereign Pontiff, Honorious III, confirmed their institutions by apostolic Bulls, and the same Pope, Gregory IX, canonized them both. Also the two greatest doctors of all ages arose from their ashes; St Thomas from those of Dominic, and St. Bonaventure from those of Francis. Yet these two men, whose destinies were so harmonious in the sight of heaven and earth, were strangers to one another, and although both were in Rome during the fourth Lateran Council, it does not appear that they ever heard of each other.

One night, when Dominic was praying, he beheld Jesus Christ filled with wrath against the world, and His blessed Mother presenting to Him two men, in order to appease Him. He recognized himself as one, but did not know the other, whom he regarded so attentively that the face was ever present to him. On the morrow, in a church, we know not which, he beheld, in the dress of a mendicant, the face seen by him the preceding night, and running to the poor man, embraced him with holy effusion, uttering these words, “You are my companion; you will walk with me; let us keep together and none shall prevail against us.” He then related his vision, and thus were their hearts blended into one.
Henri-Dominique Lacordaire
Vie de Saint Dominique