Five Holy Marvels of the Dominican Order

Five Holy Marvels of the Dominican Order

Nearly 800 years has passed since The Order of Preachers (e.g., Dominican Order) was officially approved by Pope Honorius III.  Dominicans today include friars, nuns, sisters, and lay or secular Associates.  The particular charisms of this spirituality include charity, combatting heresy through preaching and theological study, and mystical union with God.  St. Catherine of Siena and St. Rose of Lima are among the most notable Dominicans who lived a deeply mystical spirituality within the Dominican framework.

There are several lesser known Dominicans who deserve to be acknowledged, if for no other reason than their unfailing fidelity to God through their religious commitment.  Some are saints, others blesseds, but all lived life in such a way that pointed others toward God.  In the Middle Ages there was evidence of precursors to the Age of Enlightenment, though its full influence would not occur until several hundred years later.  But in the 13th century, the understanding of and attitude towards religion were shifting, which is why the Domincans (among other religious orders) were so critical in their pursuit of theological truth and zeal in catechizing those who were skeptics.  These five men and women helped shape not only the order itself, but also their communities and societal perspectives that might otherwise have shifted to humanism much sooner than what actually happened.

St. Hyacinth Odrowatz (1187-1257)

Also known as St. Hyacinth of Poland, he was educated in Krakow, Prague, Paris, and Bologna as a lawyer and Doctor of Sacred Studies.  He was ordained a priest in the Dominican Order after witnessing a miracle performed by St. Dominic de Guzman himself.  As one of the original Preachers, Hyacinth was known most for his charism of evangelization, as he brought the faith to thousands of people throughout his native Poland, as well as Lithuania, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Scotland, Russia, Turkey, and Greece!  One of his most memorable deeds included salvaging a crucifix and a heavy statue of Mary during a raid on a monastery, which was nearly impossible for a man his size, considering his stature and the weight of the statue.  Because of this, most images of St. Hyacinth include both a crucifix and statue of Our Lady in his hands.  Today he is known as the patron saint against drowning and of the archdiocese of Poland.

St. Zedíslava Berkiana (1221-1252)

Born in modern day Czech Republic, Zedislava (also known as Zdislava Berka) was born of Bohemian nobility and exhibited unusual piety from a young age.  She had dreams of becoming a hermit, but her parents forced her to marry.  Sadly, she lived in an unhappy marriage.  She had four children and was a lay Dominican, devoting herself largely to the poor.  This apostolate increased the tension and conflict in her marriage, but she persevered in this call.  Oddly for the time, she received Communion on a daily basis and founded the Dominican priory of St. Lawrence close to the castle where she dwelled.  She is reported to have appeared in a vision to her husband following her death, and other apparitions were validated by the time of her canonization in 1995.  She is invoked as the patroness for people in difficult marriages or who are ridiculed for their piety.[2]

St. Margaret of Hungary (1242-1270)

The niece of well-known St. Elizabeth of Hungary, St. Margaret was born into nobility, specifically the Kingdom of Croatia as the ninth of ten children (and the last of the girls).  After a promise to God, Margaret was dedicated to the Lord and placed at a nearby Dominican monastery at age four.  She was transferred to the Monastery of the Blessed Virgin (which was founded by her parents) at the age of ten and remained there for the rest of her life.  She became a Consecrated Virgin and successfully fought her father’s attempt for her to marry a king.  After several unsuccessful attempts at her canonization, she was finally canonized by Pope Pius XII in 1943 and is depicted wearing a religious habit while holding a lily and a book.[3]

Blessed Alvarez of Cordova (1350 – 1430)

Alvarez was born in either Hungary or Spain and was well-known throughout his life for his widespread and effective preaching.  In addition to this, he lived a very austere life committed to the Way of the Cross and contemplation of the Lord’s Passion, which gained him notoriety (unsought, of course) among mainly the Spaniards – royalty and paupers alike.  One of his most notable and successful acts was to lead opposition to the antipope, Benedict XII (Peter de Luna).  A true Dominican as preacher, ascetic, and anti-heresy warrior, Alvarez developed a cult following around the year 1741.

Blessed Pier-Giorgio Frassati (1901-1925)

Pier was born into a family of journalists who owned a well-renowned newspaper, La Stampa, in Turin, Italy.  Many noticed his devotion and piety, despite the fact that he was only an average student.  As an adult, Pier became a Third Order Dominican and was heavily involved in Catholic social reform, especially Catholic Action and Apostleship of Prayer.  He devoted much of his time to prayer and acts of charity for the poor.  Part of his burgeoning apostolate included the founding of his own newspaper, Momento, which was based on Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical, Rerum Novarum.  A vehement anti-fascist, Pier made no bones about his political views and was zealous in the tireless work he did to promote the Catholic social teaching, preferential option for the poor.  He died in 1925 of polio, and nearly immediately following his death, people petitioned for the cause of his canonization to be investigated.  St. John Paul II beatified Pier in 1990, appropriately calling him “The Man of Eight Beatitudes.”

The heart of Dominican spirituality has manifested through individual charisms for hundreds of years, especially through the exemplary lives of these saints and others unnamed who have devoted their lives to specific works of charity and catechesis.  Without the Dominicans, our Church would be missing an essential and vital order of religious and lay people who have evangelized countless people covering numerable geographical areas.  Even more importantly, we would be lacking the beautiful tapestry of the individual gifts that the Dominican Order has generously dispensed for God’s glory and the conversion of sinners.

By Jeannie Ewing


(25 January 2016)