O Rose of Patience
Each night at the end of Compline we address St Dominic with the antiphon O Lumen: “O light of the Church, teacher of truth, rose of patience, ivory of chastity, you freely poured forth the waters of wisdom, preacher of grace unite us with the blessed. I would like to reflect on the title ‘O rose of patience.’
Reading through the biographical documents – the process of canonisation and the Libellus of Blessed Jordan of Saxony we notice that almost all the witnesses mention Dominic’s patience – very often his patience is linked to his humility, his kindness and compassion and his love of poverty. He was patient with himself, with God and with his brothers and sisters. We may ask ourselves what was the source of Dominic’s patience? What was his secret that we too might learn? It seems to me that his patience was the expression of his trust in the Father’s providential love and protection, and a consciousness of Jesus’ promise in St Matthew’s Gospel (which he carried with him always): “know that I am with you always.” Dominic was at work in the Lord’s vineyard – to which he gave his all but the results depended totally on the Lord and His timing.
Bl. Jordan says that “Dominic’s mind was always steady and calm except when he was stirred by a feeling of compassion and mercy; and since a happy heart makes for a cheerful face, the tranquil composure of the inner man was revealed outwardly by the kindliness and cheerfulness of his expression. He never allowed himself to become angry.” (103). We note that Bl Jordan does not say that Dominic never felt angry but that “he did not allow himself to become angry.” No doubt his years as a Canon of St Augustine, when he lived a contemplative life, grounded him in virtue. Bl Jordan tells us that Dominic “welcomed the Voice of his Lover with loyalty and pleasure” and that at this time through his cooperation with grace and meditating on the Conferences of Cassian he reached the “highest purity of conscience and a veritable peak of perfection.” (13). All this prepared him for his future work.
His patience must have been sorely tested during those ten years before the foundation of the Order which he spent preaching in and around Fanjeaux with no apparent results – yet he persevered and trusted. Instead of grumbling and complaining Dominic rejoiced in hardship so that he could be more conformed to his Saviour whom he continually contemplated as he walked the roads of Europe – for example when the heretics led him and his companions over rough ground and wounded their feet to the point of bleeding, Dominic rejoiced. He was respectful and patient towards his enemies while he prayed for them and did all in his power to bring them back to their Saviour.
His patience with the brethren is highlighted when one of them refused to travel to Paris without money – Dominic took compassion on the brother’s weakness and provided him with some coins. We also see how his patience with the nuns who resisted the move to S. Sisto eventually won them over to freely following his wishes.
While being firm he did not try to control or force his own will on others but set up an Order whose task was preaching – preaching which is the overflow of that charity which binds us together in community – an ideal set up for the exercise of patience. His last will and testament was “practise charity, preserve humility and embrace voluntary poverty” – an impossible task without patience.
When Dominic succumbed to his final illness at Bologna he bore it patiently and although the Order was in existence for only a few years and his brethren were bereft at the thought of losing their Father and Master, he calmly embraced God’s will and confidently surrendered himself and his work into his Father’s hands promising his forlorn brethren that he would be more useful to them after his death. His sons and daughters continue to remind him of this promise in the responsary O Spem and which we sing each evening during this novena. As we remind him of his promise we entrust ourselves to his intercession and ask him to teach us the way of true patience and humility.
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