The Birth of St. Dominic

Stained glass window from St. Dominic's Church in Washington, D.C. Photo by Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P.
Stained glass window from St. Dominic’s Church in Washington, D.C.
Photo by Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P.

As we eagerly await the 800th anniversary of the Order of Preachers in 2016, we’d like to begin the New Year with a series of posts that feature both the photography of Fr. Lawrence Lew, and the stained glass treasures found at St. Dominic’s Church.

Dominic was born about the year 1171 in Caleruega in Castile, the north-central region of Spain. A strong Catholic presence had been established there since the eleventh century, when Christian forces pushed south into the region, then Moorish. The area’s majestic monasteries, it is believed, made a strong impression on Dominic as a young man. Dominic was the youngest of three sons of Felix de Guzman, a member of the rural knighthood, and Jane (or Joanna) of Aza, the daughter of a noble Castilian family. Records of Dominic’s forebears reveal a long line of soldiers and statesmen prominent in Spanish history.

Before Dominic was born his mother had a dream in which she saw Dominic born under the appearance of a white and black dog, holding in his mouth a torch which illuminated the world. We are told that on the day of his baptism his godmother beheld him, in a vision, with a brilliant star gleaming on his forehead.

Photo by Fr. Gabriel Gillen, O.P. from Saint Vincent Ferrer Church in NYC.
Photo by Fr. Gabriel Gillen, O.P. from Saint Vincent Ferrer Church in NYC.

These two stories have found a place in the coat of arms of the Order, on the shield of which is to be found the dog with his torch, and the shining star of the saint’s baptismal day.

Although not wealthy, Dominic’s father saw to it that his children received a solid religious education first from his brother, the archpriest of the church of Gumiel d’Izan, and later in Palencia. This education gave Dominic not only a religious sensibility and skill in using texts of law but also a breath of vision and a comprehensive approach to examining problems. Dominic’s birthplace is now one of the holy places of Spain.

The popular name for the religious children of St. Dominic is Dominicans. Jane’s dream about her son alludes to the latin,”Domini canes”, “dogs of the Lord”, who wear a black and white habit while carrying the light of Christ through out the world as they preach.

Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P. (a member of the English Province) was invited by the Dominican Foundation to take pictures of some of the locations where our friars serve throughout the Northeast. During his time in Washington, D.C., Fr. Lew photographed the interior of the Church of St. Dominic. St. Dominic’s has been the church where our friars are ordained to the priesthood each May. Surrounding the church, is a collection of beautiful stained glass windows that chronicle the life of St. Dominic & the foundation of the Order of Preachers. Fr. Lew accomplished a great work by capturing the splendor of these windows, and in the process, the life of a towering saint.