Throughout his life Dominic preached charity and acted accordingly. In 1190, while he was studying in Palencia, a famine devastated all of Spain. Palencia suffered with the rest of the country, and people died of starvation in the streets. Moved with pity at the sight of the dying poor, Dominic resolved to put into practice Christ’s counsel and do all he could to resolve their needs. He determined to sell all his belongings, even his priceless books, which he needed for his studies.
Before the invention of printing in the mid-fifteenth century, books were laboriously copied by hand. Much of this copying was done by monks; the manuscripts, preserved in monasteries, constituted the essentials of Western learning. Books in the twelfth century were extremely rare and valuable; thus, Dominic’s sacrifice was immense. Establishing a center for alms giving, Dominic sold his goods and distributed the money to the poor. Dominic’s act astonished and deeply moved his fellow students and masters in theology. Ashamed of how meager their own assistance had been, they were inspired to give alms in abundance, the citizens of the town opened their granaries, and their united efforts relieved the most urgent needs of the poor.
The above excerpt is from Reflections of Dominican Spirituality: The Windows of St. Dominic Church, Washington, D.C. by Dr. Mary Moran.