In the year 2000, since I had to go to Rome as a delegate to the Capuchin General Chapter, I had a chance to try and develop a devotion to St. Dominic, something I consider under-developed in my own life.
I knew of him since childhood, if only as the one who "gave us the rosary," as the Chamorro hymn Ta Fan Lisåyo says. As a kid, I read about his life as a former Augustinian who saw the need to preach the Catholic faith in the south of France during the Albigensian heresy.
Even before I became a Capuchin, I knew he was a contemporary of Saint Francis and that they had met. Then, as a friar myself, I came to understand our orders as "twins," calling each other's founders "Holy Father Francis" and "Holy Father Dominic."
There is a tradition that, on the feast of St Francis, a Dominican preaches, and a Franciscan preaches on the feast of St Dominic.
Later, I went to a Dominican school of theology. Most of my theology professors from 1986-1990 were Dominicans.
But there, we heard almost daily about St Thomas Aquinas - not St Dominic.
I still consider myself quite inadequate in the area of St Dominic personally; who he was, and what were the main characteristics of his vision and ideals.
So in 2000 I decided, on a free day, to make a pilgrimage to the Church of Santa Sabina, the international headquarters of the Dominican Order, where tradition says Saint Dominic and Saint Francis met to talk and pray.
Santa Sabina in Rome
The church, actually a basilica, is somewhat out of the way. But I found it, and approached the porter, a young lay woman; probably a Dominican tertiary. She spoke no English, so I spoke in broken Italian. I asked to see the cell (room) where Saints Francis and Dominic prayed.
She said I had to wait; the priest who could allow me access was out. So that was my first surprise; that this room was not a main attraction there for visitors. In fact, there was no promotion about it at the church. It was like a well-kept secret.
How good that porter was to stand there for the better part of an hour, trying to keep me occupied by speaking to me in beautiful Italian, and bearing with my poor Italian.
Finally, the priest was available and he let me into what I remember was a pretty non-descript room. Some call it a chapel, but I don't remember it as one. But that was 13 years ago.
I sat there, and said some prayers and tried to imagine the scene 800 years ago. But I must confess that not much happened and I made for the door. I was happy to have waited almost an hour for a fifteen minute visit.
I later learned that a Carmelite, Saint Angelus, was also involved in the visit between Saints Dominic and Francis. I suppose, then, it was their moment, all those years ago. And I still need to get to know this Saint Dominic a bit more.