Saturday, January 2, 2010

St. Dominic Guzman (1170 to Aug. 6, 1221)

   "Arm yourself with prayer rather than a sword; wear humility rather than fine clothes."
                                                  (St. Dominic Guzman)

   My dad was so devastated the day my mother died, that he had a stroke that morning. So, I sat at my mom's bedside at home during her final hours, my younger brother took my dad to the hospital.
   All I could think of was which rosaries should I put in the casket with my mother? I chose ones I had bought at Montecassino Abbey (where my grandfather's cousin was the abbott) and the Basilicia of San Domenico in Bologna, both in Italy.
   I can still picture myself on the living room couch, at 3:15 p.m. on that sweltering hot Monday, as they carried my mother through the kitchen in a black body bag.
   "I don't want you crying over my death," she said months earlier. "Plenty of kids lose their parents at a very young age. You're an adult!"
   I wasn't allowed to cry. I wasn't even allowed to mourn. It was time to plan a funeral, beg the doctors to let my dad out of the hospital so he could attend it, and then take my dad to a physical therapist and more doctor's appointments for the next year with the help of my two brothers and Uncle Frank.
   The rest is a blur. But what stands out for me is that amidst all the chaos, my dad managed to fully recover to the point where he went back to Providence College and earned a master's degree in theology at age 75, seven years later.
   It is the only college/university in North America run by the Dominican Order of Friars. And, in the early 1990s, I went to the Basilica of San Domenico in Bologna, Italy, the final resting place of the founder of this order, St. Dominic Guzman.
   My dad had always told me about the Dominicans, so I had to go there especially for him to get a rosary. I believe, without a doubt, that St. Dominic Guzman helped my dad regain his health and spirit of life after my mom's death.
   I clearly remember being told on the train ride to Emilia-Romagna that, "there's nothing to do in Bologna." But, always up for a challenge, I decided to go there anyway.
   I was so tired that I checked into a hotel and took a nap. When I awoke later in the afternoon, I asked the concierge for directions to the basilica.
  "It's right around the corner, but good luck getting there," he said.
   I left the building and took a quick right, and I couldn't believe what I saw. One of the largest reggae festivals in Europe was taking place right there in the piazza. Thousands of people were dancing around as the music blasted and I was the only Caucasian person to be found. There was enough rowdiness that even I was a bit hestitant to be out walking around.
   St. Dominic Guzman was born in modern day Castile-Leon, Spain in 1170. He moved to Bologna in 1218 and died there on Aug. 6, 1221. St. Dominic Guzman's feast day is Aug. 8. He was canonized in 1234 and is the patron saint of astronomers.

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