On August 8, with the rest of the Church, the Franciscan family celebrates St. Dominic, but not simply as a memorial but as a feast, honoring him as "our holy Father." This recognizes the fact that these two great mendicant orders arose at the same time and were devoted to many of the same ministries in the medieval church, despite their very different origins.
Dominic was born at Calaruega in the province of Burgos, Castile, in 1170. He received a fine education, and entered the canons regular of Osma in 1194. Traveling with through Southern France about 1204, he encountered Cathar heretics in Southern France, and recognized the need for authentic Gospel-living preachers to bring them back to the Catholic faith. He eventually formed a community in the diocese of Toulouse to fill this need. At the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215, the Church called for bishops to license qualified preachers, "powerful in word and deed," to minister to the People of God. Dominic saw his new "Order of Preachers" as fulfilling precisely this role in the Church, combining his traditional religious life, based on the Rule of St. Augustine, with a much greater flexibility and mobility. The Order received Papal confirmation in 1216 and Dominic devoted the rest of his life to organizing his brotherhood and recruiting well-educated clerics to join it. He died at Bologna in 1221. The Dominicans soon were making notable contributions to theology.
The Franciscans began as a largely lay movement, but soon, with more educated clerics such as Anthony of Padua joining the Order, they too responded to the Church's need for popular preachers. A certain rivalry with the Dominicans soon developed, but also a recognition that both Orders were working to achieve common ends. By the 1240s, stories began to be circulated that Dominic and Francis had met in person and had affirmed each other as heralds of the Gospel; some say this was during the Fourth Lateran Council itself, but other occasions were also named. Perhaps they may have met more than once. It is difficult to establish any occasion with certainty.
This nice article shows how Dominic and Francis, despite their very different origins and approaches, shared many of the same ideals. Francis and Dominic: One Heart and Mind
Traditionally, when the two communities live in the same town, Dominican friars host their Franciscan brothers today on the feast of their founder (and vice versa on the Feast of Francis) and this refrain is sung by the two groups at the festive meal: "Seraphic Father Francis and Apostolic Father Dominic: they taught us your law, O Lord."
Blessings to our Dominican sisters and brothers on their Feast Day!
Dominic V. Monti, OFM, is a Franciscan Friar of Holy Name Province (USA) and currently professor of Franciscan Research in the Franciscan Institute of St. Bonaventure University. He devoted the greater part of his ministry to teaching the History of Christianity, in particular the history of the Franciscan movement. He has contributed two volumes to the Works of St. Bonaventure series and is author of Francis & His Brothers, a popular history of the Friars Minor.