Following in a long line of herders of sheep turned into herders of men, was a young man named Domingo (known as Dominic in English). Born in the year 1000 on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees, Dominic--like King David and St. Patrick before him--grew close to God during his long hours of tending sheep. Shepherds spend a lot of time sitting around waiting for the more exciting bits (like fending off wolves and wild dogs, for example) and during all of that waiting, some of the more contemplative shepherds spend that time praying and falling in love with God.
As happens again and again, a trial that appears to mess up a saint’s plans allows God the opportunity to do even greater good. Dominic and two of the other monks who wanted to follow Dominic rather than stay and see what King Garcia would do with them, were offered protection by Ferdinand I of Leon, the King of Castille, and welcomed by the monks at the Monastery of St. Sebastian at Silos.
When they arrived at St. Sebastian, it was in shambles. There were only six monks left, and they were in ill health physically and spiritually, with abysmal finances, and living in an insect-ridden building that was fit for condemnation. Not one to bemoan his wretched fate, Dominic rolled up his sleeves, and in no time had straightened out the monks’ spiritual disciplines, banished the bugs, rebuilt the abbey, built cloisters in the beautiful Romanesque style, revitalized the monastic finances by specializing in designing and producing fine books and gold and silver works, and had enough funds left over to provide charity for the poor and redeem slaves taken captive by the Moors, like St. John of Matha.
No longer in need of the shepherd's staff of his youth, Dominic was given an abbatial crozier, a kind of shepherd's staff for abbots, signifying his role as the shepherd of the souls entrusted to his care. Recognizing his natural leadership gifts, Dominic had been appointed abbot of the monastery--which quickly acquired a reputation throughout Spain as a center of learning, book design, and miraculous healings. Men with a longing to pray, study, and work flocked to the monastery, and the number of monks rose to forty by the time of Dominic’s death, on December 20, 1073. After his death, the monastery of St. Sebastian was renamed after St. Dominic of Silos, and still stands as a gorgeous example of Romanesque architecture and is known for its extensive library today. The monastic community there continues to benefit from the legacy of St. Dominic of Silos, and the spot is known for miraculous healings, especially those related to pregnancy. St. Dominic of Silos’s abbatial crozier was used to bless every Spanish queen and was placed at the queen's bedside when she was giving birth--until the establishment of the Second Spanish Republic in the year 1931.
The Legacy of St. Dominic of Silos
About 100 years after Dominic's death, a young woman, Jane of Aza, had a troubling dream. In the dream, a hound was racing through the world, igniting everything with a flaming torch. Jane made a pilgrimage to the monastery of St. Dominic of Silos to pray and seek counsel to understand this vivid dream. St. Dominic of Silos is said to have appeared to Jane in a vision to tell her she would have a son. Sure enough, the woman gave birth to a son not long after, whom, not surprisingly, she named Dominic. This Dominic would become the famous St. Dominic of Guzman who would found the Order of Preachers who would spread the gospel around the world.