The miracle of the encounter
Saint Dominic, since his childhood, was surrounded by a particular social "landscape". He grew up seeing his mother, a castellana, cope with the famine and serve the destitute of the place; He saw closely, when he was a student, the people who died of hunger.
As an adult he travelled the same paths crossed by the poor peasants, the nascent bourgeoisie, the needy, and knew the misery of rural areas and fortified cities. In his movements he watched and listened to the passersby, in the inns he came in contact with those who were open to dialogue – we think of the anecdote of the famous night that he spent conversing with the innkeeper –. From Friars, his companions at night, heard him sobbing as he thought of the people he met during the day...
He left for us, in the memory of the Order, his well-known cry "I cannot study on dead skins while men starve to death", which resulted in a clear and committed attitude that accompanied him throughout his life. These elements show us a Dominic capable of entering in close relationship with human history and with the small stories to which he is confronted with every day; In the face of such misery, he has put himself at stake for the dignity of life, for the salvation and liberation of his fellows.
I quote these aspects concerning our Holy Father Dominic to discover that "the main thrust” that marks his life is compassion. Compassion that induces Dominic to action and to a merciful action; The contact with poverty and misery makes him pass from emotion to action and, while he takes charge of a certain necessity, it provokes a total liberation of the person.
Dominic teaches us, when we speak of mercy, that this is not epidermal or transient sensibility; He intends it and urges us to understand it as the commitment not to flee from the suffering of history, to approach and remain, many times with the heart clouded by fear and awe, but to be, in the core of the absurd, the incomprehensible of suffering, of the fight against evil. This means overcoming the impulse that arises in us instinctively: to move away from pain, to dodge it or even better to move away in escape.
St. Dominic, as well represented by Blessed Fra Angelico, teaches us his secret to stay, as he remained like Mary, at the foot of the cross: he kneels down and rests his head on the wood of the Cross, through which Mercy descends, clothed by the crimson of Blood shed by the Innocent. There, St. Dominic remains, feels, moves, and becomes supportive by comprehending and embracing the situation, entering into a relationship starting from a tender and profound feeling of empathy and solidarity, in order to respond to the needs of the brothers and sisters.
This means that, together with the pain experienced in the suffering of neighbour, he reveals an inner attitude that puts him in intimate communion with the pain and misery of others. And the most significant effect of this human communion is that it eliminates inequality in the relationship, placing people on the same footing; Communion creates an equal relationship, recognizing the equal dignity of the person in need and the one who helps. It is produced for both the miracle of the encounter!
Excerpt of a conference by Sr Juana Segura (Mar del Plata, Argentina)
August 5th, 2019
Read the full text of the conference that Sr Juana gave to the Assembly 2019 of the Dominican Sisters of Latin America (in Spanish):
Mujeres predicadoras en empatia