Blessed John Dominici: Dominican theologian, preacher, and reformer
By Jean M. Heimann
On June 10, we honor Blessed John Dominici (1350 – 1420), a Dominican priest, renowned theologian and preacher, and reformer. He is wonderful example of a man who was determined to live out his full potential, using all his gifts to serve the Lord, overcoming his weaknesses.
John had humble beginnings. He was born in Florence, Italy, to a very poor family, had no formal education, and suffered from a severe speech impediment, which caused him to stammer and stutter. His speech impediment, combined with a lack of formal education, made the Dominican friars doubt the validity of his vocation to their Order. The Dominican Order is known for their emphasis on education and their work in the world as preachers. Thus, for two years, John was refused admission to the Order, who encouraged him to stay at home to care for his parents.
When he was finally admitted to the Order at age 17, John demonstrated an excellent memory, as well as an aptitude for theology and philosophy and was sent to the University of Paris to further his studies. He was highly motivated to succeed and earned a theology degree there. He also prayed to become a great preacher. His speech impediment was miraculously cured through the intercession of the recently deceased St. Catherine of Siena. Consequently, he spent 12 years preaching in Venice, Italy and became one of the greatest Dominican preachers.
Following his missionary work, he served as the Prior of the Dominican house at Santa Maria Novella and as Vicar-provincial in Rome, Italy in 1392. He helped Blessed Raymond of Capua rebuild the Order after the plague. He also founded Dominican houses and convents in several Italian cities.
He strongly supported catechesis of the youth and opposed pagan ideas that were creeping into the humanist thought of the day. He was appointed Cardinal of San Sisto in 1407, named Archbishop of Ragusa, Italy in 1408, and chosen as Confessor and advisor to Pope Gregory XII. Due to schism, there were two men who claimed the papacy. Following another election, three men claimed the papacy. He helped heal the Western Schism and convinced Pope Gregory XII to call the Council of Constance, and to abdicate in order to force the hands of the anti-popes, causing them to drop their claims to the crown.
He served as Papal Legate to Hungary and Bohemia for Pope Martin V. He died while preaching against the heresies of John Hus, attempting to heal the Hussite Schism. He was buried in the Church of Saint Paul the Hermit in Buda. Many miracles were worked at his tomb before it was destroyed by the Turks. In 1832, his cultus was confirmed and in 1837, he was beatified by Pope Gregory XVI.
Blessed John Dominici is the author of numerous Scripture commentaries and hymns in Italian. His portrait was painted by Fra Angelico, who had joined the order under him, and a memoir of him was written by Saint Antoninus of Florence who had joined the Order after hearing John preach, and had worked with him in Fiesole.
O God, giver of love, you strengthened the blessed confessor and bishop, John, to keep the church’s unity and renew regular discipline; grant us, through his prayers, to be of the same mind with him and to act like him in Christ Jesus our Lord, who lives and reigns with you.