“On the Apennines, near Viterbo, there dwelt a shepherd-boy, in the first years of this century, whose mind had early been drawn heavenward; and, one day, as he prayed before an image of the Madonna, he felt a vivid intimation that he was destined to preach the Gospel under the northern sky. There appeared no means by which a Roman peasant should be turned into a missionary; nor did the prospect open, when this youth found himself, first a lay-brother, then a Father, in the Congregation of the Passion. Yet, though no external means appeared, the inward impression did not fade; on the contrary, it became more definite, and in process of time, instead of the dim north, England was engraven on his heart. And, strange to say, as years went on, without his seeking, for he was simply under obedience, our peasant found himself at length upon the very shore of the stormy northern sea, whence Cæsar of old looked out for a new world to conquer: yet that he should cross the strait was still as little likely as before. However, it was as likely as that he should ever have got so near it; and he used to eye the restless, godless, waves, and wonder with himself whether the day would ever come when he should be carried over them. And come it did, not however by any determination of his own, but by the same Providence which thirty years before had given him the anticipation of it.” – Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, in ‘Loss and Gain’
Today in England we mark the memorial of Blessed Dominic of the Mother of God, otherwise known as Dominic Barberi. Blessed Dominic is perhaps most well known for having received, the Blessed John Henry Newman into the Catholic Church. Yet quite aside from his relation to Newman Dominic is a great saint in his own right, perhaps the greatest saint to have set foot on these shores. Because of the great work he did for the Faith in our country he is hailed as a second Augustine of Canterbury, a second Apostle of England.
In his youth Blessed Dominic was mystically guided by our Blessed Lady to enter the Passionist Congregation. The founder of the Passionists, St. Paul of the Cross, had a great devotion to praying for the conversion of England, something he never failed to do each day. Through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin God revealed to Dominic that his own life was to be one of sacrifices and works for the conversion of England. Dominic was ever confident that God would see His plans through so never mentioned his desire for England’s conversion to his superiors. Thus it was through the grace of God that he was sent first to Belgium and finally to England. Dominic was not only a great mystic, but a profound theologian. Sadly many of his works remain unpublished or untranslated into English.
On arriving in England Blessed Dominic immediately set out working for the conversion of his adopted country. He established monasteries, preached missions and received many hundreds of people into the Church. Who knows how many English Catholics today owe their faith to that early work of Blessed Dominic? Dominic also was not one to avoid controversy – he kept up with the Oxford Movement and engaged in the debates of the Tractarians. One of the most well known stories has Dominic walking down a street and being cursed by a Protestant minister on account of transubstantiation. Finally Dominic, who had kept silent until now, simply retorted; “Jesus Christ said over the consecrated elements, “This is my body” you say “No. It is not his body!” Who then am I to believe? I prefer to believe Jesus Christ.”. It was his belief in Jesus Christ and his desire that all should enter His Church that drove Blessed Dominic from the hills of Italy to the wilds of England.
Blessed Dominic died of a heart attack in Reading, broken by his labours for the conversion of this country. Let us pray that Blessed Dominic may become more widely known and loved amongst the people of this country.
O Jesus convert England! O God have mercy on this country!
Blessed Dominic, pray for England, pray for us!
Blessed John Henry Newman, pray for England, pray for us!