Memorial of Saint Dominic Guzman, priest
(Numbers 12:1-13; Matthew 14:22-36)
The Chicago archdiocese used to be the largest in the United States. Churches were found in almost every neighborhood, and the faithful packed them on Sundays. It is a different story today. Many parishes lack a resident pastor, and whole pews go empty during Sunday mass. The Church there, as in many dioceses in North America and Europe, is experiencing crisis. The situation is anticipated in today’s gospel.
The boatful of disciples being tossed about by the waves represents the Church after Jesus’ resurrection. It is suffering persecution and rejection by the Jews in Israel. Mission activity is more successful but not necessarily easier. Preachers like St. Paul undergo supreme hardship in preaching the gospel in faraway places. The reading shows Jesus coming to the aid of his Church. He saves his head disciple from drowning and brings peace to the threatening elements.
St. Dominic lived in another time of pastoral challenge. Catholics of southern France in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries were abandoning the church because of the bad example of some of the clergy. At the same time they were accepting an old heresy called Manicheanism which held that all material things are bad and all spiritual things are good. Dominic took up the challenge. He put his faith in the Lord of the gospels, preached the goodness of all creation, and lived simply and joyfully. His efforts, assisted by the same Lord, gradually won back many of those who had fallen-away.