23 October 2010

On St Dominic & the miracle of the cornbread

I've had a couple of requests for more info on the painting of St Dominic that appears above in the blog header.  I hate to admit it. . .but I just googled "Order of Preachers" and found it somewhere out there in the intertubes ether.  The "Please pass the cornbread" subtitle is just me being redneckish.

The Rev. Br. Lawrence Lew, OP of the English Province has a great post on the painting on his blog, Contemplata aliis Tradere.  Since I can't figure out how to link to this post, I will reproduce the story:

One of the most famous miracles involving St Dominic happened in the Refectory of San Sisto, which still exists, and the story is recounted in the Vitae Fratrum of the Order of Preachers and a painting of the event often adorns Dominican refectories:

"When the brethren were still living at the Church of San Sisto and formed a community of about one hundred, Blessed Dominic one day sent Brother John of Calabria and Brother Albert of Rome into the city to beg. From morning to noon, they went from house to house, but all in vain. As they were returning home without anything, they passed by the church of St. Anastasia where they met a woman who had a great love for the Order. Seeing that they had received no alms, she gave them one loaf of bread, saying, "I would hate to see you return empty-handed." They thanked her for the bread and continued on their journey home. Soon they were met by a handsome youth, who earnestly begged an alms of them. But they explained that having almost nothing for themselves, they could hardly give anything to him. As he continued to press them, they said to one another, "How far would a loaf of bread go with us? Let's give it to him for the love of God." No sooner had they given him the bread than he disappeared so quickly that they did not even know in what direction. When they reached the priory, the first one they met was Blessed Dominic who already knew, by a special revelation, all that had happened. He smiled and said, "I see you have nothing, my children," and they answered, "No, father." Then they hold him what they had received and of the beggar to whom they gave the bread. But he said to them, "It was an angel of the Lord. Nevertheless, the Lord will feed His servants. Let us go and pray." After they said a brief prayer in the church, he told them to summon the community for their meal. But they reminded him, "Holy Father, how can you tell them to come, when we have nothing to serve them?", and he answered, "The Lord will feed His servants." But when they continued to dilly-dally, he called Brother Roger, the procurator, and ordered him to call the brethren to the refectory, because the Lord would provide for His servants. So they set the tables and, when the signal was given, the community entered the refectory. After the blessing of the meal by Blessed Dominic, the brethren sat down and Brother Henry of Rome began to read. At his table Blessed Dominic joined his hands in prayer. Then the promise he had made through the Holy Spirit began to be fulfilled, for, in the middle of the refectory, there suddenly appeared two handsome youths from whose shoulders hung, in front and in back, two beautiful baskets filled with bread. Serving the youngest first, they began, one on the right and the other on the left, to distribute to each of the brethren one whole loaf of bread of marvelous appearance. When they reached Blessed Dominic and gave him a loaf, they bowed and disappeared. No one to this day knows whence they came or where they went. Then Blessed Dominic said to the brethren, "Come, brethren, eat the bread which the Lord has sent you."

Then he told the brethren who were serving to get some wine for the brethren. But they answered, "Holy father, there is no wine." Then filled with a prophetic spirit, Blessed Dominic told them to go to the wine-cask and draw off the wine the Lord has put there. They went and found the cask filled to the top with wine. Drawing some off, they served it to the brethren. And Blessed Dominic said, "Come, brethren, drink the wine which the Lord has sent." Thus they ate and drank as much as they needed that day and the next and the day after. When the meal was over, he ordered that all the unused bread and wine be given to the poor, because he did not want anything to remain in the house. But for those three days he sent no one out to beg, because the Lord was supplying them with bread and wine from heaven in abundance. Later the blessed father gave the brethren a beautiful sermon exhorting them never to lose their trust in God's providence, even in the direst need.

Later on, Brother Tancred, prior of the brethren, Brothers Odo and Henry of Rome, Brother Lawrence of England, Brother Gaudio, Brother John of Rome, and many others described this famous miracle to Sister Cecilia, who was living in the convent of St. Mary in Tempulo, and to other nuns. To them they gave some of the bread and wine, which they kept for many years as relics."

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  1. fr. Dismas, OP7:44 AM

    IIRC, the custom until the Council was to serve the youngest first as well in the refectory.

    Now, it's more of a free-for-all. :)

  2. lois in Indy10:01 AM

    For the past several weeks, the picture on top of your blog comes in and then after a few seconds disappears to a black screen. If I link to something from your blog and come back to your blog, the picture reappears for a few seconds and then goes back to black screen. Is it my computer or something in the setup at your end? If it is me, I sure don't know how to fix it. Thanks. lois

  3. Lois, it works for me every time. Computer stuff is more or less magic to me, so maybe someone out there knows the answer?

  4. Lois,

    The image appears to be a background of a CSS layer. This can cause problems in some browsers. Are you using IE 6.0 by chance?

  5. The table top on which the miracle of the loaves took place is still preserved at St. Dominic's basilica in Bologna.


  6. Fr Philip,
    I'm surprised that you, as an inveterate blogger, didn't know how to link to a specific post there. In any case, the URL you need is linked to by the timestamp at the very end. Thus in this case

    However, I'm kind of glad you didn't, because I so enjoyed looking through the rest of the friar's page.

  7. Anonymous4:34 PM

    Father Dismas, Hello! You may remember that when you were in the Studentate at beautiful St. Albert's, the Father Prior was always the last to go through the food line, in accordance with this important, ancient custom. That was a sacred burden for me. (How are you?) FrM (Your Old Prior)

  8. fr. Dismas, OP11:41 PM

    Doing very well, FrM! My health is much better, and I will be working again soon, after a little more physical therapy. God bless you!

  9. Thank you for posting this story. Very interesting.

  10. Do you believe it is true?

  11. Anonymous3:16 AM

    Do I believe it's true? I feel that the demythologizing of every incident (biblical or related to the saints) that two generations of Catholics have applied with gusto, along with the manipulation of the term "hagiography" so that now it can be defined as "untrue tales that have served to trivialize true religious experience" (and understand that in this lexicon, "true religious experience" always means "praxis-driven activism") has done little to benefit us. Rather, this shift has served to weaken our ability to grow in holiness. We need the examples of the saints and understandably, we're not always going to be able to obtain word-for-word, scene-by-scene accurate descriptions. But I ask myself why would Divine Providence have inspired such events (or stories) in the first place and why would these stories have survived the centuries? My only conclusion is that these legends/reports/stories have been vouchsafed to us by God to help us to grow closer to Him. Therefore, I say, "show me all the evidence to the contrary that you wish, I will believe in every one of them, word for word (more or less!)." To question them, as the past 45 years of doing so has proven, is to play with fire. Surely we all have better uses for our time, anyway. A Dominican Professor

  12. Can searching for the truth ever be a waste of time?

  13. lois in Indy10:08 PM

    I have a very old computer so now I know the problem is my browser. Sorry, Matt G, I have no clue what number it is.I will ask my brother (computer guru) what an IE 6.0 is. Thanks. Sorry to be off topic for such a great miracle story, Father Powell.