Well, they say you can learn something new every day, and I did this morning. There was me thinking that Saint Dominic’s remains had only been translated once, but you could stretch it and claim that his remains have been moved twice, or even three times. And more than that, his remains have been fiddled with several times over the centuries. The first translation, which we commemorate today, took place on 24th May 1233, when the saint’s remains were removed from under the friars’ feet in the choir of the priory in Bologna, and interred in a shrine in a side chapel. The second translation took place in 1267 when the saints’ remains were placed in a more ornamented and dignified tomb, for the edification and veneration of a growing number of pilgrims who wanted to light a candle and say a prayer at the great saint’s resting place. The tomb was elevated so that the growing number of pilgrims could actually see the shrine. In 1383, the tomb was opened again, and a portion of the saint’s skull was removed and placed in a silver reliquary. And finally, in 1469 the Holy Father’s remains were once again removed and placed in the magnificent marble shrine, sculpted by Nicola Pisano, in which they rest to this day.
Now, I’m assuming all this information is correct. I did, after all, glean it from the internet, so it must be!
So, what would Saint Dominic have thought of it all? His own humble request was that he be buried beneath the feet of his friars where he could be of some use to them as they said their prayers. And yet he ended up in an expensive and elaborate marble tomb, well protected from the touches of the faithful.
Now, I don’t suppose Saint Dominic would give a second thought to any of it. Like any good Catholic, he would see the value in honouring the remains of saints, which has been, and still is, an important part of our Catholic tradition and devotion. At the end of Mass today, we will have the opportunity to venerate our own relic of the Holy Father.
What would be most important to Saint Dominic, is his last will and testament to those who would follow him. Among his final words were: “Let your treasure be voluntary poverty, guard humility, have charity.” Not only did Saint Dominic live this message himself, these were the values that he was anxious to transmit to his followers.
As we grapple with the meaning of Saint Dominic’s deathbed legacy for us, we must try to discover how we can live out, in our own lives, Saint Dominic’s last will and testament here in the New Forest.
As we observe the Memorial of Saint Dominic’s Translation, let our prayer be that we may grow in our commitment to BE THE GOOD NEWS OF JESUS CHRIST in our own times, just like Saint Dominic was in his, 800 years ago.
Our Holy Father Dominic, pray for us.