DOMINIC OF SEGOVIA, OR "THE LITTLE"
Like Saint Dominic, the subject of this sketch was a Castilian, for he was born in Segovia, Spain. The date of his birth is not given by any of the authors; which, however, is by no means an exception with the early fathers of the Order. Possibly it antedates that of Saint Dominic, for he is said to have been an old man when he died (1230). His birthplace is responsible for the names "Dominic of Segovia" and "Dominic, the Spaniard," by both of which he is often called. According to the earliest writers, who have been followed by the later, he was very small of stature and of a weak constitution. For this reason, he is also sometimes styled "Dominic the Little." Diminutive and unprepossessing though he was physically, he was powerful of soul -- a man of rare piety and devotion, marvellous humility, extraordinary innocence of life. Castillo, a Spaniard like himself, says he fell heir to Dominic Guzman's holiness and greatness of heart.(1)
Blessed Jordan of Saxony tells us that Dominic of Segovia did not have much learning. Others seem disposed to question this statement. Possibly they are right, for Jordan may have been deceived by the early disciple's profound humility. His labors among the Albigenses and later in his native land bespeak an ecclesiastic of more than ordinary parts.(2) He was one of the company of missionaries with Didacus de Azebes, bishop of Osma, while that prelate toiled in southern France, and remained there with the holy leader from Caleruega, when de Azebes returned home. Thus "Dominic the Little" was one of the very first disciples of the founder of the Friars Preacher. So did he ever prove faithful, constant, true, and zealous.(3)
One can but believe that the missionary from Segovia was among the first to whom Saint Dominic made known his desire to found an apostolic order. Be that as it may, although his unobtrusive spirit perhaps prevented him from making his influence felt, Dominic the Little evidently sat as an interested party at all the discussions on the subject by the associated companions, prior to the final successful launching of the new religious institute of Friars Preacher. In the dispersion of the brethren at Prouille, August, 1217, he was sent to Spain with Sueiro Gomes, Peter of Madrid, and Michael de Uzero.(4)
Dominic's first essay at apostolic work in his native Spain proved far from promising. Was it the result of diffidence of self, of inexperience in laboring alone, or of lonesomeness for his beloved superior, to whom he was attached by the strongest bonds of affection? We do not know. Blessed Jordan says it was because he did not meet with the success for which he had hoped. But we are rather inclined to think it due to one or other of the causes suggested above -- perhaps in part to all three of them. However it happened, early in 1218 we find the Spanish missionary in Rome, where he went from Spain to rejoin Saint Dominic.(5) Happily the holy patriarch understood his fellow-countryman, as well as knew what to expect from his zeal, obedience, and virtue.
Our disconsolate or disheartened Friar Preacher, whichever it may be, was now sent to Bologna. But the appointment was only temporary. Before the close of 1218, Saint Dominic visited Spain, and took his namesake with him. On this journey the patriarch founded the great Convent of the Holy Cross, Segovia, where his hopes for the success of his confre're who had failed were to be realized. By this time, Dominic the Little bad got his orientation and regained his self-composure.
He was placed in charge of the new institution. Under his administration it grew by leaps and bounds, for he drew many excellent subjects to his Order. Nor was his preaching less fruitful in good among the faithful. Demands for his services seem to have come from far and near. Indeed, he had few free moments for himself. The Scriptural dictum which tells us that "a prophet is not without honor, save in his own country, and in his own house," was certainly not intended for Dominic the Little; for it was in and around Segovia that he was specially venerated.(6)
Ferdinand III, who has since been canonized, succeeded to the throne of Castile in 1217, somewhat more than a year before our Friar Preacher settled in Segovia. One of the nuisances which annoyed the pious young monarch was the crowd of harlequins, flatterers, office seekers, and persons of evil character who, as was the custom of that day, infested the royal court. Father Dominic's zeal, eloquence, and good judgment soon not only brought him into public notice, but also won him the favor of those highest in authority. Accordingly, his services were sought to free his sovereign from this annoyance. So effective was his work that he cleared the Castilian court of such followers, "as it were, in a moment."(7)
Owing to the number of saintly and illustrious Spanish fathers with the name of Dominic in the early days of the Order, and its frequently brief and, indeterminate annals, it is often hard, or even impossible, to distinguish one from the other. Many of the writers speak ,of this difficulty. Marchese says that it, together with his inability to discover the date or particulars of the holy man's death, prevented him from including Dominic of Segovia in his Sagro Diario Domenicano.(8) Yet enough is distinctly said of this disciple among the original "sixteen" to show that he was universally considered a saint. A number of miracles were attributed to him. His humility was almost without measure, while his kindly disposition won all hearts.
Dominic the Little, for he was an excellent preacher, seems to have proclaimed the word of God in many parts of Spain. But Segovia and its vicinity were the principal field of his apostolic labors in the Iberian Peninsula. Some authors tell us that he founded a convent at Manino, or was at least prior there. As no such place can be discovered, either its name must have been changed, or that of some other city misspelled. Father Eebard thinks that Madrid might have been understood.(9) However, the early disciple of whom we shall speak in the next sketch started the Order in the capital of Spain. It is possible that the suburb of Segovia in which the Convent of the Holy Cross was built once bore the name of Manino.
Faithfully did Dominic of Segovia toil on until the end, gathering souls to Christ, laying up spiritual treasure for himself, and helping to establish the noble traditions of his Order. Some of our authors place his death in 1230, which is most likely correct. Although we are not told where it happened, it seems to be taken for granted that he closed his days in the city of his birth, Segovia. It is said that he was an aged man at the time, and that his departure from this world was as edifying as had been his life. Berthier places him first among several fathers who died "most saintly deaths" (sanctissima morte moriuntur) in the year given.(10)
It is a pity, because of his talent and opportunities, that Father Touron did not leave us a sketch of the holy missionary. Another matter for regret is that the editors of the Année Dominicaine, through some oversight, also failed to give us an outline of his life. Blessed Jordan of Saxony says, in his pithy way: "It would be well, if something were written about him" (de quo aliquid commemorare non erit inutile).(11)
1. BALME-LELAIDIER, II, 134, 187, 238; CASTILLO, pp. 57-58; FRACHET, de (Reichert ed.), p. 159; JORDAN of Saxony (Berthier ed.), p. 16; MALVENDA, pp. 174-175,238 ff, 249 ff; MAMACHI, pp. 187, 369, 370, and passim; MORTIER, I, 29, 90, 94, 95; PIO, col. 15; QUETIF-ECHARD, I, 15, 16. The sketch is taken principally from Castillo, Malvenda, and Mamachi.
2. It is possible that a faulty transcription of Jordan's work, in making copies of it, causes him to attribute little learning to Dominic of Segovia. Malvenda (p. 174), and the same is noted in Quetif-Echard (I, 15), cites Father Gui as saying Dominic was "little in body, but great in knowledge and virtue" (parvus corpore, sed scientia et virtute magnificus).
3. All the authors agree as to his early union with Saint Dominic.
4. JORDAN of Saxony, p. 16.
6. The editors of the Cartulaire (II, 238) are of the opinion that the first prior of the house at Segovia was the venerable Father Corbalan. This does not agree with others. Anyway, Corbalan died a few months after the establishment of the convent. Mamachi says Dominic was provincial in both Lombardy and Spain, which is an error. It was Dominic Muños (also called Dominic of Segovia) who held that office in Spain; and it seems certain that Lombardy had no provincial of that name (Vitae Fratrum, 304, n). In his Series Episcoporum (p. 70) Gams makes a Dominican of Gerard, who became bishop of Segovia in 1214, resigned in 1218, and died in 1225. If this is correct, Gerard became a Dominican after his resignation, and was most likely received into the Order by Dominic of Segovia. There were no Dominicans in 1214, while the convent of Segovia was founded in 1218. Dominic the Little, must also have given the habit to Dominic Muños, or at least received him to profession.
7. CASTILLO, pp. 57-58; MALVENDA, pp. 174-175, 249 ff.
8. I, 169.
9. QUETIF-ECHARD, I, 15.
10. Page XI in preface to Jordan's Opera.
11. Ibid., p. 16.