St. Dominic and the Dog Days of Summer

Detail of St. Dominic from “The Mocking of Christ” by Fra Angelico

The “dog days of summer” are here. The days are hot and uncomfortable, and the garden is suffering from the heat. The dog days got their name from the brightest star in the sky, Sirius or the Dog Star, which rose on July 17 according to the Julian calendar. The Romans and Greeks attributed the unpleasant aspects of late summer to the rising of the Dog Star.

However, good things also appear in late summer, and St. Dominic was one of them. There is a curious connection between the saint and the dog days. When she was pregnant, his mother had a vision of a dog springing from her womb with a flaming torch in his mouth that would set the world on fire. At his baptism, in another vision, she saw a star shining from his chest. Not surprisingly, St. Dominic became the patron saint of astronomy.

St. Dominic founded the Order of Preachers (the Dominicans) as a remedy against the Albigensian heresy, which taught that the physical world was evil and only the spiritual world was good. (Hence, procreation was considered evil, and suicide was considered good.) Today is St. Dominic’s feast day. He was born on August 8, 1170, a blessing in the dog days of summer to all those who believe in the underlying goodness of creation.

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