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.
There is something about being in a garden that changes us. Whether or not we name it, we sense the presence of the Creator. It is as if there is a wonderful secret all around us that eludes our minds but speaks to our senses.
On this Solemnity of Pentecost, the poetic beauty of Psalm 104 glorifies the Creator and all of creation. Here are a few lines from the beginning of the Psalm:
"....O LORD my God, you are very great. You are clothed with honor and majesty, wrapped in light as with a garment. You stretch out the heavens like a tent, you set the beams of your chambers on the waters, you make the clouds your chariot, you ride on the wings of the wind, you make the winds your messengers, fire and flame your ministers...." (Ps. 104: 1b-4, NRSV Catholic Ed.)
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in us the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit, and we shall be recreated, and you will renew the face of the earth! (Traditional Catholic Prayer)
We are waiting for the Holy Spirit, and at the same time, the Holy Spirit is already here. Whether we believe a day of creation lasted 24 hours or an eon of time, when creation was complete, God saw that what He had made was ‘very good.’ (Gen. 1:31) We sometimes tend to think that imperfections, illness, and even evil are more real than the underlying goodness of creation. Yet, the underlying goodness remains.
“….There lives the dearest freshness deep down things; And though the last lights off the black West went Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs ― Because the Holy Ghost over the bent World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.”
(Excerpt from “God’s Grandeur” by Gerard Manley Hopkins)