Dominic de Guzman was the son of Blessed Joan of Aza and her husband. The couple had long been childless when Blessed Joan prayed to St. Dominic of Silos, a patron of this problem. She soon became pregnant and decided to name the child Dominic in honor the saint.
While pregnant with her son, Blessed Joan had a dream of her child as a dog "who would set the world on fire with a torch" he carried in his mouth. St. Dominic came to be known as the "watchdog of the Lord," and a dog with a torch in its mouth became a symbol of the Dominican religious order.
Dominic was born in the year 1170 at Calaruega, Burgos, Old Castille. At his baptism his mother had a vision of a star shining from her son's chest. This star became another symbol of the Dominican order and led to St. Dominic's patronage of astronomy.
St. Dominic studied at the University of Palencia, was ordained to the priesthood, and became a canon of St. Augustine. In 1203, Dominic passed through southern France while on a journey with his bishop. In this place, Dominic witnessed firsthand the horrors wrought by the Albigensian heresy. It was then that Dominic discovered his vocation to work amongst heretics. In order to fulfill this calling, the young canon founded the Order of Friars Preachers, now known as Dominicans.
Dominic offered constant penance for the heretics, fasting, holding all-night prayer vigils, and walking barefoot. He is known to have performed many miracles including healing the sick, raising the dead, and multiplying food.
Once, while discouraged in his ministry, Dominic received a vision of Our Lady presenting him with a wreath of roses which represented the rosary. She exhorted him to pray the rosary daily and teach it to all he met. If he did this, she said, true faith would win out. He is believed to have received other visions of Our Lady and Christ as well.
Dominic journeyed to Rome where he received the confirmation of his order from Pope Honorius III, who also bestowed on him two convents, that of St. Sixtus for the Dominican sisters and of Santa Sabina for the friars.
According to legend, St. Dominic dreamt of a beggarman who would also do great things for the faith. The next day Dominic met the beggar, embraced him, and exclaimed "You are my companion and must walk with me. If we hold together, no earthly power can withstand us." The beggar was St. Francis of Assisi. The two men shared a lifelong friendship.
St. Dominic passed away of sheer exhaustion at the age of fifty-one. In his last moments he instructed his distraught friars, "Do not weep, my children, I shall be more useful to you where I am going than I have ever been in this life." He died at noon on August 6, 1221 at Bologna, Italy. St. Dominic was canonized by Pope Gregory IX on July 13, 1234. He is the patron saint: of astronomers; of astronomy; of the prelature of Batanes-Babuyanes, Philippines; of the diocese of Bayombong, Philippines; of the Dominican Republic; of falsely accused people; of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; of Santo Domingo Indian Pueblo; of scientists; and of Valletta, Malta.