“Behold, my children, the heritage I leave. Have charity for one another, guard humility, make your treasure out of voluntary poverty.” At Dominic’s death, these final words of encouragement to the brethren fortified them to carry out the mission of the new Order. The following testament, which is said to have come from St. Dominic, is taken from a manuscript in the Dominican Monastery of San Tomaso in Perugia, Italy. This reflection aims to shed light on the life and holiness of St. Dominic and his vision for the Order. How would Dominic live out the ideal of prayer and preaching in the twenty-first century? What virtues would he want to see in his followers today?
"My dearest children, I have no earthly goods to leave you, because, as you know well, I have renounced all things; but I leave you something of greater worth, that is to say, the blessing of God and my own. I pray you, and as far as possible, command you to love one another and to remain always united having your hearts and wills conformable to that which Our Savior has taught you and which our Holy Rule imposes upon you and of which our Constitutions remind you. Do not allow yourselves to be made vain by any grace whatsoever God may bestow on you, whether temporal or spiritual, but with profound humility seek to recognize the obligation under which His benefits place you, which with the same humility you should endeavor to preserve…
The goods which I leave you, oh my children, are not gold and silver, treasures or other temporal wealth. They are the treasures of eternal salvation; the wealth of heaven; divine merchandise and an inheritance which ends not at death. I leave you first, Charity, the eldest daughter of the grace of God. With this gift, you will be zealous in the service of God, ardent in promoting the salvation of your neighbor, and never among yourselves will discords and dissensions arise. Charity will unite you to God, and you will receive therefrom those favors which the true friends of God are accustomed to enjoy. In persecutions you will be intrepid, and many of you will not hesitate to shed your blood for the faith.
I leave you, secondly, Humility. She is so pleasing to God that for her He descended to earth and enclosed Himself in the Virgin’s womb, beholding “the humility of His handmaiden.” With this gift, if it continues with you, you shall be well pleasing to God and He will bestow on you His grace. By this virtue you will endear yourselves also to those around you, who, seeing in you that gentleness and patience which are the fruits of humility and considering the many services that you render them, will, in return, be unable to do less than love and assist you. Humility will remove from your heart all false pretension, free from all proud ambitions and relieve them of the heavy weight of temporal dignities. Through her you will become receptive of much divine light whereby to obtain a true understanding of the Holy Scriptures and great freedom and finally, you will enjoy great tranquility and peace, since he who is humble performs more willingly the will of another than his own. Cultivate, therefore, this holy virtue.
Lastly, I leave you Voluntary Poverty, that which, although she may indeed appear less comely outwardly, yet is the more fair and precious interiorly and well endowed with spiritual wealth, since it is certain that her merit cannot be paid with the price of this earth, and therefore is the Kingdom of Heaven assigned as her reward.
By this virtue you will be liberated from all the entanglements of worldly interests and set loose towards all cares of this earth and towards all temporal affections. By her aid you will be exemplary in preaching and in the ministry of the Church. By her will you be loosed from earth and tend upward toward the sky. Be not disturbed if through poverty you shall find yourselves in manifest necessities, because the Heavenly Father, Who loves you more than any father whatsoever, will soon provide with generous hand nor will He who feeds the humblest beast of the earth suffer them to die of hunger who faithfully serve Him…
In closing, I remind you of your obedience to the Roman Church and to the Vicar of Christ, whom both, all you and those who shall succeed you are to love, honor and obey."
So ends my Testament.
Editor’s Note: Critical evaluation of the early documents of the Order do not include the Last Will and Testament of St. Dominic. Authorities have conflicting views on the authenticity, attribution, and utility of the document. We believe that its contents are worthy of reflection. This testament is taken from a manuscript in the Dominican Monastery of San Tomaso, Porta S. Angelo, Perugia, Italy. Used with permission of the Dominican Province of St. Joseph.