The image of taking up one’s cross and following in the footsteps of Jesus is a very strong one in the Gospel and, in terms of embracing death for the sake of the Gospel, relatively prevalent in the first few centuries of the life of the Church. The number of men and women who were martyred in those centuries is enormous. The depth of faith of the Church as measured by the commitment of its members was great!

 

Even though death for the sake of the Gospel is not necessarily everyone’s call, the saints have discovered many ways to embrace the call of taking up their crosses over the centuries since. Today we celebrate one of them, Dominic de Guzman, who with St Francis of Assisi founded mendicant friar congregations who witnessed to the gift of poverty as part of the call to follow Jesus. They shunned the wealth and luxury of the Church of their day and returned to the roots of poverty and simplicity in order to discover a new and powerful way of proclaiming the Gospel.

 

Dominic was appalled at the way heresies were causing men and women to leave the Church in droves. The Bishops and priests were powerless to stop the growth of them as their lives no longer reflected the simplicity of that of Jesus and the Gospel. He decided to embrace the call to poverty and so began a movement and order of preachers whose lives more fully reflected the truths of the Gospel they preached. It was not an easy task, but his congregation was very influential in stemming the rise of many of the heresies of the time.

 

Francis’ way of life was probably even simpler than Dominic’s thus providing a witness to the truth that joy is not found in a multitude of human possessions and various earthly powers and pleasures, but in living the Gospel as simply as possible in love of God and one’s fellow men and women. It was a watershed moment ion the life of the Church and one that was to shape her spirituality up to our present day as people are still inspired by these two simple saints who simply ‘took up their crosses and followed in the footsteps of Jesus as best they could.’

 

Jesus, you lived a simple life in obedience to your Father’s will. Help me to cut away all the unnecessary things in my life so that I can focus on the few that matter and so make my witness to Christ all the more obvious and powerful.

(In Australia the 8th August is the feast of St Mary Mackillop, while the rest of the world celebrates St Dominic)