Jonathan Salem Baskin

Good Works

Today, good works were recognized.

Dominic of Osma practiced what he preached while he was a theology student in Palencia, Spain in the late 12th century, giving away all of his worldly possessions so he could focus on helping victims of a recent famine. When the religious sect of Cathars (or Albigensians) in the South of France were condemned by the Church a few years later for their belief in two gods and lots of Eastern mysticism, Dominic thought that his life of simple monastic austerity would resonate with the Cathars (they also rejected wordly goods), so perhaps he could help resolve the conflict.

He failed. A series of crusades would follow, exterminating the Cathars and erasing their literature from history. The Church councils that approved the actions, latter called The Inquisition, would serve as the model for dealing with subsequent heretical declarations that challenged its revealed truth.

He did succeed in attracting followers to his practice of fervent good works, however, and on this day in 1216, Dominic received formal papal sanction for his order, known as the Order of Preachers, or Dominicans. He’d die a few years later as he lay on the ground (having refused the comfort of a bed). Then, many years after his death, as Catholics and Protestants fought over theories about what human beings needed to do in order to attain salvation — Luther’s followers believed faith alone sufficed, while the established Church believed good works were needed, too — Dominic would be unfairly characterized as having been “the first inquisitor.”

Here’s the link to Today in the Histories of Social Media, and this is the latest edition of Histories of Social Media