Today is the best day of the year for viewing the Perseids – the prolific annual meteor showers associated with the comet Swift-Tuttle, writes Eileen Maitland. This timing is appropriate since August 8, just a few days ago, marks the feast of Saint Dominic, patron saint of scientists, and particularly astronomers. Indeed, the meteor showers are sometimes known as the Tears of Dominic.
Saint Dominic was born in Spain in 1170. He first entered a Benedictine order but left with his bishop on a mission to the Albigensian heretics. Some of the heretics murdered a papal legate leading to a seven year crusade against them.
One of the leaders of Pope Innocent III’s troops gave Dominic a recently captured castle where, with six followers, he founded the Friars Preachers. They received approval from Pope Honorius III provided they followed an existing rule. He chose the Augustinian one, which could be easily modified to learning, practical poverty and missionary preaching. His motto was “to praise, to bless, to preach”.
In art he is often shown with a dog carrying a flaming torch. This is a pun on the Latin for “the dog of the Lord”, domini canis – or Dominicans. The torch represents the truth. Pictures may also include a lily – and frequently a star.