I’ve recently begun discerning becoming a Lay Dominican, and what better way than to read? Today, I’ll review one of those books: Kevin Vost’s Hounds of the Lord: Great Dominican Saints Every Catholic Should Know.
But the first thing to know is that Dominicanis is literally “Hound of the Lord,” hence the title and Vost’s overuse of canine idioms.
The book is divided into three sections: Dominican Doers and the Apostolic Style, Dominican Thinkers and the Contemplative Style, and Dominican Lovers and the Charitable Style. In some ways, the division is completely artificial. Each saint lives out preaching, prayer, and service according to the four Dominican pillars (Prayer, Study, Preaching, Community). Vost freely admits the artificiality of the structure in his introduction, but I suppose he felt the book needed more structure.
Next, each section discusses three saints. The saints he discusses are St. Dominic, Blessed Humbert, Fra Angelico, St. Albert the Great, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Martin de Porres, St. Rose of Lima, and Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati. He complements these chapters with shorter articles on ‘More Hounds of the Lord,’ as well as two appendices. I, for one, appreciated the timeline of Dominican saints and important Feast Days.
As a matter of principle and style, I criticize overly clever writing–in this case, Vost’s “clever” use of canine terms. Perhaps the most egregious example is the title of the conclusion: “Our Turn to Let the Dogs Out.” As a reader, I find such cutesy writing to be distracting from the content and instead focuses attention on the author. This criticism aside, the writing is otherwise approachable and interesting.
As with all good Catholic books, this work is not an academic exercise. While he informs us about the lives of great Dominicans, he wants more to inspire us to become great Dominicans, or at least great Catholics.
“The hounds of the Lord are still out there, roaming the world, seeking out souls to retrieve for Christ, from the friars, both priests and religious brothers, to cloistered contemplative nuns, to sisters engaged in the active life of teaching and healing, to lay Dominicans of every walk of life. We can do what we can to support their efforts and do what we can to be like them, as they strive to be like Christ” (231).
To this end, the greatest strength of this book is the realization of the depth of Dominican–and Catholic–variety in preaching. As someone who has been told the Dominicans are great on the sole example of Thomas Aquinas, I was thrilled to see artists, laity, men, and women of all levels of education and lifestyle. Thomists are Thomists; Dominicans are far more. (NB: Not that there is something wrong with a Thomist!)
This book is a lovely contribution to Dominican history and the Catholic community. It was written in honor of the 800th anniversary in 2016 for the founding of the Order, and Vost’s respect for the Order is clear to the reader. I recommend it!
-Ann Moser, at twitter @interceptorismy.
Disclaimer: Posts are mine, and I attempt to write according to orthodox Roman Catholicism. Please bring any errors in doctrine to my attention.