I’ve mentioned before that I would like very much to produce some sort of work about St. Dominic. It’s a thought that has remained constantly in my mind, my heart, and my imagination–perhaps at the back of my mind, but there nonetheless. I have turned to Father Dominic in prayer, asking him what he would like me to write, or what I should know about him. And over and over, one person has come into my mind, right beside Father Dominic–namely, Father Dominic’s brother, Blessed Mannes de Guzmán.
Bl. Mannes (or Manez, or Manes) was a priest who went after St. Dominic to France to help preach to the Albigensians, and then became one of the very first Dominican friars. Based on that, one might assume that Bl. Mannes was St. Dominic’s younger brother, but that is not so; he was quite some years older than St. Dominic. And one might assume that an older sibling being outshone by a younger sibling might harbor some envy or resentment. But that was not the case with Bl. Mannes and St. Dominic.
Bl. Mannes appears to have been a most humble man, who genuinely supported his younger brother. In fact, he may, perhaps, have felt quite content to be a bit obscured by the supernova-like brilliance of St. Dominic, for he seems to have had a more retiring and contemplative personality. He was known as a very gifted preacher as well, of course, and he went forth with several other friars to Paris to establish the Dominican presence there. St. Dominic later sent him back to Spain, to attend to a community of nuns in Madrid. He outlived St. Dominic, and may have lived to see his brother canonized; one source says that he returned to their hometown of Calaruega, Spain, to ask for a church to be built in honor of the Saint.
There really isn’t that much known about Bl. Mannes… but he strikes me as a really interesting person! He and St. Dominic must have had a wonderful relationship. I imagine that his presence and especially his prayers provided St. Dominic will much encouragement and support. I get a very strong sense that he was very important and very dear to his more famous younger brother.
Being an older sibling myself, I perhaps feel a special fondness and kindredness for Bl. Mannes. He’s a good example for all older siblings… if and when he is canonized, perhaps older siblings could be his patronage! I have already begun to develop a personal devotion to him as such.
I also read somewhere that two nephews of St. Dominic and Bl. Mannes also became Dominicans… I don’t know any details about who they were, other than that they must have been the sons of a sister, given that the only other known sibling, the eldest brother, Antonio, was also a priest. Perhaps, I can ask Father Dominic to introduce me… ;)
I think that being acquainted with a Saint’s relatives really helps us understand that the Saint was a real person with an “ordinary” life.