Pelting him with stones and calling him filthy names, the Albigensians strongly protested the arrival of St Dominic in the south of France. Poor St Dominic, having left his native Spain, discovered that the Albigensian heresy was seducing many French people into believing a very toxic blend of ideas, chiefly that the soul is created by God, but that the material body is created by an evil being. Those who followed the Albigensian heresy formed a large sect which turned its back on traditional morality, husbands and wives started cheating on each other, promiscuity was rife and even people with depression were being encouraged towards suicide.
I have tried to get my head round the Albigensians for some time. The Albigensians were convinced that the human body is the fruit of evil, then it is intrinsically bad, and thus people cannot help but act out their nastier instincts (such as taking advantage of someone for sex). They also taught that there is no such thing as Purgatory; so for example if a man’s body has no control over indulging his desires, then he cannot be held accountable in the afterlife if he breaks his wife’s heart by sleeping with other women.
In the early 13th century, St Dominic was trying to show the French people the wrongs of the Albigensian heresy. Going from village to village, he was not getting through to them. St Dominic decided that prayer and extreme sacrifice were his only options; he began spending whole nights in prayer and depriving himself of sleep as a penance. Going into seclusion in a forest, St Dominic prayed, wept and mortified his body for three days. Scourging his flesh, going without food and sleep, St Dominic fell into a coma.
After this period of intense prayer and sacrifice, Our Lady appeared to St Dominic in the church of Prouille and revealed to him the devotion of the rosary, assuring St Dominic that this would be the prayer to combat heresy. St Dominic began teaching the rosary to the people and the Albigensian heresy stopped gaining souls.
Our Lady said to St Dominic that the rosary was the means of letting “the dew of Divine grace” fall from Heaven. This was true in the 13th century and is still true today in October 2015. Reflecting on the plight of St Dominic, I think we need to broaden our approach in promoting the Holy Rosary, and encourage all Christians to offer it and to teach it to the very people they hope to convert. Pope Francis reportedly gave Kim Davis and her husband rosaries, even though they are staunch Evangelicals. I have known Anglican nuns and even some young Anglicans who have a personal devotion to the rosary.
Millions of Christians around the globe find themselves in the same position as St Dominic, for example, doing their bit to campaign against laws that make it possible for doctors to facilitate suicide. One thing that strikes me about St Dominic’s travails in combating the Albigensian heresy was that when he reasoned with them and told them that adultery and suicide are gravely wrong, they threw stones at him. St Dominic only had any success when he began teaching them how to offer the rosary and gave them the means to let, “the dew of Divine grace” fall on them.
We need to get beyond this idea that the rosary is just for extremely pious Catholics. If we look at Our Lady’s instruction to St Dominic, then it would seem that it is a priority to encourage all like-minded Christians to recite the rosary and to teach the rosary to the people who are ensnared in the very same practices as the Albigensians.
Our Lady was very precise when she explained to St Dominic that dew from Heaven is the only thing that will soften “barren ground” and allow for the fruits of conversion to be sown.