One of the persistent wrong beliefs that the Church is the belief that we humans are made up of one horrible part that is material and the real eternal part, the part of goodness, that is spiritual. While it has taken on many forms over the course of history, the Church has always proclaimed that because the material world is made by God, it must be good. It is usually founded upon the premise that the evil material body will give way to the freedom of the spiritual liberation that awaits. This idea holds particular appeal for those whose lives are filled with deep suffering and hardship.
The very founding of the Order of Friars Preachers came to attack this wrong idea. When Dominic left Spain, he encountered a version of this dualism that had swept large parts of France. The people he encountered were desperately poor, and had heard little about the gospel and the good news that God comes to save.
The reason this belief took hold so strongly was the same reason Paul did not always get things right: Ignorance. People did not know Jesus, and they were unaware of his great desire to save. Part of the reason they had not yet heard this before, was that those who came to preach to them bore little or no resemblance to their hardships and struggles.
For that reason, Dominic sought to reform the religious life of his day. His friars wore habits of undyed wool, live only on the generosity of others, and witnessed to the power of community. More than anything, this outward, complete trust in this way of life, and of God, witnessed convincingly to others how their lives could be made fulfilling and loving, even if the hardships they faced were still a part of their lives.
But Dominic also understood the importance of knowledge. Ignorance is only combatted by knowledge. The early Dominican friars, and current friars some 800 years later give themselves over to study, not for its own sake, even though that is valuable, but just as much for those good things that allow us to find the true knowledge, which is when we come to know Jesus in our hearts and lives.
When we encounter this type of knowledge, coming to know Jesus and his deep love for us, then our lives can and are turned around. New life abounds in our hearts, the awareness of the presence of God in our hearts grows, and we find the overwhelming love God has for each of us.