Dominic vs. Marina the Monk

In yesterday's saintly action, Richard Allen defeated Hannah Grier Coome 61% to 39% to advance to the Saintly Sixteen, where he'll face William Wilberforce for a shot at the Elate Eight.

Today it's Dominic vs. Marina the Monk in this intriguing battle of monastics. The winner of this matchup will square off against Ignatius of Loyola in the next round.

Yesterday's contest is, to our mind, one of the best things about Lent Madness (besides the swag in the Lentorium): Two lesser known saints with fascinating backstories amplified under the warm glow of the purple lights, to our collective inspiration and edification. Plus, while she didn't win, the electioneering by the Sisterhood of St. John the Divine in Canada on behalf of Hannah Grier Coome was something otherworldly (she was one of their early leaders). We encourage you to like their Facebook page, where you can see the good work they're doing and watch the slick (okay, heartwarming) campaign video they produced on Hannah's behalf. Nicely done, good sisters!


Dominic Born in Castille, Spain, in the twelfth century, Dominic became an Austin Canon (a priest following the rule of Saint Augustine) and lived in a religious community at the cathedral of Osma. In this role, he gained a reputation for both zealous scholarship and care for the poor. When forced to choose between the two, Dominic sold his books to help the infirm and needy.

As he moved up the church ranks, he traveled on diplomatic missions and in France, he met Cathars, members of a religious sect deemed heretical by the Roman Catholic church. Dominic understood that the only way to convert the Cathars was with missionaries who were both intellectually strong and living under a vow of poverty.

To that end, in 1215, he established the Order of Preachers in Toulouse, France, to supply the church with learned clergy who could travel two-by-two throughout Spain, France, and Italy. The newly founded Dominican Order had a democratic structure with superiors occupying positions of power for short terms. Support from several bishops as well as the pope were critical in Dominic’s success. By design, the Order of Preachers was also closely linked with universities all over Europe. Though he never converted the Cathars, the Dominican Order and Dominic’s ministry has transformed people throughout the ages.

Dominic died in Bologna in 1221 at the age of 51, worn out by his hard work, travel, and austerities. True to his vow of poverty, he was known to fast, wear threadbare clothing in winter, and refuse a bed. Iconography often shows Dominic with a lily, holding a torch, and with a black-and-white dog, which in Latin is a pun of the name domini canes (Dog of our Lord). He is the patron saint of astronomers because when he was baptized, his mother saw a star shining in his chest.

Although several Dominican friars became associated with the Inquisition, Dominic died before it began. However, the Spanish inquisitors had a painting made of Dominic as a sort of anachronistic justification of their actions, and Protestants ran with the characterization, using it to criticize the Dominicans of their day.

Collect for Dominic
Almighty God, Grant unto all your people a hunger for your Word and an urgent longing to share your Gospel, that like your servant Dominic we might labor to bring the whole world to the knowledge and love of you as you are revealed in your Son Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

-Amber Belldene

Marina the Monk

MarinaBefore Joan of Arc led the French army to victory, Marina the Monk shaved her head and entered the monastery.

The details of Marina’s life are sketchy, but it’s generally believed she lived in the fifth or eighth centuries in Lebanon. Her mother died when she was young, and she was raised by her devout Christian father, who planned to retire to the Monastery of Qannoubine after she was married. When she was old enough to marry, Marina asked her father why he would save his own soul and “destroy” hers. He answered, “What shall I do with you? You are a woman.”

She immediately shaved her head, dressed herself in men’s clothing, and took the male name Marinos.

Seeing his child was serious, Marinos’ father was supportive, and the two entered the monastery together, sharing a cell there until he died. After that time, Marinos lived an increasingly ascetic life of fasting and prayer.

But that’s not what the monk is most remembered for.

Some time later, Marinos was traveling on business for the monastery and spent the night at an inn. The innkeeper’s daughter was raped, and when she became pregnant, her abuser told her to name Marinos as the child’s father.

The abbott confronted Marinos. Because the monk did not immediately offer a defense, the abbot took it to be an admission of guilt and forced Marinos to leave the monastery.

Marinos remained at the gates, living as a beggar and raising the child born to the innkeeper’s daughter. A number of years passed before the monks convinced the abbot to allow Marinos to return.

Marinos died at age forty after a brief illness. While preparing the body for burial, the monks were shocked to discover Marinos could not have fathered the child.

Unlike Joan of Arc, Marinos was not dismissed as a heretic or witch. Rather, all reportedly were convicted of how unjustly they had treated the pious monk. Another monk who was blind in one eye even claimed he miraculously recovered his sight during the funeral prayers.

Collect for Marinos
Teach us, Lord God, to refrain from false judgments about the sins of others, and to hold fast to our path of discipleship when we suffer unjustly because of judgments made by others. All this we ask in the name of Jesus Christ, our only mediator and advocate. Amen.

-Emily McFarlan Miller

Dominic vs. Marinos the Monk

  • Marinos the Monk (62%, 5,305 Votes)
  • Dominic (38%, 3,205 Votes)

Total Voters: 8,510

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Dominic: Fra Angelico [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Marinos: By Richard de Montbaston, from Jacobus de Voragine, Legenda aurea (traduction de Jean de Vignay), France, Paris [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


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208 comments on “Dominic vs. Marina the Monk”

  1. Not sure about the existence of Marina/Marinos. Not to mention that the whole sharing the cell with the father is a bit creepy. Also, since when did marriage mean loosing one's soul? Dominic for me, especially since I tried to learn the song from the Singing Nun record.

  2. Voted for Dominic. With the news of all the people being arrested for fraud in getting their children into top name colleges, how can I vote for a person who fraudulently entered a monatary? Deception and fraud is never a virtue

  3. They both suffered. Marina made the decision not to marry and choose her suffering. Dominic spent his life teaching and sharing God’s message and establishing the Order of Preachers. Although he was criticized, he was true to his beliefs.

  4. Well, when I saw Dominic's connection with the Cathars I just couldn't vote for him, even though he had died before the persecution began. Unfair I guess, but I did go with my feelings. His rival, though, raised a child that otherwise would have been cruelly treated throughout life through no fault of its own, bringing a great good instead of being bitter over the falsehood he was accused of.

  5. While Marina/os was interesting, I’m voting for a dear family friend, my parish’s patron and namesake of my son, Dominic! #OP #HoundsoftheLord

  6. In honor of a former Dominican priest and college professor, Dr. William Finan, I voted for Dominic. Nevertheless, all credit to Marina for raising a child she could not have "fathered" if her life had depended on it.
    Thanks to all celebrity bloggers for fascinating backstories.

  7. Marina all the way for me today! I may have tossed her name into the ring a few times on Nominationtides past, and I'm delighted that she's finally in the running! More people need to learn this fascinating story. Imagine the kindness and faith it would require to lovingly raise a child not your own, for whose sake you were (even temporarily) kicked out of the monastic brotherhood that you gave up everything to join.

  8. Both of today’s Saints are equally impressive in their ways. As a person passionate for reading and study who does not believe that there is such a thing as too many books, I find Dominic’s willingness to sell his books to feed the poor particularly grace-filled and loving. His longing to bring people back to the faith to which he was committed, and his life of strenuous effort to that end are extraordinary. Would that we had more people today willing to give their all to help people know Christ’s love both in immediate ways (feeding the hungry) and in helping people to think through what they truly believe, why they believe it and how most faithfully to live it.

    All of that being said, my vote goes for Marina. Her sense of vocation was so strong, so deep, that she was willing to offer to God a core part of her identity in order to follow it. As well as the inherent challenges of the religious life (joys too, but it’s a hard life in many ways) she had to live totally dependent on God in the monastery without the support of other women. It’s a lovely ideal, being totally dependent on God, but we were made to need each other. She followed the example of Christ who, when he was accused, didn’t open his mouth in self-defense. We can’t know her motives, but I wonder if her choice had anything to do with protecting the young woman who had been raped and knowing that, if she didn’t so something, the baby would suffer. So she accepted ignominy, lived with great humility, cared for the baby at great cost to herself and did not let her ego get in the way of what needed to be done to help two innocent victims. I also love the tender part of the story that some of her brothers pleaded with the Abbot to let her back in. Then, can’t you just imagine the shock after her death, the witness to true faithfulness offered to her brothers in the monastery? Her quiet, humble ministry continued. She is giving me much to think about, especially when my ego gets in the way of living love.

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful and articulate comments. I'm the daughter of an astrophysicist and definitely believe one cannot have too many books. However, I am deeply moved by Marina/O's protection of a young woman who was raped - and then to raise her child. An extraordinary, selfless sacrifice and act of solidarity.

    2. Diana, you have expressed my thoughts most eloquently. Two such worthy candidates! Sadly though, your facility with thought and word has not helped me decide on where to cast my vote. I am so torn.

  9. Voting for Marina because you cannot make this stuff up. What a strange life she must have lived, posing as a male in a monastery! Brave woman, if a bit odd.

  10. I’ve just surprised myself by voting for Marinos. Why, when Dominick’s (my preferred spelling, after DiMaggio and others) well-documented résumé clearly qualifies him for the Gold, and Marina’s fabulous tale spans three centuries of confusion? Because I see him, like many figures of fable, as iconic: iconic of the countless women who over the millennia have been compelled by their cultures to distort or deny their identities in so many, many ways. Marina may have been exceptional in the mode he chose, but her predicament is universal.

    1. Yes, Davis. (And you handle the pronoun issue the way I like to: with variation.

  11. So much of Dominic's story is appealing: the lily, the star, his gentle way of love and service. The line about his giving away his books to help the poor really hit me hard: My books are my dearest companions; some of them I read over and over. Could I give them up? And then there's the Singing Nun....

    But my new approach is to vote for the saint of whom we need to learn more. Marinos/Marina seems like a good saint to represent the trans community, not only because she was a woman living as a man, but because she truly lived out both her "masculine" and "feminine" selves (although I guess I shouldn't be labelling behavior as one or the other). I love that she stood up for herself, but only insofar as no one else was hurt. (I wonder if Marina kept quiet because the life of the woman who was raped might have been endangered; in some circles, then as now, a rape victim is often blamed ("She made me do it"). But to keep silent of your innocence and raise the child as your own--that's really something!

    For devotion and service, I vote for Marina.

    1. Agreed. Agreed. Marina speaks of many women who must hid their identities in their own communities- gender, faith, and nationality She definitely felt the call of God at an early age and recognized the importance of family, being with her father and of community with the brothers. What a challenging time for a woman.

  12. Dominic for us today. Marina/os has too many holes in the story to be believable, sorry. And Dominic did more good and the extensive work of the Dominicans continues today, something we should celebrate.

  13. Tough one. Marina's devotion in the face of adversity is moving, but as someone noted above, it is hard to pin down the historical facts. Dominic, on the other hand, is well remembered and his eponymous order known for its intellectual tradition. But I'm still ambivalent about an theologian who gives away his books. Whatever is he going to read and think about? On the other hand, there's the catchy song. So, Domi-nique -nique -nique gets my vote.

    1. Even that song reminds us that Dominic was all about the conversion of others. Two of the lyrics speak of his work against heresy and against the Algibensians:

      À l'époque ou Jean-sans-Terre
      D'Angleterre était le roi
      Dominique, notre père,
      Combattit les Albigeois.

      Certain jour, un hérétique,
      Par des ronces le conduit,
      Mais notre père Dominique,
      Par sa joie le convertit.

      I am afraid that song convinces me that what Dominic was valued for (by the church) was his role in converting "others" and not his service or scholarship.

      1. You got me there with the "Albigeois," but--Wikipedia to the rescue! The last line seems to mitigate the whole, though.

      2. The Albigensian (sp?) crusade was one of the blots on the Church's history. "Kill them all...let God sort them out"

      3. It seems to me that Sœur Sourire's song gets it wrong there: In 1203, rather than "combating" the Cathars, who rejected the wealth and pomp of the Catholic Church, Dominic realized that they would not respond to defenders of that church who did not themselves exemplify traits the Cathars admired: humility and austerity.

        He left the Languedoc well before Pope Innocent III initiated what became known as the Albigensian Crusade in 1208, taking with him the seeds of an idea that soon became the Dominican Order: teams of intellectual preachers who would live humbly, travel widely and speak powerfully for the Faith.

        One might well say that Dominic chose to emulate, rather than fight, the Cathars' ideals:

        "Dominique, notre père,
        Imitait les Albigeois."

  14. One of the highlights of my studies at VTS was its place in a consortium of theological institutions in Washington, which took me to the Dominican House of Studies over several years. The high caliber of their courses, plus their sense of community (I would stay for lunch and prayers), are a modern tribute to Dominic.

  15. Marina. What a story! She concealed her gender to follow her deep calling to the monastic life, and then risked and suffered being denied that call in order to care for an infant in need. I'd like to think that she managed to discreetly nurse that poor baby under her tattered monk's robe. And her fellow monks only learning the depth of her sacrificial nature after her death.

  16. I wanted to vote for Dominic because it disturbs me that he is being blamed for the actions of his followers and for the general attitude to Cathars in his day. He may very well have gone to preach to the Cathars because he opposed the treatment they received. I did vote for Marina/os because her story spoke to me more.

  17. I am so deeply moved by Marina's story. For me, she is a saint's saint. No gradiousity, no fame, just love to God and neighbor. While other's have fostered noble causes that the world has needed, it is this kind of selfless love that Christ Jesus asked me to be. It is almost unbelieveable to have given up so much of self while supporting the young child and it seems that she gave implicit support to the young raped woman as well. She gets my vote!

  18. Dominic...Dominicans. My last church in River Forest Illinois was Dominicans (before moving to Boston). They have 2 churches int the Oak Park/River Forest area in Illinois right outside Chicago. High School, my college (Dominican Univ), the Dominican short, a HUGE presence in the area. I was taught through college level by some of the finest, most educated Dominicans. I think that speaks volumes about Dominic's influence in the, this day.

  19. While I admire Marinos’ faith and strength in not accusing, or even judging her accusers, a life of piety based on a lie is a poor example of being in full Communion with God.

    1. Isn’t it interesting, though, that Marinos’s brother monks, who knew Marinos for many years, are not reported as understanding the monks life as “living a lie”? Their shock over the monk’s body humbled them into even more fully honoring Marinos. Those who knew Marinos best didn’t seem to think Marinos was a poor example of being in full Communion with God.

  20. First time I’m voting with what seems the majority so far. Voting for the woman so oft maligned and under valued and yet just as saintly throughout.

  21. Oh, no - Dominic is falling behind? How can that be? Intellect, piety, compassion, humility,organizational skills, and he was willing to sell his books to help the needy and infirm! Sell his books!! I shudder at the thought (despite the fact that I have no more room for bookshelves.) Dominic for the Golden Halo.

  22. I don't for one second believe that there is a word of truth (I mean, historical accuracy) in the story of Marinos the Monk. It's fantastical, practically a fable; I expected talking animals as well. But I voted for her because Shakespeare is filled with women crossdressing in order to have efficacy in the world. My world is filled with transwomen right now, men who appear publicly in the accoutrements of women, but whose big hands give them away. It's very confusing. I thought of father and daughter in the same cell for decades, and then Marinos protecting her own "daughter" for years. What crossed my mind was that trauma and poverty are intergenerational. In this fantastical story, I saw a glimpse of people attempting to find niches in society in which they could survive and even protect the weak. I thought I might vote for Dominic, a scholar and pious man, but his obsession to convert the Cathars, who though their thought may have been Manichaean were off in their own area not attempting to overthrow the papacy, was not out of a desire to serve them but to change them. And I simply cannot get past his role in the Inquisition, which not only destroyed Cathar culture, but played a virulent and violent role in the counter-Reformation as well, attempting to destroy Protestantism. Ironic that the Dominican charism is the pursuit of truth. Perhaps Dominic himself is "innocent" of evil intent toward the Cathars, but I find it impossible to separate him from his order enough to pass him forward.

    1. And this is always the issue that drives me crazy in this wonderful Madness: Why some people just cannot vote for someone with "holes in their story," someone who wasn't "real." Have we lost our ability to find truth in story? (yes) I'll never get over Christina the Astonishing losing in my first Lent Madness competition for this very same reason: Too fantastic, not real, not factual. <>

    2. I really don't understand what is so fantastical about Marina's story. It seems perfectly plausible to me.
      (For example, look up medical causes of amenorrhea -- perhaps the asceticism she practiced helped her hide among men.) To me her story is very inspiring.

    1. Hey, has anyone out there, thought maybe Marinos Father RAPED The young woman and Marinos raised her own half sister? With DNA this could be proven! Just a thought!

  23. I went with Marinos as it's a very fascinating story. I also appreciate that the author switched to gender neutral language after Marinos declared their intention to enter the monastery.

    1. I am trying, but for this daughter of a collegiate English professor, "their" as a neutral, singular pronoun is like fingers on a chalkboard. I understand very well the need, but it's too much for me! haha

      1. "their" here seems like an attempt to port the ordinary use of "they" (already non-standard) to an application as "non-binary"

      2. Nancy, I agree with your opinion above! I'm a great fan of wordplay, especially puns, and greatly appreciate John Cabot's contributions to this community. As for my choice today, I go with Dominic, for many reasons, but one of which is that, when I was a hospital chaplain, I worked alongside some wonderful Dominican sisters, and I value highly his lasting contributions to the practice of Christianity. I don't blame him for the Inquisition.

      3. Good news for grammatically precise people everywhere!
        "They/Their" has ALWAYS been used as a singular pronoun. In limited ways, we all *already* use it this way regularly. 🙂 (make sure to read to the end)
        It's hard to teach this old dog (me!) new tricks, but it helps to know the dictionary is on my side as I push through the discomfort for the sake of my siblings in Christ.

  24. I do admire Marinos’ faith and strength in not judging her accusers. However, living a lie is not a good example of being in full Communion with God.

    Dominic all the way!

  25. Wow, glad you cleared up that fake news report about Dominic’s involvement in the inquisition.
    But Marina the Monk got my vote. She showed heart in a time before “cis” and “gender fluid” were a thing.