Today the Church of England remembers St Dominic, a priest and founder of the Order of Preachers, more commonly known as the Dominicans.
Dominic was born in 1170 and was an Augustinian monk before one day coming across some Cathars while in France.
The Cathars would nowadays be an obscure group of people except that Dan Brown aroused interest in them with The DaVinci Code, in which he claimed that Leonardo da Vinci was a Cathar.
They were a sect that believed in two gods: the evil god of the material world and the good god of the spiritual world.
Spiritual things and material things were in conflict and our physical self, along with all other physical things, including eating, drinking and having material goods, were considered evil.
This is an old heresy that goes back to the early days of the Christian Church and the Gnostics, influenced by Greek philosophy.
Dominic was disturbed by this group of people and set up his own religious order to combat their beliefs, while also refusing to have anything to do with a violent crusade that was waged against them.
Dominic was also known as a joyful, peaceful and kind man who was devoted to prayer and study of the Bible.
He also recognised the need to live out what he learnt from studying the Bible and believed in spreading the Gospel through both his words and the way he lived.
The Cathars died out a long time ago but unfortunately the kinds of ideas they had still plague the Church today.
There’s still a tendency among some Christians to think that our bodies are bad and shameful, distracting us from more worthy spiritual things.
This is usually based on a misunderstanding of Bible verses about the sinful flesh, which actually refer to those parts of us that are in rebellion against God, rather than saying that our bodies are bad in themselves.
Some also think that the world we live in has no importance because we’re aiming for some kind of spiritual heaven, so there’s no need to care for our environment or worry too much about building a fair and just society.
In fact, though, God coming to earth as a human being destroys that idea.
God was content to be a physical being like us, and took our humanity back with him when he ascended to heaven at the end of his earthly life.
Also, the Bible doesn’t promise us an eternal spiritual life in heaven but eternal life in new physical bodies on a new earth that is united with heaven.
We can also look to Genesis and see that when God made the world he saw that it was good – and put humanity in charge of the world to tend it and care for it.
Not to mention the fact that there are many references throughout the Bible to the need for us to make sure there is justice, mercy and peace for all in this world.
So, in the story of Dominic there are still lessons for us today, to resist the idea that our physical needs and pleasures are always bad, to care for the human and natural worlds, and to both understand and live out our faith in Jesus every day, wherever we are and whatever we do, looking forward to the day when there will be a new heaven and a new earth.