The Founder was allowed to return to Toulouse in May of 1217, but the reunion was short. By August, our Holy Father planned to send his sons far and wide on the feast of the Assumption. They protested because it seemed that their small number would be too diffuse, but Dominic replied, “Do not oppose me, for I know very well what I am doing. The seed will molder if it is hoarded up; it will fructify if it is sown.” In time, his prophecy proved true. Instead of dissipating, the Order grew rapidly, and its fruit likewise multiplied.
Consequently, before the great dispersion, the whole Order gathered for the last time at Our Lady of Prouille. The congregation was stunned by the unusual severity of his sermon, for on that day, he had inspired fear in them all. It was probably on that occasion that the brothers professed their vows in his hands; hence the custom of making profession on the Assumption is still common. Coincidentally, Saint Dominic appears today in the painting of the Assumption in Saint John Lateran. When the time had come, he sent most of the friars to the universities at Paris and Bologna. This emphasis on study has always been an integral component of Dominican formation. In fact, many professors soon entered the Order. Dominic, the first “Master” of the Order, sent other friars to Rome and to Spain, while the remainder continued the mission in southern France. About this time, our Father let his beard grow in hopes that he would be allowed to preach among the Tartars and receive martyrdom, but the opportunity never came.
To his brethren, Dominic was exemplary in mortification, doctrine and contemplation. Three times each night, he would whip himself to blood, once for his own salvation, a second time for sinners, and a third for departed souls. Later, other Dominican saints would do the same. Dominic habitually wept for sinners, in the towns he passed, while celebrating Mass, and during his vigils. He was heard crying: O Lord, what will become of sinners? Often on the road, he would either instruct his companions or wander off to pray. His most evident characteristic was that he always spoke to God in prayer or about God to others.