Sometimes he went aside from his companion or went on ahead or, more likely, lingered far behind; going on his own he would pray as he walked, and a fire was kindled in his meditation (Ps. 38:4).
He also used to observe this way of prayer when he was going from one country to another, especially when he was in a lonely place. He disported himself with his meditations in his contemplation. And sometimes he would say to his travelling companions, ‘It is written in Hosea, “I will lead her to a lonely place and speak to her heart”’ (Hos. 2:14). So sometimes he went aside from his companion or went on ahead or, more likely, lingered far behind; going on his own he would pray as he walked, and a fire was kindled in his meditation (Ps. 38:4).
A curious thing about this kind of prayer was that he seemed to be brushing away ashes or flies from his face, and because of this he often defended himself with the sign of the cross. The brethren thought that in this kind of prayer the saint acquired the fullness of sacred scripture and the very heart of the understanding of God’s words, and also a power and boldness to preach fervently and a hidden intimacy with the Holy Spirit to know hidden things.
Thus it happened once, to mention just one story out of many which we omit, that the devil came to the church of the Friars Preachers in Bologna in the form of a young man of frivolous, licentious character and asked for someone to hear his confession. Five priests were brought to him, one after another. This was because the first confessor was so viciously disturbed and enflamed by his words that he got up from listening to his confession and refused to hear such dreadful things to the end. The second did the same and so did the third, fourth and fifth. But they went away without saying anything and they were not prepared to reveal this confession because, as far as they were concerned, what they had heard was a sacramental confession, even though it was the devil’s. Then the sacristan approached St. Dominic, who was in the priory at the time, complaining about these priests, because five of them had not been able to hear one sinner’s confession. ‘It’s scandalous,’ he added, ‘the priests preach penance and then they refuse to give a penance to sinners.’ Then the holy father Dominic got up from his reading and prayer and contemplation, not, I think, unaware of what was afoot, and went to hear the devil’s confession. When he entered the church, the devil came to him and at once the holy father recognized him and said to him, ‘You evil spirit, why do you tempt the servants of God under this veil of piety?’ And he rebuked him severely. The devil disappeared at once, leaving the church reeking of sulfur. And the sacristan was appeased and stopped being angry with the priests.