Under Our Lady’s Mantle
Editor’s Note: Today, the Order of Preachers celebrates the Blessed Virgin Mary as our special patroness. Dominican life is marked by Marian devotion—we wear her scapular, pray her rosary, and daily seek her intercession. She is the model Dominican—one who contemplated the Word in her heart, and who lived “to praise, to bless, and to preach” God’s goodness. Today’s post includes some selections from the Divine Office for this day that aren’t often heard outside Dominican priories and convents. Our Lady, Queen of Preachers, pray for us! —Br. Henry Stephan, O.P., Editor, Dominicana Blog
From the events that happened at the time of the founding of our Order, there are many reasons given why the blessed Virgin Mary is acclaimed as the special patroness of our Order. Many of these, which we have heard with our own ears, and many others written in the Lives of the Brethren, depict that she is the special Mother of that Order whose purpose is to praise, to bless, and to preach her Son. She is our Mother by what she brings forth, by what she advances, and by what she defends. Blessed Dominic commended the Order to her special protection in his prayers, as we read in the Nova legenda. Therefore, we commit ourselves to her as to a Mother every day in our procession – just as we invoke blessed Dominic in that commemoration.
—From an Exposition of the Constitutions of the Order of Preachers by Blessed Humbert of Romans
One night, after continuing his prayers until midnight, Dominic left the church and came to the dormitory. He completed what he had to do and, taking his place at one end of the dormitory, continued to pray. As he stood praying, he glanced at the other end of the dormitory and saw three beautiful women enter. He noticed that the one in the middle was a venerable lady far more beautiful and dignified than the other two. One of them was carrying a beautiful, shining vessel, and the other an aspersorium that she handed to the lady in the center.
She went from bed to bed sprinkling the brethren with holy water and blessing them. As she went along in this way, she passed by one of them without sprinkling him or blessing him. Blessed Dominic observed this and took note of the brother they neglected. The lady said to blessed Dominic: “I am the one you call upon in the evening. When you say, Turn, therefore, most gracious advocate thine eyes of mercy toward us, I prostrate myself before my Son and ask him to preserve the Order.” After that blessed Dominic asked about the brother she had passed by as she sprinkled and blessed all the others. “Because he was not properly disposed,” she said. After this she continued to sprinkle and bless all the others and then disappeared. When she was gone, blessed Dominic returned to pray in the place he stood before. Suddenly he was rapt in spirit before God and saw Our Lord and the Blessed Virgin sitting at his right. It seemed to blessed Dominic that Our Lady was wearing a cape of bright blue, the color of sapphire. As blessed Dominic looked around, he could see religious of all the orders but his own before the throne of God. He began to weep bitterly and stood far away, not daring to approach the Lord and His Mother. Then our Lady motioned for him to come near. He would not dare, until our Lord himself also called him. Then blessed Dominic cast himself before them weeping bitterly. Our Lord told him to rise, and when he did, Our Lord asked him, “Why are you weeping?” Dominic said, “I am weeping because I see all other orders here but there is no sign of my own.” The Lord said to him, “Do you want to see your Order?” Dominic answered, “Yes, Lord.” Then Our Lord, putting his hand upon the shoulders of the Blessed Virgin, said to blessed Dominic, “I have entrusted your Order to my Mother.” Then the Blessed Virgin opened the cape that covered her and spread it out before blessed Dominic. It seemed vast enough to cover the entire heaven and, under it, he saw a large multitude of his brethren. Then, prostrating himself, blessed Dominic gave thanks to God and to Blessed Mary. After that the vision disappeared and he returned to himself just as the bell rang for Matins. When Matins was over, he called the brethren to Chapter and gave them a long and beautiful talk, exhorting them to love and pay reverence to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Among other things he related this vision to them.
—From the Narration on the Miracles of Saint Dominic by Blessed Caecilia
O God, you willed that the Order of Preachers be founded for the salvation of souls under the special patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and that the Order be filled with her unfailing gifts. Grant to us who call upon you, protected by the aid of her whose feast we celebrate, that we may be brought to the glory of heaven. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
—Collect for the Patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary over the whole Order of Preachers
Image: Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P., Queen of the May (from the cloister garden of the Dominican House of Studies)