Saturday, February 25, 2012

Courageous Return

Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal
Catholics in England had long since given up public displays of devotion and Margaret prayed for their courageous return to public worship.  While the Bishop longed for the return of a public faith, he hoped for a peaceful reintroduction and this sometimes placed him at odds with Sister Margaret.   He confided in friends that he didn’t know what to do about her at times and yet he admired the strength of her resolve.  Margaret exclaimed, “How many passions I have been in about the Blessed Virgin! I hope she will rub them all off!”   When Margaret asked him for permission to distribute miraculous medals, Bishop Ullathorne was so moved by the childlike sincerity of her faith that he gave in despite his concerns about how what prejudices that would invite in Coventry.  Sister Margaret claimed that every person who received one of those medals was afterwards converted.

Drane, Augusta Theodosia (Mother Francis Raphael), Life of Mother Margaret Mary Hallahan: Foundress of the English Congregation of St. Catherine of Siena of the Third Order of St. Dominic, Longmans, Green and Co., New York, New York, 1929, pp. 71-74

Our Lady of Consolation

Belgian Triptych
Bishop Ullathorne invited Margaret and three others to Coventry to begin a new foundation in England.   Margaret Mary’s religious life in England began as a third order secular Dominican with vows made to the Bishop.  The little group moved from Coventry to Stoke on Trent and finally to Stone before they found a suitable location.  Wherever she went Margaret brought with her a processional image of the Blessed Virgin.   For a time Margaret had been deathly sick and her only consolation was this image Blessed Virgin that she claimed spoke with her and consoled her.  The image, depicted in the post called Processional Image of Our Lady, is Our Lady of Consolation, Refuge of Sinners.  Bishop Ullathorne hoped that, in addition the Litany of the Blessed Virgin, other practices such as the devotion of the Forty Hours and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament would be reintroduced.  He proposed the establishment of confraternities of the Holy Rosary and promotion of the prayer to help England “overcome the predominant national vice of pride.”

Drane, Augusta Theodosia (Mother Francis Raphael), Life of Mother Margaret Mary Hallahan: Foundress of the English Congregation of St. Catherine of Siena of the Third Order of St. Dominic, Longmans, Green and Co., New York, New York, 1929, pp. 51-52.

Miraculous Image

Dutch Sailing Ship
Margaret Mary made pilgrimages to recommend her petition for the conversion of England to the Blessed Mother at a small church with a miraculous image.  Mother Frances Raphael Drane related, “The parish church of Assebroeck stands in a sort of sandy desert about five miles out of Bruges. The small marble image known as Our Lady of Assebroeck was brought there in the year 1720 by a pious Fleming whose devotions to the holy image during his homeward voyage so excited the Calvinist bile of the Dutch sailors that at last they contemptuously tossed it overboard. The marble image, however, floated on the waves; and when, in their fury, the sailors sought, by the aid of poles and weights, to force it to the bottom, it continued to elude their violence, and followed the vessel, still floating on the surface of the water. After passing through many hands it found its way at length to Assebroeck, where many honors were paid to it, and an annual Novena was ordered to be celebrated by a decree of the Bishop of Bruges. It was probably this public Novena which Margaret determined on attending. But in order to reach Assebroeck in time to hear Mass and communicate, and then return home before the hour when her domestic services would be required, she had to rise at two o clock in the morning, and to make a painful foot journey through the sandy roads, in the dark. She persevered in this devotion for nine days, at the end of which time her confessor, without any solicitation on her part, announced to her that he withdrew all his objections to her joining the Dominican order, and that she might do so with his full consent. Her joy was great indeed, enhanced by the feeling that she owed this grace to the intercession of Our Lady.”

Move to Belgium

St. John's Hospital in Bruges, Belgium
When the family that employed her moved to Belgium, Margaret went with them.  Here she found a community of beguines dedicated to corporal works of mercy serving the sick poor in hospitals.  When Bishop Ullathorne arrived to recruit young women to help rekindle the Catholic faith in England he found the whole city full of her fame.  He said, “People of all classes, from the poor to the bankers, came to inquire after her. Her name introduced me to everyone. The clergy and superioresses of convents spoke of her with warm interest.” Margaret visited the sick in St. John's Hospital and prayed for hours kneeling in front of a statue of Our Lady of Sorrows in the Church of St James.  The people remarked not only about how kind and compassionate she was but also that she had the gift “of giving freedom of heart to scrupulous persons.”   Margaret and a small group of pious women nightly gathered in the Church of Saint James to sing the Litany of the Blessed Virgin for the conversation of England.   

Drane, Augusta Theodosia (Mother Frances Raphael), Life of Mother Margaret Mary Hallahan: Foundress of the English Congregation of St. Catherine of Siena of the Third Order of St. Dominic, Longmans, Green and Co., New York, New York, 1929, pp. 28-29.

Guardian Angel

Guardian Angel
Margaret Mary fulfilled her daily duties as a servant with religious obedience invoking her guardian angel and the Blessed Mother to help her especially when she was asked to cook.  The thing that most distressed her about this period of service was not the labor involved, but that she was unable to attend Mass or be with those who shared her faith.  Her employers were either unaware or unsympathetic of the pain and sorrow this caused her.   When she was about thirteen she encountered a man who stunned her by blaspheming and calling upon God to strike him dead if he really existed.   But when she heard him speak disrespectfully of the Blessed Virgin she was so shocked that “having no words ready at the moment with which to reply, she used a weightier argument, and seizing a large plate, broke it over the scoffer’s head.”   Throughout her life Margaret Mary’s passionate defense of the faith in the face of unbelievers was legendary although she learned to argue more considerately. 


Drane, Augusta Theodosia (Mother Francis Raphael), Life of Mother Margaret Mary Hallahan: Foundress of the English Congregation of St. Catherine of Siena of the Third Order of St. Dominic, Longmans, Green and Co., New York, New York, 1929, pp. 11-12.

Celtic Christmas Tradition

A page from Celtic Christmas Music
Born in London to Irish parents little Margaret Mary exhibited an enthusiastic love of the traditions of the faith early on.   It is a Celtic Christmas tradition for the youngest in the family to light a large candle on Christmas Eve that could only be snuffed by a girl with the name of Mary.  This special privilege was Margaret Mary’s favorite childhood memory.  Her mother encouraged a warm devotion to the Blessed Mother in Margaret as a child but when she became too zealous in her prostrations and other demonstrations of piety, her mother tried to temper her with the scolding, “little saints make big sinners.”  But her home life was soon disrupted by misfortune and sickness. Margaret lost her father to consumption when she was four years old.  Her mother fell into dire straits and sent little Margaret Mary to an orphanage where she was educated for three years.  Soon after her mother died.  So, by the time she was nine years old, having lost both parents, Margaret began a life of service.

Drane, Augusta Theodosia (Mother Francis Raphael), Life of Mother Margaret Mary Hallahan: Foundress of the English Congregation of St. Catherine of Siena of the Third Order of St. Dominic, Longmans, Green and Co., New York, New York, 1929, p. 2

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Pragmatic Spirituality

Saint Catherine Receiving the Stigmata
The pragmatic spirituality of the women who founded Dominican congregations in England and the United States grew out of the penitential spirituality of the Dominican mystics of central Europe. Following in the footsteps of Saint Catherine and the other great Dominican Saints, they fasted and practiced penance.  But gradually they came to realize that rather than inflicting suffering upon themselves in order to follow Jesus Christ and his Blessed Mother more closely, they could offer up the very real suffering of daily life.  Through sickness, poverty, humiliation, mockery, persecution and abandonment, they found the love of God, and the Dominican way of life, gave them the strength to persevere for the sake of spreading the Gospel and building the kingdom.  Love of the Blessed Mother helped them to be gentle, compassionate and wise as they brought to birth numerous institutions and placed them under the protection of the Blessed Mother or one of the Dominican mystics.  Dominican women in England were among those responsible for reviving the Catholic faith after the dissolution of the monasteries and centuries of oppression, while Dominican women in the United States were missionaries teaching the faith to natives and immigrants from many countries.  The slowness of communication made it necessary for them to break away and establish new foundations, leaving them cut off from their own homelands.  Their lives were spent in the practical work of building and administering convents, schools and hospitals, but Dominican liturgy and community sustained them  They negotiated with parish priests, local bishops and community leaders to purchase land and recruit women to join them in mission.  

Dominican Constitutions


Dominican Tree
To be officially recognized as belonging to the Dominican Tree a congregation needed to have its own constitutions approved by the Vatican or a local bishop.   After purchasing land and building institutions, the foundresses spent the better part of their later years researching and writing constitutions that would allow them to live an apostolic Dominican life.  Previous constitutions for women in the Dominican Order were written for the monastic life of the Dominican nuns and called for silence and strict enclosure.   In order for women to serve as teachers, nurses and social workers some practical modifications were needed.  Foundresses negotiated with the Vatican and the Dominican hierarchy and collaborated with each other to devise constitutions that would allow their members to live an authentic Dominican life while serving in an active apostolic ministry.  The first three congregations of apostolic women with constitutions approved by the local bishop were founded in 1822 in Springfield, Kentucky by Father Edward Fenwick; in 1844 in Sinsinawa, Wisconsin by Father Samuel Mazzuchelli; and in 1846 in Memphis, Tennessee by Mother Angela Sansbury.

Mother Margaret Hallahan

Mother Margaret Hallahan
The first apostolic congregation founded in England after the Roman Catholic Relief Act of 1829 emancipated Catholics and allowed the open practice of the Catholic faith was the foundation made in Stone by Mother Margaret Mary Hallahan.  Her love of the Blessed Mother and her interpretation of an authentic Dominican devotion to Mary were incorporated into the rules and customs that became the constitutions of the Dominican Sisters of Stone.   The constitutions written by Mother Margaret were approved by the pope and all subsequent foundations in England and the United States were encouraged to take them as their model.   The foundress of Stone and her successor Mother Francis Raphael Drane were well-known by Dominicans in England and the United States.  Their biographies and the Life of Saint Dominic and Sketch of the Dominican Order, written by Mother Francis Raphael Drane, were read aloud in Dominican refectories from the time they were published right up until the practice of silence at meals was ended in the mid 1970’s.   In 1929 five congregations founded in England were amalgamated into one congregation with Stone as their Motherhouse.  Since then several congregations founded in the United States have merged or been restructured. 

Dominican Congregations in the United States


Regensburg Tree
Below is a list of all the Dominican congregations founded in the United States between 1850 and 1950.  They are listed by order of their acceptance into the Order as new foundations. Women from the monastery founded in by Saint Dominic in Prouille, France in 1206 were sent on mission to Ratisbon, Bavaria to found HolyCross convent in 1235.  Four women from Ratisbon were sent to New York and established Holy Cross in Brooklyn in 1855.   That foundation in turn sent women on mission to other parts of the United States that resulted in several new foundations. Eleven Dominican congregations in the United States, including the Mission San Jose Dominicans, trace their roots to Ratisbon, now known as Regensburg (starred below). 


1850 San Rafael, California (Mother Mary Goemaere)
1855 Brooklyn, New York (Mother Josepha Witzlhofer)*
1860 Nashville, Tennessee (Mother Frances Walsh)
1860 New Orleans, Louisiana (Mother Mary John Flanagan)
1862 Racine, Wisconsin (Mother Mary Benedicta Bauer)
1868 Columbus, Ohio
1876 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Mother Marie de la Roche)
1876 Sparkill, New York (Mother Catherine Antoninus Thorpe)
1880 Albany, New York – (Mother Lucy Eaton Smith)
1881 Caldwell, New Jersey (Mother Catharine Muth)*
1882 Galveston, Texas (Mother Mary Agnes Magevny)
1888 Mission San Jose, California (Mother Pia Backes)*
1888 Tacoma, Washington*
1890 Newburgh, New York *
1891 Blauvelt, New York (Mother Mary Ann Sammon)*
1892 Fall River, Massachusetts (Mother Mary Bertrand Sheridan)
1894 Grand Rapids, Michigan *
1894 Newburgh, Michigan (Mother Aquinata Fiegler)
1896 Hawthorn, New York (Mother Rose Hawthorne Lathrop)
1902 Great Bend, Kansas (Mother Antonina Fischer)*
1902 Houston, Texas (Mother Pauline Gannon)
1906 Fall River, Massachusetts
1910 Ossining, New York (Mother Mary Walsh)
1920 Hawthorn, New York – (Mother Mary Joseph Rogers)
1923 Adrian, Michigan*
1923 Everett, Washington – (Mother Guillema Stafford)
1929 Akron, Ohio*
1950 Oxford, Michigan (Mother Mary Joseph Gazda)

Dominicans at Home in a Young Nation

Published in 2000
The McGreal Center for Dominican Historical Studies, responsible for promoting the research and writing of the history of the Order of Preachers in the United States, provides a central depository for archival material from all of the congregations in the United States.  In 1989 Sister Mary Nona McGreal, OP began the work of Project OPUS acquiring over 5,000 documents, resources and publications germane to the history of the Dominican Family in the United States. Her goal was to research, write and publish a two volume series called The Order of Preachers in the United States: A Family History. The first volume, Dominicans at Home in a Young Nation: 1786-1865 was published in 2000.  The second volume Dominicans on Mission: 1865-1910, is in preparation now.  Since Sister McGreal’s retirement in 2006, Janet Welsh, OP has directed the center now located at Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois. 

In Our Keeping

2010 Dominican Archivists and Historians' Conference
The Dominican Archivists and Historians' Conference, In Our Keeping, is held at the McGreal Center for Dominican Historical Studies at Dominican University in River Forest, IL. Dominican historians from throughout the United States as well as other countries gather at this conference to find collaborate and find creative ways of keeping and telling the Dominican Story.  I attended the conference in 2010 (2nd row, 3rd from the right) to ask the participants if they would contribute materials pertaining to devotion to the Blessed Mother practiced in their congregation at the time of their founding to my study.  Archivists from congregations in Washington, California, Missouri, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania and New York, as well as Dominican friars, laity and associates from the eastern, western and central provinces contributed ideas and material to my study.  The research revealed that Mother Margaret Mary Hallahan and Mother Francis Raphael Drane had a significant influence on devotion to the Blessed Mother as it was set forth in the constitutions and practiced by Dominicans in the United States between 1850 and 1950.  Whether the foundresses were of English, Italian, German or French ancestry, the constitutions of the Stone Dominicans were considered the premier model to emulate.   This fact led me to research Mother Margaret Hallahan's  devotion and the traditions of the Order described in the Life of Saint Dominic and Sketch of the Dominican Order written by her successor Mother Francis Raphael Drane.  The Dominican Sisters of Stone gave me a tour of the archives and a copy of their recently published history, A Peculiar Kind of Mission.  They  also advised me to visit other important sites in Belgium where Mother Margaret's devotion was nurtured before she went to England to found the Congregation at Stone.  Posts and video from this tour follow in subsequent posts.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Life of Saint Dominic and Sketch of the Order


Writing is an essential part of my spiritual journey because it is so central to who I am at heart.  The following posts are notes for a presentation I've been invited to give at Mount Angel Abbey in Oregon in May.  This is a new endeavor for me.  Composing a presentation in public holds both risks and excitement.  Although I will not upload all your texts and comments, I do want to thank you for encouraging the process.  I am editing my work as it goes along.     The sequence of posts that follow are based on the Life of Saint Dominic and Sketch of the Order.  


The Flesh of Christ

Saint Dominic's Book Cast into the Fire
Although he was undoubtedly a great teacher and preacher we have no record of Saint Dominic’s writings.  According to legend he was so once so moved by compassion that he sold all of his books and gave the money to the poor.  One book is especially missed by Dominican theologians.  This is the book mentioned in the legend of Saint Dominic’s confrontation with the Albigensian heretics.  The book containing his preaching on the Flesh of Christ was flung into the fire three times, and three times it sprang back out uninjured.  Mother Francis Raphael Drane quotes from a letter of Father Alessandro Santo Canale of the Society of Jesus that was published in a collection of letters on the Immaculate Conception at Palermo in the year 1742.  Father Canale wrote, “All the regular orders, following the inclination of the Holy Church their mother, have always shown a courageous zeal in defense of the Immaculate Conception.  And I say all; because one of the most earnest in favor of the Immaculate Conception has been the most learned and most holy Dominican order, even from its very first beginning. I mean even from the time of the great patriarch Saint Dominic in the dispute which he held with the Albigensians at Toulouse, with so much glory to the Church and to himself. Almost from the time of Saint Dominic down to the present day there has been preserved in the public archives of Barcelona a very ancient tablet, whereon is inscribed the famous dispute of the saint with the Albigensians, and the triumph of the truth, confirmed by the miracle of the fire, into which, at the request of the heretics the saint having thrown his book, when that of the Albigensians was destroyed his remained uninjured.”

In their argument the Albigensians claimed that the Blessed Virgin was conceived in original sin and Saint Dominic refuted this claim by writing a book on the Flesh of Christ.  Saint Dominic based his argument on the belief that the Virgin Mary was she of whom the Holy Ghost says by Solomon, “Thou art all fair my beloved and there is no stain in thee.”  Mother Francis Raphael Drane wrote that Father Canale claimed that Saint Dominic’s quoted the following phrase from the Acts of St. Andrew as support for the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, “Even as the first Adam was made of virgin earth, which had never been cursed, so also was it fitting for the second Adam to be made in like manner.” 

Drane, Augusta Theodosia (Mother Francis Raphael), The Life of St. Dominic and a Sketch of the Dominican Order with an Introduction to the America edition by Rev Joseph Sadoc Alemany, D.D., P. O’Shea Publisher, New York, New York, 1867, (p. 219-220).

Our Lady of Sorrows

Seven Sorrows of Mary
Mother Francis Raphael Drane tells us that Our Lady of Sorrows is celebrated in honor of the miraculous picture of Suriano which depicts the Seven Sorrows of our Lady and St. Dominic.  She writes, “An obscurity rests over the origin of this picture, or perhaps we should rather say, that the Church, whilst granting the festival and bearing her willing testimony to the extraordinary Divine favors shown to the devotion of the pilgrims of Suriano, has been silent as to the history of the painting itself.  This picture first appeared in the convent of Suriano in Calabria in the year 1530, and did not attract much popular regard, until the beginning of the following century, when the miracles and conversions wrought at Suriano made it a place of pilgrimage to the whole world. After a number of briefs, granted by successive pontiffs, and a severe examination of the facts, Benedict XIII, at length, appointed the 15th of September to be observed through the whole order in commemoration of the graces received before this remarkable picture.”  

The seven sorrows refer to the seven events in Scripture in which the suffering of Our Lady is mentioned: Hearing the Prophecy of Simeon (Luke 2:34-35); Fleeing into Egypt with Joseph (Matthew 2:13);  Losing the Child Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:43-45); Meeting Jesus on the Way to Calvary; Standing by the Cross (John 19:25); Receiving the Body of Jesus (Matthew 27:57-59); Placing the Body of Jesus in the Tomb (John 19:40-42).  A special seven decade Rosary was developed to be used in prayer. The purpose of the devotion was to promote union with the sufferings of Christ through union with the special suffering that Our Lady endured.  

The devotion has a long history, but was not officially promulgated by the Church until the early nineteenth century.  Before its formal approval, both the Servite Order and the Dominicans had permission to celebrate it because they were so instrumental in popularizing the devotion.  Connection between Saint Dominic and this feast later became obscure although we know Saint Dominic practiced this devotion and promoted it among his followers. The Dominican Saint, Peter the Martyr, then the Inquisitor-General of Italy, helped to popularize the devotion and recommended the foundation of the Servite Order in 1243.  Since that time this devotion has been attributed more to the Servites than the Dominicans although Dominicans were instrumental in their founding. The painting referred to by Mother Frances Raphael Drane has been lost to antiquity.  The place now associated with the devotion is Monte Senario where the Servite founders had their visions rather than Suriano where the miraculous picture had been.  The seven sorrows are now popularly depicted by an image of the Blessed Mother with seven swords piercing her heart.  The fifth sorrow has been memorialized by the hymn Stabat Mater while the sixth sorrow is most famous as the Pietá by Michelangelo.

Drane, Augusta Theodosia (Mother Frances Raphael), The Life of St. Dominic and a Sketch of the Dominican Order with an Introduction to the America edition by Rev Joseph Sadoc Alemany, D.D., P. O’Shea Publisher, New York, New York, 1867, (p. 217).

Stairway to Heaven

Saint Dominic in Glory
Both Saint Catherine and Saint Dominic were seen in visions at the very hour of their death.  Mother Francis Raphael retells the story of Saint Dominic on the stairway to heaven in this way, "At the same hour in which he expired, Father Guallo Romanoni, prior of the convent of Friars Preachers in Brescia, fell asleep, leaning against the bell tower of his church, and he seemed to see two ladders let down from an opening in the sky above him. At the top of one stood our Lord, and His blessed Mother was at the summit of the other. Angels were going up and down them, and at their foot was seated one in the habit of the order, but his face was covered with his hood after the fashion in which the friars were wont to cover the face of the dead, when they are carried out for burial. The ladders were drawn up into heaven, and he saw the unknown friar received into the company of the angels surrounded by a dazzling glory and borne to the very feet of Jesus.  Guallo awoke, not knowing what the vision could signify, and hastening to Bologna, he found that his great patriarch had breathed his last at the very moment in which it had appeared to him; namely, six in the evening, and he judged it as a certain token that the soul of Dominic had been taken up to heaven.

Drane, Augusta Theodosia (Mother Francis Raphael), The Life of St. Dominic and a Sketch of the Dominican Order with an Introduction to the America edition by Rev Joseph Sadoc Alemany, D.D., P. O’Shea Publisher, New York, New York, 1867, (p. 212).

Propagation of the Rosary

Confraternity of the Rosary
The propagation of the Rosary seems to have begun in France where Saint Dominic used it as a means of teaching the truth of the Incarnation, Crucifixion and Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ to people who were being led astray by the false doctrine of the Cathars and Albigensians.  After safely enclosing the noble women he converted in the monastery at Prouille and instructing them with the Rosary Prayer, Saint Dominic gathered men about him for the preaching mission and set out through the north of Italy and parts of Spain.  


Several Dominican convents and monasteries were founded in Italy and Spain, but as Mother Francis Raphael Drane wrote, “It is uncertain what share St. Dominic himself had in their establishment.  Nor is there any universal agreement among authors as to the cities he visited, though it seems certain that he made some stay at the Palencia, the scene of his early university life. We have an interesting memorial of this visit in the will of Anthony Sersus, who leaves a certain sum for candles for the confraternity of the Holy Rosary, founded in that place by the good Dominic of Guzman as he terms him. We find, by this, how very early a date may be claimed for the confraternities of the Rosary, which indeed were founded in almost every city wherein Dominic preached, especially in the north of Italy.  For still, as he passed from place to place, his work was ever the same; he preached without rest and intermission, and many of the miracles attributed to him by popular tradition are given to us associated with stories of the propagation of the Rosary."  The most famous of these stories is based on a vision of Saint Dominic receiving the Rosary from the Blessed Mother while Saint Catherine of Siena receives one from the hand of the Infant Christ.

We do know that Saint Dominic preached in Siena, Italy, but as Mother Frances Raphael Drane recorded it is likely to have been in the year 1220. "As he preached in one of the churches of that city, Tancredo Tancredi, a young noble of high birth and renowned for learning, stood amid the crowd. As he listened and gazed at the celebrated preacher, he saw another figure standing beside him in the pulpit and whispering in his ear; it was the Blessed Virgin who was inspiring the words of her faithful servant. The sight filled Tancred with admiration, but, as the saint descended the pulpit stairs, that same glorious vision of Mary floated nearer and nearer to the spot where he stood.  It pointed with its hand to the figure of the Preacher, and a low sweet voice uttered in his ear, “Tancred, follow after that man, and do not depart from him.” From that time, Tancred became what he had been so sweetly called to be, a close and faithful follower of his great master."   

Drane, Augusta Theodosia (Mother Francis Raphael), The Life of St. Dominic and a Sketch of the Dominican Order with an Introduction to the America edition by Rev Joseph Sadoc Alemany, D.D., P. O’Shea Publisher, New York, New York, 1867, (p. 150; p. 181-182).

Dignare Me Laudare

Nine Ways of Prayer of Saint Dominic
Mother Francis Raphael Drane recorded that Saint Dominic never spoke in public without first prostrating in prayer before a little image of Our Lady and repeating the versicle, “Dignare me laudare te Virgo sacrata...”  This is the origin of the custom among Dominicans even today of introducing their preaching with an Ave Maria.   In many convents, where the Salve Regina is sung, whether in procession or in choir sides, this versicle rendered in English immediately follows, “Permit me to sing your praises, Holy Virgin.  Strengthen me against your enemies.” 

Prostration before an image of the Blessed Virgin or the Crucifix is one of the “nine ways of prayer” of Saint Dominic.  The other ways are bowing, kneeling, genuflecting, standing with hands open, standing with hands outstretched in the form of a cross, standing with arms stretched forward with hands together pointing toward heaven, sitting with a book and walking.  The nine ways of prayer were first recorded by an anonymous author sometime between 1260 and 1288.  The most likely source of this information was Saint Cecilia at the Monastery of St. Agnes who was received into the habit and directed in prayer by Saint Dominic.

Drane, Augusta Theodosia (Mother Francis Raphael), The Life of St. Dominic and a Sketch of the Dominican Order with an Introduction to the America edition by Rev Joseph Sadoc Alemany, D.D., P. O’Shea Publisher, New York, New York, 1867, (p. 148).

Under Mary's Mantle

Under Mary's Mantle
Dominicans everywhere share the tradition of singing the Salve Regina and receiving a blessing with holy water at the words before they go to bed.  Mother Francis Raphael Drane wrote that, “Dominic never had cell or bed of his own and slept, when he slept at all, in the church or the dormitory. One night, Dominic having remained in the church to pray, left it at the hour of midnight, and entered the corridor where the cells of the brethren were.  When he had finished what he had come to do, he again began to pray at one end of the dormitory, and looking by chance towards the other end, he saw three ladies coming along, of whom the one in the middle appeared the most beautiful and venerable.  One of her companions carried a magnificent vessel of water, and the other a sprinkler, which she presented to her mistress, and she sprinkled the brethren, and made over them the sign of the cross.   But when she had come to one of the friars, she passed him over without blessing him; and Dominic having observed who this one was, went before the lady, who was in the middle of the dormitory, near to where the lamp was hanging.  He fell at her feet, and though he had already recognized her, yet he besought her to tell him who she was.  At that time the beautiful and devout anthem of the Salve Regina was not sung in the convents of the friars or of the sisters at Rome; it was only recited kneeling after Compline. The lady who had given the blessing said therefore to Dominic, I am she whom you invoke every evening, and when you say, ‘Eia ergo advocota nostra, I prostrate before my Son for the preservation of this order.  Then the blessed Dominic inquired who were the two young maidens who accompanied her, and she replied, One is Cecilia, and the other Catherine. And the blessed Dominic asked again why she had passed over one of the brethren without blessing him; and he was answered, Because he was not in a fitting posture; and so having finished her round and sprinkled the rest of the brethren, she disappeared.”

Saint Dominic had a mystical vision of his deceased brothers and sisters under the protection of the Queen of Heaven.  Mother Francis Raphael Drane relates the story this way, “Now the blessed Dominic returned to pray in the place where he was before, and scarcely had he begun to pray when he was wrapt in spirit unto God. And he saw the Lord, with the Blessed Virgin standing on His right hand, and it seemed to him that our Lady was dressed in a robe of sapphire blue. And, looking about him, he saw religious of every order standing before God; but of his own he did not see one. Then he began to weep bitterly, and he dared not draw nigh to our Lord, or to His Mother; but our Lady beckoned him with her hand to approach. Nevertheless, he did not dare to come until our Lord also in His turn had made him a sign to do so.  He came, therefore, and fell prostrate before them, weeping bitterly.  And the Lord commanded him to rise, and when he was risen, He said to him. Why weepest thou thus bitterly? And he answered, I weep because I see here religious of all orders except mine own. And the Lord said to him, Wouldst thou see thine own? And he trembling replied, Yes, Lord. Then the Lord placed His hand on the shoulder of the Blessed Virgin, and said to the blessed Dominic, I have given thine order to my Mother.  Then He said again, And wouldst thou really see thine order? And he replied, Yea, Lord. Then the Blessed Virgin opened the mantle in which she seemed to be dressed, and extending it before the eyes of Dominic so that its immensity covered all the space of the heavenly country, he saw under its folds a vast multitude of his friars. The blessed Dominic fell down to thank God and the Blessed Mary, His Mother, and the vision disappeared, and he came to himself again, and rang the bell for matins; and when matins were ended, he called them all together, and made them a beautiful discourse on the love and veneration they should bear to the most Blessed Virgin, and related to them this vision.”  Mother Frances adds the curious injunction that Saint Dominic ordered from then on that the Friars always wear their belts and stockings to bed.  While the tradition of singing the Salve continues in our Constitutions, this one is not mentioned.

Drane, Augusta Theodosia (Mother Francis Raphael), The Life of St. Dominic and a Sketch of the Dominican Order with an Introduction to the America edition by Rev Joseph Sadoc Alemany, D.D., P. O’Shea Publisher, New York, New York, 1867, (pp. 136-138).


Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Dominican Habit

Vision of the Dominican Habit by Fra Angelico
Master Reginald was a brilliant man but he desired something more than what the world could give him and chose to give up all things for Christ in service of others.  A local cardinal encouraged him to find Saint Dominic, take the vow of poverty and become a member of his Order of Preachers.  Master Reginald followed through on this advice and after meeting Saint Dominic resolved to enter the Order.  Misfortune followed soon after and Master Reginald succumbed to a great fever.  Within days he became so sick the doctors feared he would not survive.  Saint Dominic begged Divine Mercy to restore his health so he could fulfill his vocation to the preaching mission.  At the same time Our Lady appeared to Master Reginald on his deathbed accompanied by two beautiful maidens of surpassing beauty.  The Queen of Heaven instructed him to ask for what he desired and she would grant it to him.  One of the maidens at her side suggested he should ask nothing, but leave it to the will and pleasure of the Queen of Mercy.  This he did willingly.  Our Lady anointed his eyes, ears, nostrils, mouth, hands, reins and feet, with her virginal hand pronouncing certain words meanwhile appropriate to each anointing.  She prayed “Let thy reins be girt with the girdle of chastity,” and “Let thy feet be shod for the preaching of the Gospel of Peace.”

Our Lady showed Master Reginald a white habit saying, “Behold the habit of thy order.”  Before Our Lady disappeared she promised Reginald she would return to him in the presence of others.  Mother Frances Raphael wrote, “The next morning when Saint Dominic came to him to ask him how he fared, he answered that nothing ailed him; and so told him the vision.  Then both together did render thanks to God who strikes and heals, who wounds and who makes whole. Three days after this, Dominic again came to his room bringing with him a religious of the Hospitallers of St. John.  And as they sat all three together the same scene was repeated in the sight of all. We are told, by some, that on her former appearance, the Blessed Virgin had promised this repetition of her previous visit; and that Reginald had mentioned this fact to St. Dominic.  He now conjured him and his companions to keep the whole of the circumstances secret until after his death; and he did this out of humility.  Dominic complied with his request; and in announcing to his brethren his intention of changing the form of their habit, he did not give the reason which had caused the change until after Reginald s death. Until this time the habit of the regular canons had continued to be worn by all the brethren, it was now changed for that which had been shown by Mary to Reginald, and which Dominic had himself seen on the second occasion of her appearance. The linen surplice was laid aside and in its place was used the long woolen scapular which was the particular part of the habit she was seen holding in her hands. Thenceforward this has been the distinctive sign of religious profession among the Friars Preachers.”

The words spoken in the reception of the habit ceremony mark its origin and the reverence with which it is regarded by the Order. “Receive the holy scapular of our order, the most distinguished part of our Dominican habit, and the maternal pledge of the love of the Blessed Virgin Mary towards us.”   For this reason and many others the Friars Preachers have a special love for Mary and acknowledge her special protection and patronage of the Order. 

Drane, Augusta Theodosia (Mother Francis Raphael), The Life of St. Dominic and a Sketch of the Dominican Order with an Introduction to the America edition by Rev Joseph Sadoc Alemany, D.D., P. O’Shea Publisher, New York, New York, 1867, p. 122-125.


Saint Dominic in Rome

Salus Populi Romani
Many houses of religious women that existed before the founding of the Dominican Order were affiliated with the Order later.  Pope Innocent III appropriated the church of Saint Sixtus for a number of religious women who were then living in Rome without the protection of a convent.  Mother Francis Raphael wrote, “The design of collecting them together under regular discipline had been found fraught with difficulty and had failed even the papal authority, aided by the power and genius of such a man as Innocent, had been unable to overcome the wilfulness and prejudice which opposed so wise a project. Honorius who no less than his predecessor ardently desired to see it carried out resolved to commit the management of the whole affair to Dominic.”   

At that time there was in Rome an image of Our Lady revered as the Salus Populi Romani believed to have been painted by Saint Luke.  According to tradition this image had been brought to Rome many centuries before from Constantinople.  Saint Dominic's plan was to move this image and so move all the women who were devoted to it under one roof.  For this purpose he proposed giving up his own convent of Saint Sixtus in exchange for Santa Sabina on the Aventine Hill.  Mother Francis Raphel Drane writes, “He used all the skill and address of manner with which God had endowed him and on his second visit; he found means to win over the abbess and, after her, all the community with one solitary exception to the wishes of the Pope. There were, however, conditions proposed, and accepted. These were that they must be suffered to carry their picture with them to Saint Sixtus, and should it come back . . . as in the days of Pope Sergius, that they should be held free to come back after it. Dominic consented but . . . induced them to profess obedience in all else to himself; and they having done so, he gave them, as their first trial, a prohibition to leave their convent in order to visit any of their friends or relatives... 

Dominic waited until night fall before he ventured to remove the picture so often named; he feared lest some excitement and disturbance might be caused by this being done in broad day, for the people of the city felt a jealous unwillingness to suffer it to depart. However, at midnight accompanied by the two cardinals, Nicholas and Stephen, and many other persons all barefoot and carrying torches, he conducted it in solemn procession to Saint Sixtus, where the nuns awaited its approach with similar marks of respect.  It did not return, and its quiet domestication in the new house completed the settlement of the nuns.  They were soon after joined by twenty one others from various other houses and thus was formed the second house of religious women living under the rule of Saint Dominic.”   

Paul V arranged that a magnificent Chapel be built for the veneration of this image in the Basilica of Saint Mary Major.  On January 27, 1613, it was removed from the high altar and placed in the new chapel where it remains to this day.  Saint Sixtus remains a convent of Dominican women and Santa Sabina is central headquarters of the Master of the Order in Rome.


Drane, Augusta Theodosia (Mother Francis Raphael), The Life of St. Dominic and a Sketch of the Dominican Order with an Introduction to the America edition by Rev Joseph Sadoc Alemany, D.D., P. O’Shea Publisher, New York, New York, 1867, (p. 102-106).

Saint Dominic with Cross

Saint Dominic with Cross
Mother Francis Raphael discovered “a picture Our Lady in the church of St. James at Muret, which was built as a memorial of the victory in the course of the same year, we see a picture representing the Blessed Virgin giving the Rosary to St. Dominic, who holds in his right hand a crucifix pierced with three arrows; on the other side of our Lady kneel Simon de Montfort and Fulk of Toulouse.  A facsimile of this picture, and of the same date, was long kept in the Dominican church at Toulouse.”   


Mother Francis Raphael was careful to admit it was not possible to determine whether this picture alluded to an event which really took place, or was itself the origin of the tradition and the painting can no longer be found.  long forgotten tradition holds that Saint Dominic ascended one of the towers at the Battle of Muret in order to display the crucifix for the encouragement of the Christian troops.  This crucifix was shot through with arrows by the heretics who despised it and preserved in a church in Toulouse.  Centuries later a crucifix pierced all over with arrows, supposed to have been the identical one used by Saint Dominic on the occasion, was on display in Toulouse.  However, this intriguing story has been repudiated by many hagiographers. 

The cross pierced by arrows was adopted by the Counts of Toulouse and eventually became the symbol of the whole Occitan region.  The heretics who battled against the Christians rejected the cross and the belief that the crucifixion and resurrection of Our Lord led to salvation.  Heretics who recanted were forced to wear the yellow cross shot through with arrows on their clothing as a sign of humiliation.  Thus the same symbol is known as the Cathar Cross and reference to its connection with Saint Dominic fell by the wayside.  The cross known throughout the world as the Dominican Cross is half black and half white creating a 3-dimensional effect.  Rather than arms ending in an arrow shape, the arms of the Dominican Cross end in the lily shape known as the fleur-de-lis.
  
Drane, Augusta Theodosia (Mother Francis Raphael), The Life of St. Dominic and a Sketch of the Dominican Order with an Introduction to the America edition by Rev Joseph Sadoc Alemany, D.D., P. O’Shea Publisher, New York, New York, 1867, (p. 50).

Saint Dominic’s Prophecy

Battle of Muret
The position of the crusaders seemed gloomy as they headed into the battle against the heretics at Muret. They were greatly outnumbered.  The Cistercians at the monastery in Toulouse, where Saint Dominic was praying the rosary with a group of soldiers, asked him how he thought the battle would turn out.  After a lengthy silence Saint Dominic replied, “There will be a time when the malice of the men of Toulouse will have its end; but it is far away.  There will be much blood shed first, and a king will die in battle.” At first they thought this prediction referred to Prince Louis of France, the son of Philip Augustus, who had joined the army of the crusaders in the previous February but Saint Dominic said it would not touch him, but another.  Soon afterwards Saint Dominic left to join the crusaders.

Mother Francis Raphael Drane wrote that as the king of Aragon appeared with an army of 100,000 men on September 13, 2013 , “the scene that morning within the walls of Muret was surely a religious one. Eight hundred devoted men, fortified by praying the rosary and the sacraments of reconciliation, were about, as it seemed to human judgment, to lay down their lives as a sacrifice for the faith. There might be seen how the holy sacrifice was celebrated in the presence of them all; and how, when the Bishop of Uzès turned to say the last 'Dominus vobiscum,' De Montfort knelt before him clad in armour, and said, 'And I consecrate my blood and life for God and His faith;' and how the swords and shields of the combatants were once more offered on the altar; and when it was over, and the horsemen were gathering together, and the very sound of the attack was at the gates, these men all once more dismounted, and bent their knee to venerate and kiss the crucifix, extended to them by the Bishop of Toulouse.”

Fortified by faith the soldiers rode out to battle, and the priests returned to the church to pray.  Drane wrote, “Nothing more heroic is to be found in the whole history of chivalry, than this battle of Muret. It was a single charge. They rode through the open gates, and after a feigned movement of retreat, they suddenly turned rein and dashed right on the ranks of their opponents with the impetuosity of a mountain-torrent.  Swift as lightning they broke through the troops that opposed their onward course, scattering them before their horses hoofs with something of supernatural energy, nor did they draw bridle till they reached the centre of the army where the king himself was stationed surrounded by the flower of his nobles and followers.  A moment's fierce struggle ensued; but the fall of the king decided the fortune of the day. Terrified by the shock of that tremendous charge, as it hurled itself upon them, the whole army fled in panic. The voice and example of their chief might again have rallied them, but that was wanting; Peter of Aragon lay dead on the field, and Dominic's prophecy was fulfilled”

Drane, Augusta Theodosia (Mother Francis Raphael), The Life of St. Dominic and a Sketch of the Dominican Order with an Introduction to the America edition by Rev Joseph Sadoc Alemany, D.D., P. O’Shea Publisher, New York, New York, 1867, (p. 46-49).