Saturday, February 11, 2012

Origins of the Rosary

Queen Blanche of Castile and her son, Saint Louis IX
Mother Francis Raphael Drane published The Life of St. Dominic and a Sketch of the Dominican Order anonymously in 1867. For years Bishop Joseph Sadoc Alemany was mistakenly credited with this legend which was read in every Dominican convent and seminary in the United States. Archbishop Alemany wrote only the introduction of this work, and highly praised Mother Frances Raphael Drane’s work as a precious gem and admired her prose for its distinguished elegance. However, this introduction was removed from copies of the book in some libraries and its real author went largely unknown.  Bishop Alemany hoped that this profile of Saint Dominic would heal divisions between Protestants and Catholics in America believing that, “American non-Catholics earnestly searching after truth will see in Saint Dominic, the unflinching lover of truth, the gentle yet powerful advocate of truth and the undying martyr of charity to his fellow man.”  He recommended that Catholics should especially be familiar with it and ensured that every Dominican community read aloud from it during meals.

Mother Frances Raphael Drane’s life of Saint Dominic describes the traditions of the Order that developed out of the founder’s spiritual practices. The best known of these practices is the praying of the Rosary. People of many religions prayed with beads and used them to keep track of prayers, but Saint Dominic developed the sequence of joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries that depict preach of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and employed it as a way of preaching the faith and correcting misinterpretations. The first mention of the Rosary in Saint Dominic’s life was on a mission to visit Queen Blanche of Castile in the French court. “Finding Queen Blanche in much affliction on account of her being without children, Saint Dominic recommended to her the use of the Rosary. The Queen … not only adopted the devotion herself, but propagated it among her people and distributed Rosaries amongst them, engaging them to join their prayers to hers, that her desire might be granted” This event occurred prior to 1214 when Queen Blanche finally gave birth Louis IX, the only canonized king of France, the saint from whom the city of Saint Louis, Missouri takes its name. Dominicans have been praying the Rosary ever since and for eight hundred years it has been closely associated with the Order. Many Dominicans wear one around the waist as part of their habit or carry one with them daily.

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. iii-8).