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.