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August 23, 2020: Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time - Pastor’s Corner

Story of St. Dominic: Part III

The first Marian moment in St. Dominic’s story relates to the Rosary.   In fact, St Dominic had a deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, that he is connected with the very origin of this great Marian prayer.   As we have previous noted, St. Dominic was not immediately successful in preaching against the Albigensian heresy.  Distressed at his lack of accomplishment, Dominic turned to the Mother of God for assistance.  According to legend, she appeared to him and gave him the Rosary as an effective means to join vocal and contemplative prayer with preaching the truth in order to call all to conversion of life.  Once Dominic began to preach the gospel using this effective prayer, hearts were convicted and lives transformed.  For St. Dominic there is no successful preaching without prayer!  Since the Rosary fosters a unique blend of vocal, mental, and contemplative prayer, it continues to serve as a model for Dominican prayer.  Thus the Order of Preachers encourages its devotion with enthusiasm.  For example, the Rosary is both part of the Dominican habit and the daily spiritual life of the friars.  The biographers of St. Dominic reveal that he was a man of intense prayer and that his delight for preaching the gospel was rooted in a strong contemplative prayer life.  St. Dominic’s conversations were always “to God or about God,” and it is precisely this intimate relationship that St. Dominic enjoyed with God which fueled the zealous flame of his passion for preaching the gospel.  In striving to preach the word of God with faithfulness and perseverance, St. Dominic first sought to be spiritually nourished by the food of the Scriptures and contemplative prayer. 

         The second moment relates to the habit itself.  As the Dominican established themselves at the major Universities in Europe, many of the professors and students began to enter the Order.  One such esteemed professor was Bl. Reginald of Orleans.  Though he initially inspired by the preaching of St. Dominic to consider entering his new Order, he was racked with doubts and anxiety.  In fact, his fears about his vocation, coupled with an untimely illness drove him to his sickbed.  In this state of physical and emotional distress, the Blessed Virgin appeared to Reginald in the presence of St. Dominic and reassured Reginald’s vocation to the Dominicans and gave them the scapular as a visible sign of her protection and guidance for the friars (up until this time, the habit was made up of the tunic and capuce (habit hood).  To this day, the scapular is worn as an essential part of the Dominican garb and, in fact, is the only part of the habit which is blessed upon receiving the habit.

         The third moment occurred in the middle of the night.  As Dominic was retiring from keeping Vigil in the chapel, he saw a vision of Mary walking the halls of the cloister flanked by Sts. Catherine and Cecilia.  As she proceeded to each room, she blessed each one of the friars in a solemn procession.  This vision gives rise to the Dominican tradition of concluding each day by singing the great Marian anthem Salve Regina.  As the Salve is sung, the friars are blessed as a symbol of Mary’s intercession on behalf of our preaching.   If you have never experienced this powerful moment, join us for Compline (night prayer) at 9pm in the Church! 

This week, we explore the relationship between St. Dominic and St. Francis.  According to both Franciscan and Dominican sources, there are many legendary stories about the connection between St. Dominic and St. Francis.  Perhaps the most historical encounter took place in Rome around the Great Lateran Council in 1215.  Remember that, at the same time Dominic was preaching in France, Francis had sparked a religious revival in Assisi, Italy.  Ten years St Dominic’s junior, but already given permission to establish a mendicant Order, St. Francis traveled to Rome for this Lateran Council, where St Dominic was endeavoring to receive official recognition for his new order of preachers.  Because of their proximity at this time, there are stories of the two great reformers meeting each other and exchanging gifts.  One story has Dominic giving Francis the traditional Franciscan cord; another has Francis giving Dominic a leather belt.  Most accounts agree that Francis and Dominic agreed to support one another and that future generations of their successors would work together in the Lord’s vineyard.  Though there have been examples of “sibling rivalry” between Dominicans and Franciscans over the years, there are two unifying traditions that have come down to us today.  The first tradition is the invitation for a member of the other Order to preach on the feast of their Founder.  For example, there is a custom for a Dominican to preach in Franciscan churches on the feast of St. Francis and vice versa. Secondly, when the Orders came to the Americas to establish missions, it was the custom to erect a prominent statue of a saint from the other Order.  For example, if you visit any of the California missions established by the Franciscans, you will discover the image or statue of a Dominican saint somewhere inside.  For our part, see if you can find the statue of St. Francis which adorns our very own St Dominic’s! (Hint: Look left of St. Dominic as you depart!)  Next week, we will explore St. Dominic’s final days and his legacy.

~Fr. Michael


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