August 15, 2021: The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary - Pastor’s Corner
During this month when we honor our patron St. Dominic, we celebrate the Feast of the Assumption of Mary today, August 15. The connection between St. Dominic and Our Lady of the Assumption is woven in the fabric of the beginnings of the Order of Preachers.
Once the Church recognized and approved of the preaching mission of Dominic and his small band of 16 friars in December of 1216, there was much discussion and prayer about the best way to be effective in preaching the Gospel. In May of 1217, St. Dominic returned from Rome to Toulouse where he made a surprising and controversial decision. Instead of remaining together in France, where they had been successful in spreading the Gospel and bringing peace to war torn towns, Dominic decided to disperse the brothers far and wide. This decision was met with resistance and heated debate. Being only 16 in number, the brothers protested that certainly it was wiser to marshal their resources together during this fragile stage of development. But Dominic replied, “Do not fear, for I know very well what I am doing. The seed will mold if it is hoarded; it will flourish if it is sown.” So on the Feast of the Assumption, August 15, the whole group gathered for the last time at Our Lady of Prouille. The brothers professed their vows in Dominic’s hands, and he sent them off with nothing more than the official documents which gave them permission to preach and beg. From this moment, the mission of the Order of preachers launched from a local ministry to a worldwide endeavor. Interestingly, the connection with the birth of the Order and the Feast of the Assumption appears in various artistic representations of the Assumption, most famously in the painting of the Assumption where Dominic is prominently featured which hangs at the Archbasilica St. John Lateran. (see above)
Because of this connection, the place of Dominic’s “Great Commissioning” is a treasured locale for Dominicans. In fact, one of the highlights of the pilgrimage the parish made during the recent Footsteps of St. Dominic tour was to visit this very spot where Dominic sent the brethren forth. A bit off the beaten path, the place of this sending is upon a hillock just north of the present cloister of Dominican nuns. Revolution and war have destroyed the original chapel (and much of religious France), but in its place is a beautiful statue of our Lady holding the child Jesus. Spring was in full bloom at the time. Green hedges bordered the lush meadow which was highlighted by thousands of daisies arrayed in yellow and white blossom. Picturesque and peaceful, the place still pulses with the poignancy of this powerful event.
Also, for our Western Dominican Province, it has recently become the traditional day when we enter the novitiate. Every year when our new novices-to-be arrive, I think back to 21 years ago today, when I arrived at the steps of St. Albert’s donned in a white dress shirt and black corduroys. Reflecting on the significance of St. Dominic’s placing the success of his new preachers under the auspices of Our Lady of the Assumption, I give thanks for all the ways that the Lord has blessed my vocation. May our Lady of the Assumption continue to bless our vocations and make our preaching fruitful!