PATRONAGE OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
Every May 8th, the entire Order of Preachers recalls the patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary over the whole of the Order. Dominican life is marked by Marian devotion—we wear her scapular, pray her Rosary, and daily seek her intercession. She is the model Dominican—one who contemplated the Word in her heart, and who lived “to praise, to bless, and to preach” God’s goodness. Blessed Humbert of Romans in his Commentary on the Constitutions of the Order of Preachers states: “From the events surrounding the beginning of our Order many reasons can be adduced why the Blessed Virgin Mary herself may be considered the special patroness of our Order. From what I have heard with my own ears and from the many accounts in the Lives of the Brethren, it seems that she is our special Mother, bringing forth, advancing, and defending the Order whose purpose is to praise, to bless, and to preach her Son. She is our Mother by what she brings forth, by what she advances, and by what she defends. Blessed Dominic commended the Order to her special protection in his prayers.” Our Lady, Queen of Preachers, pray for us!
THE VISION OF SAINT DOMINIC
The following vision was told by Blessed Cecilia Caesarini, OP and the nuns of San Sisto who were told it by Saint Dominic:
One night, after prolonging his prayers until midnight, [St. Dominic] left the church and came to the dormitory, where he completed what he had come to do and, taking his place at one end of the dormitory, continued to pray. As he stood praying, he glanced at the other end of the dormitory and saw three beautiful women enter, but noticed that the one in the middle was a venerable lady far more beautiful and dignified than the other two. One of them was carrying a beautiful, shining vessel and the other an aspersorium which she handed to the lady in the center, who went from bed to bed sprinkling the brethren with holy water and blessing them. As she went along in this way, she passed by one of the brethren without sprinkling him or blessing him. Blessed Dominic observed this and took note of the brother they had neglected.
Then rising from his prayer and walking as far as the lamp which hung from the middle of the dormitory, he fell at the lady’s feet and began to entreat her to tell him who she was, although he already knew. At that time the beautiful and devotional antiphon Salve Regina was not being sung but only recited kneeling, by the brothers and sisters in Rome. When the lady answered, she said to Blessed Dominic: “I am the one you call upon in the evening. When you say, ‘Turn therefore most gracious advocate thine eyes of mercy toward us,’ I prostrate myself before my Son and ask him to preserve this Order.” Then Blessed Dominic asked her about her companions. “One is Cecilia and the other Catherine,” she answered. After that Blessed Dominic inquired about the brother she had passed by as she had sprinkled and blessed all the others. “Because he was not properly disposed,” she said. After this she continued to sprinkle and bless all the others and then disappeared.
When she was gone Blessed Dominic returned to pray in the place he stood before. Suddenly he was rapt in spirit before God and saw Our Lord and the Blessed Virgin sitting at His right. It seemed to Blessed Dominic that Our Lady was wearing a cape of bright blue, the color of sapphire. As Blessed Dominic looked around, he could see religious of all the orders but his own around the throne of God, so that he began to weep bitterly and stood far away, not daring to approach the Lord and His mother. Then Our Lady motioned for him to come near. But he would not dare, until Our Lord Himself also called him. Then Blessed Dominic cast himself before them weeping bitterly. But Our Lord told him to rise, and when he did, Our Lord asked him, “Why are you weeping so?” “I am weeping because I see all the other orders here but no sign of my own.” And the Lord said to him, “Do you want to see your Order?” and he answered, “Yes, Lord.” Then Our Lord, putting his hand upon the shoulders of the Blessed Virgin, said to Blessed Dominic, “I have entrusted your Order to my Mother.” Then he asked him again, “Do you still wish to see your Order?” and again he answered “Yes, Lord.” Then the Blessed Virgin opened the cape which covered her and spread it out before Blessed, Dominic, to whom it seemed vast enough to cover the entire heaven and, under it, he saw a large multitude of the brethren. Then prostrating himself, Blessed Dominic gave thanks to God and to Blessed Mary His Mother. After that the vision disappeared and he returned to himself just as the bell rang for Matins. When Matins were over, he called the brethren to chapter and gave them a long and beautiful talk, exhorting them to love and pay reverence to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Among other things he related this vision to them.