Today we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. It is a special feast for us as Dominicans as according to Catholic tradition, in the 13th century, Mary, the Mother of God appeared to our Holy Father St Dominic gave him the Rosary and asked him that instead of praying the psalms on the beads or knots, as was tradition in ancient times, the faithful pray the Hail Mary, Our Father and the Glory Be. St Dominic was able to succeed in his mission to preach the gospel not by preaching alone but with the help of the rosary. He had a gift from Our Lady to help and guide him.
Each week we post lectio divina aids in the form of quotes from the Church Fathers and other notable authors in relation to the Sunday Gospel. This week there quotes are in relation to the 26th Sunday in Ordinary time (year A).
Catena Aurea, Matthew 21:28-32.
St. Jerome (340/2-420): He speaks to the Gentile people first, through their knowledge of the law of nature; “Go and work in my vineyard;” i.e. “What you would not have done to you, do not do to others” (Tobit 4:16). He answers haughtily, “I will not.” But when, at the coming of the Saviour, the Gentile people, having repented, laboured in God’s vineyard, and atoned by their labour for the obstinacy of their refusal, this is what is said, “But afterward he repented, and went.” The second son is the Jewish people who made answer to Moses, “All that the Lord has said unto us we will do” (Exodus 24:3).
Origen (182-253/4): Whence we may gather, that in this parable the Lord spoke to such as promise little or nothing, but in their works shine forth; and against those who promise great things but do none of these things that they have promised.
St. John Chrysostom (c. 347-407): The Lord abundantly confirms their decision, whence it follows, “Jesus said to them, Truly I say unto you, that the tax collectors and prostitutes shall go before you in the kingdom of God;” as much as to say, Not only the Gentiles are before you, but even the tax collectors and prostitutes.
Origen (182-253/4): Notwithstanding, the Jews are not shut out that they should never enter into the kingdom of God; but, “when the fulness of the Gentiles shall have entered in, then all Israel shall be saved” (Romans 11:25-26).
St. John Chrysostom (c. 347-407): This He brings in because the Priests had asked not in order to learn, but to tempt Him. But of the common people many had believed; and for that reason He brings forward the parable of the two sons, showing them that the common sort, who from the first professed secular lives, were better than the Priests who from the first professed the service of God, inasmuch as the people at length turned repentant to God, but the Priests impenitent, never left off to sin against God. And the elder son represents the people; because the people is not for the sake of the Priests, but the Priests are for the sake of the people.
This week we resume our Lectio Divina series. Each week we post lectio divina aids in the form of quotes from the Church Fathers and other notable authors in relation to the Sunday Gospel. This week there quotes are in relation to the 25th Sunday in Ordinary time (year A).
Catena Aurea, Mt 20:1-16, Sunday 25A
Pope St. Gregory the Great (540-614), Hom. in Evang., xix, 1: The morning is that age of the world which was from Adam and Noah, . . . The third hour is the period from Noah to Abraham; . . . The sixth hour is that from Abraham to Moses, the ninth that from Moses to the coming of the Lord. . . .
The Master of the household, that is, our Maker, has a vineyard, that is, the Church universal, which has borne so many stocks, as many saints as it has put forth from Abel the Just to the very last saint who shall be born in the end of the world. To instruct this His people as for the dressing of a vineyard, the Lord has never ceased to send out His labourers; first by the Patriarchs, next by the teachers of the Law, then by the Prophets, and at the last by the Apostles, He has toiled in the cultivation of His vineyard; though every man, in whatsoever measure or degree he has joined good action with right faith, has been a labourer in the vineyard.
Origen (182-253/4): For the whole of this present life may be called one day, long to us, short compared to the existence of God.
Remigius of Auxerre (841-908): A denarius was a coin anciently equal to ten sesterces, and bearing the king’s image. Well therefore does the denarius represent the reward of the keeping of the Ten Commandments. And that, “Having agreed with them for a denarius a day,” is well said, to show that every man labours in the field of the holy Church in hope of the future reward.
St. Jerome (340/2-420): A denarius bears the figure of the king. You have therefore received the reward which I promised you, that is, my image and likeness; what do you desire more?
St. Augustine (354-430): Because that life eternal shall be equal to all the saints, a denarius is given to all; but forasmuch as in that life eternal the light of merits shall shine diversely, there are with the Father many mansions (Jn 14:2); so that under this same denarius bestowed unequally one shall not live longer than another, but in the many mansions one shall shine with more splendour than another.
St. John Chrysostom (c. 347-407): That He called not all of them at once, but some in the morning, some at the third hour, and so forth, proceeded from the difference of their minds. He then called them when they would obey; as He also called the thief when he would obey. Whereas they say, “Because no man has hired us,” we ought not to force a sense out of every particular in a parable. Further, it is the labourers and not the Lord who speak thus; for that He, as far as it pertains to Him, calls all men from their earliest years, is shown in this, “He went out early in the morning to hire labourers.”
The Venerable Bede (672/3-735): Here is shown the weakness of the Apostles. . . . He came in the evening, because they would be the most afraid at that time.
St. Augustine (354-430): The shut door did not hinder the body, wherein Divinity resided. He could enter without open doors, who was as born without a violation of His mother’s virginity.
Pope St. Gregory the Great (540-614): And because their faith wavered even with the material body before them, He showed them His hands and side.
St. Augustine (354-430): The nails had pierced His hands, the lance had pierced His side. For the healing of doubting hearts, the marks of the wounds were still preserved.
St. Augustine (354-430): When he has said, Receive the Holy Spirit, He instantly makes mention of the remission and retaining of sins, because the love of the Church, which is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, remits the sins of those who partake of it, but retains the sins of those who do not.
Writings of the fathers of the Church, Mt 28:16-20, Ascension Sunday
The Venerable Bede (672/3-735): He goes before His disciples into Galilee, because “Christ is risen from the dead, the first fruits of them that slept” (1 Cor 15:20). And they that are Christ’s follow Him, and pass in their order from death to life, contemplating Him as He appears with His proper Divinity.
Remigius of Auxerre, 841-908: The disciples then, when they saw Him, knew the Lord; and worshipped Him, bowing their faces to the ground. And He their affectionate and merciful Master, that He might take away all doubtfulness from their hearts, coming to them, strengthened them in their belief; as it follows, And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.”
St. Jerome (340/2-420): He then who promises that He will be with His disciples to the end of the world, shows both that they shall live forever, and that He will never depart from those that believe.
Pope St. Leo the Great (c.400-461): Serm., 72, 3: For by ascending into heaven He does not desert His adopted; but from above strengthens to endurance, those whom He invites upwards to glory. Of which glory may Christ make us partakers, Who is the King of glory, “God blessed for ever,” AMEN.
St. John Chrysostom (c. 347-407) the disciples having heard Him say, I go to the Father, and being troubled at the thought of it, He says, “To love Me, is not to be troubled, but to keep My commandments: this is love, to obey and believe in Him who is loved.”
Pope St. Gregory the Great (540-614) Moralia, on Job: The Holy Spirit kindles in every one, in whom He dwells, the desire of things invisible. And since worldly minds love only things visible, this world receives Him not, because it rises not to the love of things invisible. In proportion as worldly minds enlarge themselves by the spread of their desires for things they can see, in that proportion they narrow themselves, with respect to admitting Christ.
St. Augustine (354-430) In Joannem: The lovers of the world, cannot, Jesus says, receive the Holy Spirit: that is to say, unrighteousness cannot be righteous. The love of the world has not invisible eyes wherewith to see that which can only be seen invisibly.
It remains for us to understand, that he who loves has the Holy Spirit, and by having Him, attains to having more of Him, and by having more of Him, to loving more. The disciples had already the Spirit which our Lord promised; but they were to be given more of Him. They had Him secretly, they were to receive Him openly. The promise is made both to him who has the Spirit, and to him who has Him not; to him who does not have the Spirit, that he shall have Him; to him who does, that He shall have more of Him.
(Picture: Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper from the refectory of the Dominican Priory, Santa Maria delle Grazie, in Milan. )
Please find below some quotes of the Church Fathers and other theologians in relation to the Gospel of the Third Sunday of Easter (Easter 3A, Lk 24:13-35.):
The Venerable Bede (672/3-735): And as they spoke of Him, the Lord comes near and joins them, that He may both influence their minds with faith in His resurrection, and fulfill that which He had promised, Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there, am I in the midst of them (Mt 18:20).
Theophylact (1055-1107): For having now obtained a spiritual body, distance of place is no obstacle to His being present to whom he wished, nor did He any further govern His body by natural laws, but spiritually and supernaturally. Hence as Mark says, He appeared to them in a different form, in which they were not permitted to know Him; for it follows, And their eyes were held back that they should not know him; in order truly that they may reveal their entirely doubtful conceptions, and uncovering their wound may receive a cure; and that they might know that although the same body which suffered, rose again, yet it was no longer such as to be visible to all, but only to those by whom He willed it to be seen; and that they should not wonder why henceforth He walks not among the people, seeing that His conversation was not fit for mankind, but rather divine; which is also the character of the resurrection to come, in which we shall walk as the Angels and the sons of God.
Origen (182-253/4): “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?” (Lk 24:32). By which is implied, that the words uttered by the Savior inflamed the hearts of the hearers to the love of God.
Pope St. Gregory the Great (540-614): By the word which is heard the spirit is kindled, the chill of dullness departs, the mind becomes awakened with heavenly desire. It rejoices to hear heavenly precepts, and every command in which it is instructed, is as it were, adding kindling to the fire.
Find below some quotes from the Church Fathers and other notable authors in relation to the Gospel of the second Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday)
St. Augustine (354-430): The shut door did not hinder the body, wherein Divinity resided. He could enter without open doors, who was as born without a violation of His mother’s virginity.
Pope St. Gregory the Great (540-614): But why is He [the Holy Spirit] first given to the disciples on earth, and afterwards sent from heaven? Because there are two commandments of love, to love God, and to love our neighbour. The spirit to love our neighbour is given on earth, the spirit to love God is given from heaven. As then love is one, and there are two commandments; so the Spirit is one, and there are two gifts of the Spirit. And the first is given by our Lord while yet upon earth, the second from heaven, because by the love of our neighbour we learn how to arrive at the love of God.
St. Augustine (354-430): The love of the Church, which is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, remits the sins of those who partake of it; but retains the sins of those who do not. Where then He has said, Receive you the Holy Spirit, He instantly makes mention of the remission and retaining of sins.
Pope St. Gregory the Great (540-614): It was not an accident that that particular disciple was not present. The Divine mercy ordained that a doubting disciple should, by feeling in his Master the wounds of the flesh, heal in us the wounds of unbelief. The unbelief of Thomas is more profitable to our faith, than the belief of the other disciples; for, the touch by which he is brought to believe, confirming our minds in belief, beyond all question.
Pope Benedict xvi: The proverbial scene of the doubting Thomas that occurred eight days after Easter is very well known. At first he did not believe that Jesus had appeared in his absence and said: “Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe” (Jn 20: 25).
Basically, from these words emerges the conviction that Jesus can now be recognized by his wounds rather than by his face. Thomas holds that the signs that confirm Jesus’ identity are now above all his wounds, in which he reveals to us how much he loved us. In this the Apostle is not mistaken.
As we know, Jesus reappeared among his disciples eight days later and this time Thomas was present. Jesus summons him: “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing” (Jn 20: 27).
Thomas reacts with the most splendid profession of faith in the whole of the New Testament: “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20: 28). St Augustine comments on this: Thomas “saw and touched the man, and acknowledged the God whom he neither saw nor touched; but by the means of what he saw and touched, he now put far away from him every doubt, and believed the other” (In ev. Jo. 121, 5).
The Evangelist continues with Jesus’ last words to Thomas: “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” (Jn 20: 29). This sentence can also be put into the present: “Blessed are those who do not see and yet believe”.
In any case, here Jesus spells out a fundamental principle for Christians who will come after Thomas, hence, for all of us.
It is interesting to note that another Thomas, the great Medieval theologian of Aquinas, juxtaposed this formula of blessedness with the apparently opposite one recorded by Luke: “Blessed are the eyes which see what you see!” (Lk 10: 23). However, Aquinas comments: “Those who believe without seeing are more meritorious than those who, seeing, believe” (In Johann. XXlectio VI 2566).
‘O Mary peaceful sea ! Mary giver of peace! Mary fertile soil You Mary are the new sprung plant from whom we have the fragrant blossom, the word, God’s only begotten son, for in you, fertile soil was this word sown! Mary my tenderest love, in you is written the word, from whom we have the teaching of life. You are the tablet that sets this teaching before us.’
From her childhood St. Catherine had a tremendous love for our Blessed Lady. She daily attended compline in the Dominican church to hear the friars sing the Salve Regina every night as their last prayer and spent hours on Saturdays keeping the Virgin company at her Altar while listening to the Little Office of the Virgin recited by the Dominican Tertiaries.
We know that St. Dominic would spend whole nights at the altar of the Blessed Virgin, praying and invoking the queen of heaven for his friars and their preaching, as Mary brought the word in to the world, becoming a channel of grace. Every Dominican has to see himself as an image of Mary, every Dominican is to bring the word into the world, to give Christ our flesh, but especially our voices to preach him near and far to the ends of the earth. Before preaching Dominic always invoked the Blessed Mother, for she is the wind which carries the word to implant in our hearts, the preacher of grace must invoke she who brought grace into this world.
Naturally Catherine from her early childhood was saturated with the love the friars had for the Blessed Virgin, and this saturation of love for the Virgin would become a hall mark of her whole life, both in her writings and work.
Nearly every letter Catherine wrote or dictated begins, ‘In the name of sweet Jesus and his most sweet Mother.’ If Jesus was everything for Catherine, Mary took fittingly second place, for many times she refers to her Lord as Jesus son of sweet Mary, always joining the son to his most holy mother.
Catherine tells us in her dialogue that the Lord Jesus was the seed taking root in the field of Mary, and then she says, ‘Rejoice, O happy and sweet Mary, you have given us the flower of sweet Jesus. In another place Catherine tells her sisters how gracious God is to us, to have given us the sweetest fruit, which is Mary’s Immaculate Heart, a heart that loves us so much and how we show our love for her.
Catherine continually tells her Dominican sisters and brothers that like our father Dominic, we too must stay close to mother Mary for the strengthening of our faith and for consolation when things may go wrong, we should like the apostles at Pentecost always stay close to Mary, for she will teach us all things about her son. In another place she tells the prior of Siena, ‘In great tribulations dearest father, make your community of friars stay close to Mary who loves us without measure.’
To a prostitute Catherine would say, ‘Run to Mary for she is the mother of mercy and compassion, stay in her company and all will be well.’
The Lord Jesus called Catherine to live the first few years of her Dominican life in her own room, at home in her parent’s house. From here she would always council her family that she was spending this time in her little hermitage in the company of sweet Mary and her crucified son. Mary was teaching Catherine in these few years everything about her son’s life.
We can imagine Catherine pondering the life of the Lord through the eyes of Mary, seeing his life in the company of she who knew him best. It was like in many ways the Dominican rosary.
At the end of these enclosed years it was in a vision Catherine saw the Blessed Mother calling her over to her son. She held out Catherine’s hand and placed it in the hands of her son. The Lord Jesus we are told placed a ring on her wedding finger, while Mary held her arm, Mary gave Catherine to her son in marriage, Mary always leads to her son and never to herself.
These years in the hermitage of her little cell where to prepare Catherine to enter the world and set fire to it with her love of Jesus and his Church.
Mary was the signpost to the world for Catherine, now Catherine had to give Christ her hands and feet to enter the world, like Mary had formed Christ’s little hands and feet in her womb.
In this Jubilee Year of the Dominican Order, may St. Catherine lead us to an intimate life of prayer with Mary, in whom the Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us. From this intimacy, may the fire of God’s love renew the Order of Preachers under the mantle of the Virgin Mary.
In the words of Catherine who loved Mary so much, ‘O Mary, Mary! Temple of the Trinity, O Mary Bearer of the fire, Mary minister of mercy, Mary seed bed of the sacred fruit, draw us ever closer to your Son.’
Lay Dominican of the Irish Province.
“The brothers ought to cherish the Orders traditional devotion to the Virgin Mother of God, Queen of Apostles. She is the example of meditation on the words of Christ and of acceptance of one’s mission.” (Constitutions of the Order of Preachers)
In our formulae of profession, Dominicans unlike other religious communities promise obedience to Mary. We promise in filial devotion to obey Mary, Mother of God, the Protectress and Mother of our Order.
In the early days of our Order, Blessed Humbert of the Romans tells us of a vision received by a French Cistercian Monk, who stated he saw the most august Queen of heaven upon her knees with her hands clasped tearfully, begging her Son to have pity on his Mother’s request. The Blessed Mother thanked her Son for choosing her as his mother and queen of heaven, yet her heart was full of pain because countless souls were lost. The Blessed Mother spoke in such words, “after all yours sufferings for them my Son, they do not know you and what was offered for their salvation, namely your precious blood.” She begged of her Divine Son, asking that the gift of redemption should not be lost to them.
Our Lord we are told pleaded with his Mother as to what more could he do, he had sent prophets and saints, martyrs, doctors and confessors. “What more Mother am I to do for them?” She wept even more and in tears replied, “my Son it is not for me to teach you who know all things, but I know that you can find some remedy for this terrible tragedy of ignorance.” For three days the Blessed Mother pleaded on her bended knees before her Son, and finally we are told he rose to his feet and said, “I know sweetest Mother, that sinners are being lost for want of preachers, having none to break for them the bread of the holy scriptures or teach the truth, or open the books now sealed to them, I will send new messengers, a new order of preachers to call and lead the people to everlasting joy.” The monk saw the image of St. Dominic and his friars being sent into the world clothed in the black and white habit, white for purity and black symbolising humility, each individually blessed by the Christ and his Mother.
The order thus comes from the heart and tears the Virgin Mother, who kneels before her Son pleading for mercy, thus the original title given to our Lady by the first friars was Our Lady of Mercy. The Dominican vocation comes from the heart of Mary, the call we have received to follow Christ Jesus comes from the heart of Mary, the unique call we have originates in the heart of the Mother of Mercy.
In 1217 at the early stages of the orders beginning, we see the Order at the service of the Bishop of Toulouse in France. Our Father Dominic chose the feast of the Assumption, the 15th of August as the day to divide his small community; commentators have said that this was chosen by Dominic as the real Pentecost day for the Order. At Pentecost, Mary was gathered with the apostles in the upper room consoling and strengthening them in their fear, thus Mary was present when the Apostles were sent forth to the four corners of the world. So too with Dominic and his friars, they could not always stay together, they must go forth and preach and so gathering his brothers together in the safe company of Mary on her feast day, St. Dominic sent them forth under the mantle and protection of the Queen of Apostles. She who supported the first apostles would support and protect his sons. We are told he gathered the brethren and announced to them, “hoarded grain goes bad” sending them forth to Spain, Italy and to the University of Paris. The apostolic fire that came from the Mother’s heart now sends them out again in love for mankind. It has always been the prayer of the Virgin which upholds the ministry of the Word, she who conceived in her womb the Word made flesh, prepares the way in each one of us for that same Word. The Dominican must continually turn to Mary when fear of the apostolate frightens us for it is her intercession which matures the fruit of our labour in the hearts of men and women. If the Word is to be born in the hearts of men and women today, the way is prepared by she who first welcomed the Word with her yes. Think too of the prophesy of Simon, a sword will pierce your own soul too, after gathering around her the sons of her son, Mary too must let them go, the heart if it to be shared must be broken.
After the great sending out of the first Dominican brethren, the frailty of the first friars emerged. Of the four friars sent to Spain, two returned discouraged by their lack of success, the brethren sent to bologna, were half starved because the local people did not support these strange new friars and the friars considered leaving the order completely, but the Mother was watching over.
In 1218 Blessed Jordan of Saxony tells us that Blessed Reginald of Orleans who was a great priest, a scholar and lecturer in canon law at Paris, fell ill and was dying. Reginald was one of St. Dominic’s favourite sons and our father Dominic gave himself over to prolonged prayer, but it seemed useless, Reginald was near death. One night as he lay on his deathbed the Virgin Mother of Mercy appeared to Reginald, she anointed him with healing oil and revealed to him the habit of the Order, asking that the surplice of the canons be replaced by a scapular of Blessed Mary and a symbol of the yoke of Christ. Reginald was healed immediately and with haste informed St. Dominic of the Virgin Mary’s desire to have the habit of the Order changed. The story reminds us of how the friars always turn to their Mother in time of need and how the habit of the order is hers and a reminder down through nearly 800 years of her protection and love.
Another vision St. Dominic received was one night after he returned from his vigil in the Priory church, he walked into the friar’s dormitory and saw this beautiful woman passing through the centre of the dormitory sprinkling the beds and sleeping friars with holy water. St. Dominic fell to his knees and asked who she was. She replied, “I am she whom you invoke each night at the Salve Regina, when you sing, turn then most gracious advocate, I prostrate myself before my Son for the preservation of the order.” St. Dominic then turned and saw our Lord seated in majesty with all the orders around him, but not one of his friars, The Lord smiled and said, “I have given your Order to my Mother,” and immediately the Lord turned to the Blessed Virgin who opened her mantle to reveal to Dominic his sons and daughters hidden beneath the folds.
Dominicans are Marian, we breathe with a love for Mary, the Mother of Apostles and the Mother of Mercy, we promised obedience to Mary in our vows, for as Blessed Humbert says’ it is by the hands of Mary the we hand over to God the radical ownership of our being and of our possessions. It is by her heart that we consecrate ourselves to divine worship and to the salvation of souls.
Fr. John Hyacinth Walsh, O.P.
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