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.
Lectures and talks related to the Dominican Order
“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.
Close by the Cross of Jesus was his mother Mary. But she was not simply there as the other by-standers, she wasn’t simply looking on. She was suffering with him. Here at the Cross she was living out the prophecy of Simeon. Years earlier when she brought her little boy to the Temple in Jerusalem the old man took the child in his arms and prophesied that the child would be a sign that would be rejected and to his mother he had said “a sword will also pierce you soul also”. Now as she stands by the Cross every blow he received she feels in her soul. The lance that pierced his heart also pierces her soul. She is not looking on from a distance.
Mary teaches us how to attend the Holy Mass. When we go to Mass we are not to be mere by-standers – looking on at what the priest is doing. We are meant to stand like Mary, to be part of what is going on, indeed to offer ourselves in communion with Jesus.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI told us this when he addressed the International Eucharist Congress in Dublin in 2012. Speaking of the renewal of the liturgy after the Vatican II the Pope said: “The renewal of external forms, desired by the Council Fathers, was intended to make it easier to enter into the inner depth of the mystery. Its true purpose was to lead people to a personal encounter with the Lord, present in the Eucharist, and thus with the living God, so that through this contact with Christ’s love, the love of his brothers and sisters for one another might also grow. Yet not infrequently, the revision of liturgical forms has remained at an external level, and “active participation” has been confused with external activity. Hence much still remains to be done on the path of real liturgical renewal. In a changed world, increasingly fixated on material things, we must learn to recognize anew the mysterious presence of the Risen Lord, which alone can give breadth and depth to our life.
The Eucharist is the worship of the whole Church, but it also requires the full engagement of each individual Christian in the Church’s mission; it contains a call to be the holy people of God, but also one to individual holiness; it is to be celebrated with great joy and simplicity, but also as worthily and reverently as possible; it invites us to repent of our sins, but also to forgive our brothers and sisters; it binds us together in the Spirit, but it also commands us in the same Spirit to bring the good news of salvation to others.”
Mary helps us to enter into the inner depth of the mystery that we celebrate at the Holy Mass. She teaches us how not to be bored. So often people go to Mass to be entertained, to listen to a nice priest, to hear the good music, because it is has a good children’s liturgy. All these things may be fine as externals, but if one is not also going to be with Christ, to offer oneself to the Father in communion with Christ, then you stand as one of the by-standers at Calvary. You are watching things from afar.
Each time we go to Mass we must go prepared to have our souls pierced. We go to meet Christ anew in our lives. How often do we go to Mass expecting so little and therefore we receive so little in return. I have a friend who always says he goes to listen to Mass. I asked him was he going just to listen but he replied that he was going to have the words of the sacred liturgy pierce his soul. He said to me that he listens to the readings of the Sacred Scripture expecting them to pierce his soul. He listens to the words of the Eucharist-prayer so that he can hear the words of Jesus pierce his soul with his love; “This is my body offered for you” and “This is my blood poured out for you”. And finally he goes to Holy Communion so that the Word of God, Jesus Himself can come to him and truly pierce his soul with his real presence.
In union with Mary we too can learn how to be true active participants in the Mass and not mere on-lookers and by-standers.
Fr. John M. Harris, O.P.
As this year draws to a close it seems fitting to call to mind once again the powerful gift entrusted to us in the Holy Rosary, this extraordinary Gospel prayer in which is so beautifully intertwined our Contemplative gaze on God and our Apostolic outreach to the world and its needs.
One of the most appealing aspects of the Rosary is its versatility. It is truly a prayer for all seasons of life, all stages of growth, all moods and humours.
Through it we can be brought into wrapt attention, lost in God, as the rhythmic cadence of the repetitive Hail Mary stills our bodies, quietens our minds and brings us into the depths of our own being where God simply is and we are simply present with Him.
There are other times when the mysteries themselves hold our attention, coming alive for us. These are times of great reflective fruitfulness when new insights into God and his ways light up our path and renew our enthusiasm for God and the things of God, making it possible for the Word to become flesh in us.
Then there are the days when we feel lost and lonely, anguished and confused and the Rosary becomes our lifeline. We don’t know how to pray .We are too agitated and distressed to quieten down but by picking up the beads and just vocally repeating the prayers we are expressing with our bodies our desire to be one with Jesus in His Sufferings. At these times we are perhaps most truly Mary’s children, sick wounded hurting, fearful for ourselves or for others, but holding on to mammy’s hand and leaving it to her to explain to Jesus the Divine Physician of our bodies minds and spirits what ails us and what grace we need from each mystery. In each hail Mary we pray ‘pray for us sinners’ but at times like this Mary not only intercedes for us but we leave her to pray for us, do our praying for us. I learnt to pray like this when I was very ill and was too weak to concentrate. Like all loving mothers except much more so, Mary knows us better than we know ourselves and if we just somehow remain there, she will untangle all the knots and the very chains that bind us will be the same ones that draw us with her into Heaven.
At all times the Rosary can be a powerful prayer of intercession but especially in times of suffering and neediness it can move us out of our preoccupation with our selves. We may begin off focusing on the mysteries longing for them to bring us relief but gradually something inside us changes. As we unite our suffering with those of Jesus He gives us his awareness of the needs of all for whom He suffered. He expands our hearts to care for others, to desire their salvation, to want relief for them in their pain, to want them to know as we ourselves know the compassion and comfort of our loving Saviour. In our anguish we can look around us and ask that by his wounds someone else in anguish may have the peace our hearts long for. Our pain becomes a gift when it opens us to the pain of others. It becomes something to be grateful for, something we can even choose to accept if our suffering united to those of Jesus can be of help to someone else. This is the transforming power of the Rosary, this is the mysteries being active in us.
When we have been hurt or when we have hurt others lingering with the sorrowful mysteries can bring healing and penitence. They can teach us how to love, how to forgive, how to understand.
There are times when we are aware of receiving great grace and insight as we pray our Rosary but there are too the long days of simply being faithful to our recitation, allowing the mysteries to unconsciously create the atmosphere in which we live, the very familiarity of the prayer almost imperceptibly making God present, as it were. I always think of my grand parents in this context. At night they would sit together watching TV and as bedtime approached they would turn off the TV and take out their beads. Still sitting together on the sofa they would begin their prayer. By that simply act of taking up the beads, an act as routine as brushing their teeth, a ritual done daily without fail, they changed a place of recreation into a place of deep prayer. To be with them at that time was to be in the presence of God.
As the years begin to creep up on us and old age manifests itself in numerous little ways, making us a little fearful if not of death then perhaps at least of the process of dying, the Glorious mysteries may become specially precious. It is good to reflect on the home coming that awaits us. It helps to look forward in certain hope to the joys of the Resurrection. The Glorious Mysteries remind us that our life is the story of our return to the Father’s house. Jesus has gone before us to prepare a place for us and at the right time He will come to take us to Himself. The assurance that Jesus is coming closer, reaching out to draw us into his embrace where we will be with Him forever provides comfort and brings peace.
Queen of the most Holy Rosary, in life and in death, show unto us the blessed fruit of your womb, Jesus.
A Dominican Nun of the Monastery of St. Catherine of Siena, Drogheda, Co. Louth.
During this academic year Fr. Dwight Black OP from Trinidad and Tobago has been living in St. Saviour’s Priory in Dublin while studying for the ‘Loreto House Religious Formation Ministry’ program run by the Irish Missionary Union. At the end of the academic year the brothers in Dominick St. joined together to congratulate Fr. Dwight and to acknowledge the completion of his course and to thank him for his presence in the community for the last year.
On the 6th June 2015 Fr. Luuk Jansen OP and Fr. Matthew Martinez OP both received their Bachelor of Sacred Theology (S.T.B.) degrees. This is a graduate-level academic degree in theology awarded after four years of theological studies at the Dominican Studium in Dublin. The degree was awarded by the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, the Angelicum, in Rome to which the Dominican Studium in Dublin is affiliated. They were presented with their parchments by Fr. John Harris OP, the Regent of Studies for the Province of Ireland and Fr. Seamus Tuohy OP, secretary of studies.
The 14th of September, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, is the traditional day in which new novices in the Irish Province of the Dominicans receive their habit and start their noviciate year. It is then followed on the 15th of September, the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, by the simple profession of the novices who finished their noviciate year and who will subsequently move to the students’ house in St. Saviour’s, Dublin.
Bl John of Fiesole OP (Fra Angelico)
Feast Day: 18th February
According to the contemporaries of Fra Giovanni da Fiesole, popularly known as “Fra Angelico”, he often used to say- “Whoever does the work of Christ should always remain with Christ!”.
Bl Jordan of Saxony OP
Feast Day: 13th February
Mothers hid their sons when Master Jordan came to town…
These ten short words sum up in a humorous kind of way, the outstanding legacy of the successor of St. Dominic. It not only gives the impression that this new group of mendicant preachers had a clearly defined and essential role to play, challenging the infectious heresies so prevalent at the time (as was confirmed by Pope Honorius III in 1216 when he formally recognised the Order) but also that people were powerless to resist when confronted with it. Of Blessed Jordan we are told that that during his tenure as Master General, between 1222 and 1237, over 1000 novices joined the Dominicans, new convents were established and new provinces formed. Under his rule the Order continued to win many of the best men available, particularly in the Universities where many a Professor was seduced. With such a charming figure sweeping through the neighbourhood is it any wonder that mothers tried to keep their sons out of reach?
Bl Reginald of Orleans OP
Feast Day: 12th February
The early years of every religious Order or movement are always characterised by great saints who light up the Church with the zeal and excitement of their discovery of a new way of following Christ. Blessed Reginald is one of the great early Dominicans who were acquainted with Dominic himself, and seemed to be given a share of the Founder’s spirit.