The Marian Foundation of the Order of Preachers.

“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.

Memores Domini

Two unnamed disciples leave the tragedy of Jerusalem, bewildered, bereaved, frightened, confused and abandoned. They walk along the road the dusty road to Emmaus, with heads probably lowered in great moments of silence and they are facing the sun setting over Jerusalem. They are walking into the darkness of evening. They are witnesses to human suffering in the person of their Lord and Master and they feel in themselves the darkness that is falling around them that Easter Evening. They had hoped that Jesus was the one to redeem, but all they are left with is an empty tomb without its body. No one had seen the resurrection take place, only the women had witnessed the emptiness. The women they had been told witnessed a vision of angels who told them that Jesus was alive. These two disciples walked away, walked into the darkness that was falling. Confused and saddened they walked away feeling within themselves the emptiness of that cave, a cave that even the dead seemingly abandoned.

In life we too can walk away from situations we do not understand and cannot control, sometimes it seems to the best way to cope with difficulties and tragedies. Very humanly we turn our backs and walk in the opposite direction as the only way to cope with or even survive the trials that life can present to us. Like the two disciples on the road we can however run too fast, not to the tomb, but to what seems like light, when in fact is the sun setting and not rising.

What is the challenge of this Gospel for Ireland today? Many of our people have walked in different paths in different directions, family members and friends, neighbours and even our children may have seemed to walk the opposite way like the two disciples.  They have stood perhaps at the feet of a tragedy, a moment of personal suffering, and they like the two may have experienced not the comfort of resurrection and life, but rather the emptiness of a tomb. What they may have hoped for has not being realised, they too perhaps feel abandoned and empty, frightened and confused. The faith we have, they have wanted to experience in their own lives, the faith that gives us life has not been an experience of liberation for them. They see the tomb with the shadow of the cross, and the shadow is dark indeed.

I like to think of Dominicans as “Memores Domini” Those who keep the memory of the Lord alive. Those who keep the Lord alive in their minds and hearts, thinking of him, contemplating him and speaking thus to others of him.  In this story of the Emmaus encounter the person of Jesus walks beside the two disciples and opens for them the scriptures, talking to them of himself and of God’s love for the world. This is the ideal of the Dominican vocation and indeed all vocations.  Our Christian vocation today is not to stand at the side of the road and watch people pass-by, our vocation is to walk with our loved ones, to walk with our families and friends, to walk with them into the sun setting in their own lives. We cannot force them to turn around, but we can walk with them and speak with them, to keep the memory of the Lord in their presence witnessed through our lives.  Our vocation maybe to set the world on fire, but maybe it is hearts that need to be set on fire, as we know the disciples said very beautifully, “Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road.”  Many hearts around us are broken and in need of love, hearts that are very close to us in our daily lives. Many around us, those we live with and those we work with, the person beside you on the train or the bus, the person in the queue behind and before you, they all need and want to experience the love that we have within us, the love of him that we keep alive, the experience of the Resurrection that burns away the shadows of the tomb. Let us who carry the beads of the Rosary as our daily companion walk along the roads of life with those around us and closest to us with those who find it hard to accept that God is alive in their life, let us listen to them and allow the stranger of Emmaus to use us, to bring that living message that the cross is not the end, but only the beginning and that life issues from the empty tomb. May we who keep the memory of the Lord alive, walk joyfully and allow that which burns within us to shed light on the pathways of this life for others.   Let us face the Sun rising and turn our backs to its setting. May our families and friends and those we live and work with recognise the person of Jesus in each one of us as we walk along the path of life and the lives of others. May those who are broken like the bread at Emmaus find healing, strength and life through the memory we carry in our hearts and the mysteries we contemplate at the feet of the Virgin of the Rosary.

Fr. John H. Walsh, O.P.

Mary stands by the cross

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.

The Rosary – our Dominican heritage

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.

St. Dominic Preaching the Mystery

When we pray the Rosary we not only meditate on the history of the Lord’s life but try to make these events increasingly meaningful in our own lives. Looking at some of the mysteries we discover that they involve what appear to be completely mundane things, they do not all involve an obviously miraculous or supernatural happening. In the Joyful mysteries, apart from the Annunciation, we find ordinary human events like Mary visiting her pregnant cousin Elizabeth, the birth of a child and so on. Of course these events in the life of the Lord and his Mother are surrounded by the miraculous action of God in His world, but if we were to look with ordinary eyes and not eyes enlightened by faith, we would see simple, ordinary human things.

It is one of the stories from Dominican history that tells of how Our Lady appeared to St. Dominic in 1208 in Prouille and gave him the Rosary as a means for preaching the Gospel. Until this time St. Dominic had been trying with little success to convert people who had fallen away from the full truth of the Catholic faith. Armed with the rosary and the central insight of this way of prayer, St. Dominic began to meet with increasing success in his preaching and within eight years had obtained from Pope Honorius III the permission for a new order to be called “The Order of Preachers”, known better as Dominicans.

It is hard to say exactly why St. Dominic became so successful in his preaching, but one of the factors was most definitely his use of the Rosary to preach the true faith in the face of the distortions of the heretics. Though many of the mysteries of the Rosary are seemingly mundane events, there is always something more going on behind the scenes. There is a dual truth at the very least to each mystery, in that though they often speak of ordinary human acts, they are always speaking simultaneously of the acts of God that give reality and truth to what is most obvious to us.

St. Dominic knew and understood this, and passed on the Rosary to his followers as a most useful means of encountering Jesus in prayer. It was and is a most efficacious way of prayer because in presenting the events of the Lord’s life in an orderly manner we are able to follow the whole story and come into touch with a reality. This reality, the reality of the Incarnate God, is what we are seeking in prayer, seeking to know and believe by faith. The ordinary events, the historical facts of the life of Jesus are the means by which we encounter Jesus as his disciples first did while he lived. Yet we are never invited to simply rest in the ordinarily human, no, we are invited by this humanity, this physicality, to progress deeper in our understanding until our minds are enlightened by faith.

Fr. Ciaran M. Dougherty, O.P. St. Malchy’s Friary, Dundalk.

Mary, Model of consecrated life

At the Annunciation when the Angel Gabriel told Our Blessed Lady that she had been chosen to become the mother of the Messiah Mary asked how this could come about since she was a virgin. We have become so familiar with the account of the Annunciation that we have stopped being puzzled by the Blessed Virgin’s reply.

The Archangel already knew she was a virgin, so Mary couldn’t have been telling the Angel anything new. Also it could have been God’s plan that the child be conceived in a natural way as it was with John the Baptist and many other births in the Old Testament. But this doesn’t seem to have been the issue. Rather what was at stake was that Mary had consecrated herself to God as a young girl and she was wondering how her consecration as a virgin could be fulfilled if she was to be a mother. We see in her query to the Archangel one who is open to God’s plan, she is not doubting what God can do, she is simply asking how as a consecrated virgin she could also be a mother.

In his encyclical on Love Pope Benedict XVI writes beautifully about Mary and her interior disposition before God. Mary’s understanding of her relationship with God brings us to the very heart of what it means to be a consecrated person. Pope emeritus writes that the whole programme of Mary’s life was not to set herself at the centre, but leaving space for God, who is encountered both in prayer and in service of neighbour. Only then, Pope Benedict says, does goodness enter the world. “Mary’s greatness consists in the fact that she wants to glorify God, not herself. She is lowly: her only desire is to be the handmaid of the Lord (cf. Lk 1:38, 48). She knows that she will only contribute to the salvation of the world if, rather than carrying out her own projects, she places herself completely at the disposal of God’s initiatives”.

Mary handed herself over completely to God and in this she finds true freedom and happiness. So often freedom is presented to us as a freedom to do as we desire and therefore we must expel God from our lives. Mary challenges this false notion of freedom and in her life teaches us that true freedom is only found by making God the ground of our lives and the centre of our stories.

Men and women religious in the Church endeavour to show us the same response to God. They take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience in answer to God’s love for them and by freely placing God at the centre of their lives. They love Him more than anyone else in chastity, they treasure Him more than anything else in poverty and they love Him even more than they love their own plans and decisions for their lives in obedience. In this way they are an invaluable witness in the Church of the call each Christian has of placing love of God at the centre of their lives.

It is the role of consecrated people to confront this secular age with the reality of God. They challenge any comfortable cultural expressions of spirituality or sentimentality. Religious in the Church of today, as religious have always meant to be in the life of the Church, take God seriously and believing in God placing themselves completely at the disposal of God’s initiatives. Mary stands as the great model of this life-choice and she is for all consecrated persons a powerful advocate in their determination to make Christ their whole lives.

Fr. John M. Harris, O.P. St. Saviour’s Dublin.

Maire Muingelnat

In the National Museum of Ireland there is a manuscript containing Irish language poems, written some time in the seventeenth century. About fifty years ago, a scholar named James Carney edited and translated the poems, and showed that they were probably written not in the seventeenth century, but in the eighth century. The poet was identified as Blathmac, son of Cú Brettan.
Two of the poems are very interesting for anyone who has a devotion to the Rosary. Each contains (or originally contained) 150 stanzas, imitating the 150 psalms in the Psalter, just as did the three fifties of Hail Marys in the traditional Rosary.
The first poem is in the style of a ‘keening’ poem. This was a standard genre of poetry in the Ireland of the time, and a patron might pay a poet to write a poem in honour of his deceased child, for example, or kinsman. In the case of our poem, the one ‘keened’ is Christ, and the ‘patron’ is Mary herself. The poem begins:
Come to me, loving Mary,
That I may keen with you your very dear one.

Throughout the poem this intimate tone is adopted, with Mary addressed in a natural, affectionate fashion. She is not just ‘Maire’, but ‘Mairenat’ (dear Mary), ‘Maire muingelnat’ (little bright-necked Mary), ‘Maire mas’ (beautiful Mary), ‘boídMaire’ (loving Mary) and ‘Maire co llí’ (bright Mary). Over 150 stanzas which mark with great sorrow and solemnity the sufferings of the good Christ, the repetition of the name of Mary is a constant reminder of the humanity of the one suffering. Just as in the sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary, our sorrow is kept fresh by viewing the awful events of the Passion through the eyes of Christ’s mother:

Most difficult, most grievous was every tribulation
of holy Christ, greater than that of any renowned captive;
sad was it, Mary, the deep wound of points upon your first-born.

And throughout, the poet himself unites his sorrow to that of Mary: ‘I myself will lament your son with you’.
The second poem is very different – it is not a poem of mourning, but a praise poem, with the same subject and the same ‘patron’ as the first poem. Mary is told the praises of her Son, and she herself is also addressed in terms of praise. She is the ‘sun of our race’, the ‘sun of women’, and with Christ in her womb she was like a ‘chosen coffer of red gold’. Again though, Christ is the focus, and with Mary as his constant point of reference the poet praises Christ, risen from the dead. With an imagination informed by faith, he envisions the ‘household of Heaven’ breaking into tears as they welcome Christ on his Ascension into Heaven. Blathmac describes the power of Christ over the heavens, the sun and the moon, and ‘the chess-board of beautiful stars’. And he imagines in great detail his second coming, all the time addressing his words to Christ’s mother:
Beautiful maiden, were a hundred tongues to speak of it
they could not recount the extent of your son’s power.

Blathmac wrote his poems centuries before the Rosary developed, but anyone who prays the Rosary regularly will instantly sympathise with his approach to the Christian mysteries. He situates himself in the snug space between Mary and her Son, a place of tender sorrow and world-conquering joy. The first poem ends with the same words it opens with, which simply sums up the spirituality of the Rosary: ‘Tair cucum a boídMaire…’ – ‘Come to me, loving Mary, that we may converse with compassionate hearts’.

Br. Conor Benedict McDonough, O.P. St. Saviour’s Dublin.

Mystery in Sacred Glass

Kilkenny City in the southeast of Ireland is full of antiquities and the Dominican Order has been present in the city since 1225. One of the greatest treasures of Kilkenny is the great Rosary window of the Dominican Black Abbey which boasts to be the largest stained glass window in Ireland. The window was created in 1892 by the Mayers Stained Glass Company of Munich Germany and is composed of five lights of vertical panels each depicting five mysteries of the Rosary.

From the outside this great window looks dark and dreary but once you enter the Abbey Church the window comes alive reflecting the sunlight that passes through the tiny panels of glass which make up each mystery. The Sun reveals the beauty and splendor of the craftsmanship of the window, the Son of God reveals through the heart of his Mother the splendor of his life in the Rosary which is depicted in this window. It is truly from within the Church through the experience of faith and life that we can see the Church for what she really is, something splendid and beautiful. The Church like the Black abbey’s window is illuminated with the grace of Christ which comes to us through Mary. Christ fills his body the Church with the splendor of light but in order for us to experience this splendor we have to enter a building which may seem old and tired, perhaps at times musty and even irrelevant to modern living.

The Rosary window of Kilkenny, reminds us of the divine light which streams through the mysteries of Christ’s life. What may seem ordinary and perhaps dimmed is in fact always luminous. We too may have become too accustomed to the mysteries we pray daily in the Rosary and out of simple routine we may become cold to them and indifferent. When we take up our beads we must ask the Virgin to see her child as she sees him. To use her heart to love what she loves, and to use her lips to speak of him as she speaks of him to us in these mysteries.

Each mystery of the Rosary allows the splendid light of Christ Jesus to illuminate the darkness of our lives, our church and the world. We can never exhaust the mysteries of Jesus but rather we may allow them slowly to change us, to fill us with his light and to allow him to radiate his joy to others through us.

As we take up our beads again and again, we must allow the Rosary mysteries become windows into our own souls, to pierce the darkness with light and to allow us to reflect that light into our families, our society and our world. The glass of the Rosary window stands firm in ancient walls which date from 1225, those who pray the mysteries of Jesus stand firm in the heart of a gentle maiden who allowed the light of the Holy Spirit to illumine her. Mary is the true window which allows us to see and contemplate her Son.

“Christianity without Mary adores a God who is not human. Christianity without Christ is a building without foundation. Christianity without the Mother of Christ is a building without cement. The Mother of Jesus is not a sentimental addition; she is an essential part of Christianity.” (Fr. Vincent McNabb, O.P. )

Fr. John Hyacinth Walsh, O.P.

The Grotto of Lourdes is a school of prayer

St. Bernadette tells us that on first seeing the young Lady in the Grotto she immediately took out her rosary beads. She attempted to make the sign of the Cross but her hand would not move. The Lady blessed herself and then Bernadette was able to copy her. From then on in her life people always noticed the reverence with which Bernadette made the sign of the Cross. Once Bernadette began to recite the rosary the Lady fingered each of the beads as she prayed with Bernadette. Her lips only moved at the Gloria at the end of each decade. At the end of the five decades the Lady disappeared.

We can see from this that the rosary was the most familiar prayer for Bernadette. Her immediate reaction was to take her beads from her pocket and pray. This reaction was typical for most Catholics until the last few decades. Their rosary beads were always close to them and they instinctively gripped them in moments of fear or concern. They always held to Mary in moments of uncertainty knowing that their heavenly Mother would care form them. Maybe we need to rediscover the practice of always having our beads with us. Each time we pray we hold them, whether or not we are praying the rosary. Their very presence reminds us that Mary is our constant companion in our openness to God and on our journey through life.

This first apparition of Our Blessed Lady in Lourdes also teaches us that when we pray the rosary Mary prays with us. This is probably the true secret of how to pray the Rosary, it is praying in the company of Mary. As you move the beads through your fingers remember that Mary is also doing the same thing with you as she did with Bernadette. Together with her you are thinking on the life of Christ and in his life thinking also on your own life and how the light of Christ sheds light on your life, all done in the company of Mary.

There is another incident which took place at the Grotto I often think about when I pray. One day as Bernadette was making her way through the crowds to get to the Grotto a rich lady from Paris gave her an expensive pair of rosary beads and asked Bernadette to use them during the apparition. As usual when the Lady appeared Bernadette began her rosary, but she realised that the Lady wasn’t praying with her. So she stopped and asked the Lady why. The Blessed Virgin asked Bernadette where her own rosary beads were. She told her they were in her pocket but that this lady had asked her to use her beads during the apparition. The Mother of God told Bernadette to put them away and use your own beads.

When we pray we shouldn’t try to pray like others. We can only pray as ourselves. That is what God and His Blessed Mother desires. In God’s presence there is no play-acting, indeed prayer is the one place we can be utterly ourselves and pray as we can. At times you may feel that somehow our prayers are inadequate or lacking life, but once they are true to us we are doing exactly what God wants. God desires us, not to be someone else but to be truly the person he lovingly created and redeemed. In the presence of Mary we learn to accept ourselves, as we are, but now also as the children of God without any fear or pretence.

Our Lady of Lourdes, teach us how to pray.

Fr. John M. Harris, O.P. St. Saviour’s Dublin.

The Virgin Mary compared to the air we breathe

Why would Our Blessed Lady have given the task of preaching the Rosary to St. Dominic and the Order he founded 800 years ago? We can get all caught up in the veracity of the ancient tradition which tells us that Our Blessed Lady appeared to St. Dominic and gave him the mission of preaching the Rosary. However there is no historical doubt that the Rosary as it is now prayed and preached is in large part due to the preaching of the Dominican Order through the centuries. Why did she choose an Order of Preachers?

We know from the Wedding Feast of Cana that Our Blessed Lady’s evangelical spirit desires that everyone know her Son and go to him in all their needs. Therefore it is of the utmost importance to her that people know her son.  Pope Paul VI wrote of the rosary that it is “a prayer inspired by the Gospel and centred on the mystery of the Incarnation and the Redemption should be considered a prayer of deep Christological orientation.” With this in mind we can see why Mary would want the Rosary preached.

It is not simply about knowing about Jesus but of coming to know him as she knows him. The Rosary is our communion with Mary in getting to know Jesus. None of our race knows him more deeply than Mary, his mother, the perfect disciple.  It is by praying in her company we ponder over the mysteries of his life, death and resurrection and come to know him deeply and spiritually. Therefore we can see why Mary would want her Rosary prayed.

Why Dominic? I think there are two possible reasons; one personal and one more public. Dominic had a great personal love for Our Blessed Lady and always turned to her in times of trouble and found her a true source of protection and strength. Secondly the preaching of the Rosary and the faithful daily recitation has been the greatest gift given to the Order to help us in our mission. It keeps our preaching on message and reminds us that all our preaching is to bring us into a prayerful relationship with Christ in the midst of his church.

It also gives our preaching its joyful, caring and positive impetus because our theology comes from praying with Mary and coming to know Jesus and his mission from her perspective. Maybe as Dominicans we don’t realise how deeply she has affected how we preach, pray and study. She pervades our lives and our preaching, coming from the praying of the rosary as a constant in our lives.

Did Our Blessed Lady appear and give St. Dominic the Rosary maybe she did for she loved him and the Order he founded under her protection. But that’s not the point of the legend, the truth of the legend is that the Order would not be what it is, its preaching would not be focused, its theology would not be affirmative without Mary and the praying of her Most Holy Rosary.

Gerard Manley Hopkins in his poem, giving the title of this article writes: Be thou then, O thou dear Mother, my atmosphere.

Fr. John M Harris. O.P.

St. Saviour’s Priory, Dublin.