Mary, Patroness of the Dominican Order
Today the Order of Preachers rejoices in the commemoration of the Patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary over the entire Dominican family. As Blessed Humbert of Romans, 4th Successor of St Dominic said: "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 'Vitae Fratrum', 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."
The stories referred to in the Vitae Fratrum are indeed plentiful but this one suffices to illustrate Bl Humbert's point:
"During the time when some of the professors of theology in Paris were stirring up the university against the friars and our Order, as the brethren were at a loss to know what to do in such straits, the General Chapter held in Paris ruled that all over the Order recourse should be had to our Lord, to our advocate the Blessed Virgin, and to St Dominic our protector, by saying the seven penitential psalms, the litanies and prayers appointed for times of affliction. While the prayers were being said in Santa Sabina, a devout brother fell asleep for a short while, and seemed to see a throne set over the high altar above the baldachino, on which sat our Lord Jesus Christ watching the brethren as they lay prostrate in the choir below, saying their litanies. By his side stood the blessed Virgin, having one hand resting on his arm, while with the other she pointed towards the prostrate brethren, as they prayed: then she spoke to her Son, 'Hear them, my Son, hear them,' and so the vision ended. The brother who saw it related the matter to the Master General, who was then in Rome. Nor can it be doubted that the blessed Virgin pleaded for the Order in those days, and our brethren obtained the victory, for shortly after this the Pope pronounced sentence in favour of the Order, and against the university, and had it been otherwise it would have gone hard with us."
The examples and tales recounted in the Vitae Fratrum end with this exhortation: "Learn now from these examples what special care the blessed Virgin takes of the brethren of our Order, while they are preaching, on their journeys, at their work, in sickness and death, at their meals, in their griefs and trials, and at their prayers."
It is with such evidence of Our Lady patronage's in mind and indeed, our constant experience of the Blessed Mother's love for the Order and each one of St Dominic's sons and daughters that we celebrate today's memorial in her month of May. We invoke her protection and her guidance as we pray:
Who for the salvation of souls didst place
The Order of Preachers
Under the special protection of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary,
And was pleased to pour out upon it her constant benefits:
Grant unto thy supplicants
That we may be led unto the joy of heaven,
Through the aid of that same protectress whose memory we revere today.
Through Christ our Lord."
The stained glass windows in this post are from the great West Window of Hawkesyard Priory church depicting the Blessed Virgin and her Son surrounded by a host of Dominican saints and beati.