Happy Anniversary to the Order of Preachers!
I truly enjoy this feast. As a member of the Order, it brings me great joy to know that I am part of a family that is nearly 800 years old, and which has been endowed by almighty God with so many holy men and women. It is also a great joy to me that there is a specific date which serves as the birthday, so to speak, for the Order.
Traditionally, this feast was celebrated in November. Today, it is celebrated in May. But for a brief period of time in the early 20th Century, it was celebrated on December 22, to coincide with the anniversary of the approval of the Order by Pope Honorius III in 1216. Personally, I like the December 22 date, and I think this is the perfect place for this feast. Our Lady was, no doubt, instrumental in the founding of this most favored of her religious orders. The collect prayer even speaks to her role in the institution of the Order. For me, to celebrate Our Lady's patronage over our Order and the anniversary of the founding of the Order, all during the holy season of Advent, seems like a wonderful combination.
"The sons and daughters of Dominic who rejoice in heaven today have become saints through the guidance of Our Lady. By word and example they have taught us to entrust our sanctification to her hands. Why do we hesitate? In the presence of heaven and earth let us commit to her care our physical and spiritual welfare, our labors, our merits, and our eternal happiness." (From Liturgical Meditations, Sisters of St. Dominic, B. Herder, 1961)
From “Short Lives of the Dominican Saints” (London, Kegan Paul, Trench, and Trübner & Co., Ltd., 1901):
The festival kept throughout the Dominican Order on [the 2nd Sunday of November] is a family feast, kept by the children of Saint Dominic in memory of, and in gratitude for, the countless benefits they have received through the virginal hands of her whom their Constitutions call "our special Advocate and our most tender Mother and Patroness, who ever intercedes for us with God." On that day they beg of her, with renewed sentiments of confidence and gratitude, to continue to show herself a Mother to them, and to protect and deliver them in all their troubles and distresses, as she has ever done from the foundation of the Order even to our own day.
It may be useful here briefly to recall some few of the most striking favors granted to the Order by its Heavenly Mother. She it was who, when her Son was angry with the world, pleaded with Him for mercy, and presented to Him her two faithful clients, Saint Dominic and Saint Francis, praying him to send them forth to convert sinners. When the Holy Patriarch of the Friars Preachers beheld in vision religious of every Order standing before God, and wept because he saw none of his own children, our Lord comforted him by the words: "I have given thine Order to my Mother." Then the Blessed Virgin opened her mantle, extending it before the eyes of Saint Dominic, so that its immensity seemed to cover the whole space of the heavenly country, and he saw under its folds a vast multitude of his children. This vision of the members of the Order gathered under the mantle of Mary was granted also to Blessed Ceslas, the brother of Saint Hyacinth, as well as to two holy recluses in Germany and Lombardy. Like a true Mother, Mary clothed her children, bestowing on them with her own hands that white scapular, which, as the novice is reminded at the moment of receiving it, is "the most distinguished part of the Dominican habit, the maternal pledge from heaven of the love of the Blessed Virgin Mary towards us."
To Saint Dominic and his sons she entrusted the preaching of her Rosary, the special birthright and heritage of the Order. She has often shown herself in vision to her children, during the singing of the Salve, prostrating at the feet of her Divine Son, and pleading for the Order so dear to her heart.
When Pope Innocent IV published a Bull, A.D. 1 244, by which the privileges of the Order were taken away and the Brethren left exposed to the unfriendly attacks of their opponents, they had recourse to Mary as to their only hope; and when, eleven years later, Pope Alexander IV revoked the Bull of his predecessor and restored all the ancient rights and privileges of the Order, these benefits were recognized to be directly the gift of God, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin.
Of the favors bestowed by the Mother of God on the Saints of the Order and of their filial love and devotion towards her, it is impossible here to speak. She was their helper and consoler in life and their secure refuge at the hour of death. Hence from the first century of its existence it has been the universal practice in the Order to sing her Salve round the deathbed of its members, that so the children of Saint Dominic may pass from this vale of tears, their hearts echoing the familiar prayer whereby they have daily entreated the Mother of Mercy to show them, when this life's exile is ended, the blessed fruit of her womb, Jesus.
O God, you willed that under the special patronage of the most blessed Virgin Mary, the Order of Preachers should be instituted for salvation of souls, and that it should be filled with her unceasing favors; grant to your suppliants, that guarded by her aid whose commemoration we celebrate today, we may be brought to the heavenly glory. Through our Lord…