Monday, August 8, 2016

August 8: Blessed Jane of Aza, Mother of Our Holy Father St. Dominic, Commemoration

Today, in the 1962 Dominican Rite Calendar, we make a commemoration of Blessed Jane of Aza, mother of Our Holy Father St. Dominic. In the old calendar, her office was tucked into the octave of our holy founder, which I thought was a very fitting way to honor her.  The ferial office is prayed, and the commemoration is made at Lauds and Vespers since it is a privileged commemoration.  In addition, a second commemoration is made of SS. Cyriacus, Largus, and Smaragdus, Martyrs. At Pretiosa, the obit of Hugh de Vaucemain of France, sixteenth Master General of the Order of Preachers is read.

From the Martyrology of yesterday:

At Peñafiel in Spain, Blessed Joan de Aza, mother of the most Blessed Patriarch Dominic. Admirable for her virtue and beloved of God for her piety, she died at Calaruega in the love of the Lord. A duplex feast.
The holy martyrs Cyriacus, deacon, Largus, and Smaragdus, with twenty others, who suffered on March 16. Their bodies were buried on the Via Salaria by a priest named John, and on this day Pope St. Marcellus removed them to the garden of Lucina, on the Via Ostiensis. Afterward, they were brought into the city, and buried in the deaconry of St. Mary's in Via Latina. A memory.

From “Short Lives of the Dominican Saints” (London, Kegan Paul, Trench, and Trübner & Co., Ltd., 1901):
Blessed Jane of Aza, though believed by some writers to have been a daughter of the ducal house of Brittany, is more generally thought to have belonged to the noble Spanish family of the Garciez, related by blood to Saint Lewis of France, Saint Ferdinand of Spain, and others who have been raised to the altars of the Church. Her birth took place in the first half of the twelfth century, at the Castle of Aza, near Aranda, on the Douro. Of her youth we have no particulars; as soon as she was of an age to marry, she contracted an alliance with Don Felix de Guzman of Calaroga in Old Castile, whose lineage was as noble and as saintly as her own. His personal character, as well as his rank, rendered him in every way worthy to become her husband; and the household over which they ruled was so remarkable for its piety and good order, that it was commonly said rather to resemble that of a monastery than of a knightly castle.

To singular beauty of person and the charms of a cultivated mind, Blessed Jane added solid piety and great energy in the practice of good works. The world had never had any attractions for her; she applied herself diligently to the requirements of her state, and devoted all the time which remained after the discharge of her domestic duties to prayer and works of charity. She was ever distinguished for humility, and, high-born lady as she was, the simplicity and modesty of her bearing excelled that of all her attendants. She frequently spent the whole night in devotional exercises, made pilgrimages to the neighboring sanctuaries, and visited the sick and poor in their humble dwellings.

Of the three sons born of this truly Christian marriage, Antonio, the eldest, became a secular priest, and, enamored of holy poverty, distributed his patrimony to the poor and retired to a hospital, where he spent the remainder of his days humbly ministering to the sick. Mannes, the second son, also embraced the ecclesiastical state, in due course became one of the first Friar Preachers, and has received the honors of beatification. By the dedication of both their sons to the service of the sanctuary, Don Felix and his wife were left without an heir to carry on the succession of their family, and desiring greatly to obtain from Heaven the gift of yet another son, Doña Jane resolved to present her petition to God through the intercession of Saint Dominic of Silos, a Saint at that time renowned throughout Spain for the fame of his miracles, especially in the releasing of captives.

The Monastery of Silos, which stands in the near vicinity of Calaroga, was the resort of pilgrims from every part of the country; and there, with the approbation of the Abbot, she began a novena, spending, not her days only, but her nights also in the church, the hard pavement of which was her only bed. On the seventh day of the novena the Saint appeared to her, and declared that her prayers were heard, and that she would become the mother of a son who should be the light of the Church and the terror of heretics. In gratitude, she offered to the Saint the child who was to be given her through his intercession, and promised that, in memory of this favor, he should bear the name of Dominic. Before his birth she beheld her son in a dream or vision, represented under the figure of a black and white dog, holding in its mouth a torch which kindled and illuminated the entire world. About this time also Jane had, with her accustomed liberality, distributed to the poor the entire contents of a cask of excellent wine. Fearing that this might cause some annoyance to her husband, she knelt down in the cellar and offered the following touching prayer: – "O Lord Jesus, though I do not deserve to be heard, I beseech Thee, nevertheless, to take pity upon me in the name of Thy servant, the dear little child whom I bear in my womb and whom I have consecrated to Thee." The prayer was scarcely ended when the cask was found to be miraculously refilled.

Doña Jane would entrust to no one the nurturing of this child of benediction, the future father and founder of the Order of Preachers; she brought him up herself with the utmost care, and, when he was but a few weeks old, she and Don Felix bore him to the Abbey of Silos and offered him to God before the altar of Saint Dominic. The Abbot celebrated a Mass of thanksgiving, and when turning round to say the Dominus vobiscum, his eyes chanced to rest upon the infant, and he uttered instead the words, "Ecce reparator Ecclesia" – "Behold the reformer of the Church." Perceiving his mistake, he endeavored to correct it, but three times the same words involuntarily escaped his lips, and they were taken as a presage of the child's future destiny.

Blessed Jane also carried the infant to the tomb of his great-uncle, Blessed Peter of Ucles, the founder of the military religious Order of the Knights of Saint James of the Sword. She seems frequently to have visited this spot, where a hermitage still bears her name, whilst a fountain and garden in the neighborhood are called the fountain and garden of Saint Dominic. When he had reached the age of seven, she entrusted her child to the care of her brother, the arch-priest of the neighboring town of Gumiel d'Izan; and another of her brothers, the Abbot of La Vid, seems also to have had his share in the education of the young Saint.

Don Felix and Blessed Jane must have had other children besides the three here mentioned, as it is certain that Saint Dominic and Blessed Mannes had two nephews who entered the Order of Preachers; and the name of Guzman has been perpetuated in Spain even to our own days and has been allied by marriage to many of the royal families of Europe.

The death of Blessed Jane is believed to have taken place between the years 1185 and 1194, when her son was studying at Palencia. She was buried in the parish church of Calaroga, but her remains were subsequently translated, first to the family burial-place of the Guzmans at Gumiel d'Izan, and later on to Peñafiel. From time immemorial she has been held in great veneration, and she was beatified by Leo XII.


O God, you wonderfully manifested to the blessed Jane, your servant, the favor of the heavenly vocation of her son Dominic. We beseech ou that, modelling ourselves on her and on the son foreshown to her, we may, through their loving intercession, attain the eternal reward. Through our Lord…