Bring flowers of the rarest, bring blossoms the fairest…
The month of May is full of devotions in honor of the Virgin Mary. In Catholic schools around the country, children sing “Queen of the May” while processing with flowers. On May 13th communities celebrate Our Lady of Fatima, commemorating the appearance of the Blessed Mother to three children in Portugal in 1917. The Feast of the Visitation, on May 31st, recalls Mary’s encounter with her cousin, Elizabeth, when they were both pregnant.
Along with all these festivities, it should come as no surprise that Dominicans also have a special way in which they honor Mary during the month of May. Recalling her patronage over the Order of Preachers, we offer a special prayer of consecration on May 8th.
The relationship between the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Dominicans began shortly after Saint Dominic founded the Order of Preachers.
According to Blessed Cecilia, a Dominican nun at San Sisto, it all began with a series of visions. Dominic was up late one night praying, when three women miraculously appeared and entered the friars’ cloister. One of the women began to sprinkle the sleeping brothers with holy water. She said that whenever the brothers prayed the Salve Regina and called upon her as the “most gracious advocate,” she prostrated herself before the Lord, asking her Son to preserve the Order. After this, the brothers began singing the Salve Regina every night at Compline, their final prayer before going to bed.
On another occasion, Saint Dominic had a dream that he was in heaven. He saw Mary, with our Lord, and religious men and women from numerous congregations, but no Dominicans. He began to cry, and when Christ asked him why he was weeping, Dominic explained that none of his brothers were present. The Lord replied, “I have entrusted your Order to my Mother.” Mary then opened her cloak, allowing Dominic to see all his brothers and sisters whom she kept safe under her mantle.
In addition to her maternal care and protection, the Blessed Virgin also helped the Order with one of its first mottos.
In his Libellus, Blessed Jordan of Saxony, O.P., recounts the arrival of Bishop Conrad of Porto, a papal legate, at the convent in Bologna. The Order of Preachers had only been established a few years before, and many people were still suspicious. The bishop wanted to know “what purpose was to be served by this new and unusual type of religious life.” While at prayer, he asked for something to read and was given a Missal. He made the Sign of the Cross and opened the book, landing on the preface to the Eucharistic Prayer for the Votive Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which reads “Laudare, benedicere et praedicare…” (to praise, to bless, and to preach).
After nearly 800 years, the Order’s devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary has not wavered. In the formula for our profession of vows, which has remained virtually unchanged to this day, the friar states: “I brother N.N. make profession and promise obedience to God, to blessed Mary, and to blessed Dominic…”