|Dominicans wearing rosaries and cappelli romani (Roman hats)|
But my quandary was resolved by a message from Fr. Martin Wallace, ho called my attention to n. 50 of the 1969 Constitutions which says. "The habit of the Order consists of a white tunic with a white scapular and capuce, with a black cappa and capuce, a leather belt and rosary." And so n. 50 reads for all revisions of the Constitutions up to the present age, even though Appendix 3 in each addition never mentions it. This legislation is virtually identical to that no n. 601 of the Pre-Vatican-II constitutions of 1954 and 1932, although these specify that the Rosary is to hang from the belt. These norms descend from n. 892 of the 1924 Constitutions, which mentions the Rosary but says nothing of where it is worn. And this legislation is the first official entry of the Rosary into the Constitutions as part of the habit. It was undoubtedly introduced as part of the reform of the older law (as witnessed in Jandel) in the wake of the new Code of Canon Law in 1917.So the Holy Rosary has been an official part of the Dominican Habit since the promulgation of the revised Constitutions of 1924.
So what of the Rosary and the habit before that date? I find that, in 1879, the founder of my Western Dominican Province, Fr. Francis-Sadoc Vilarrassa, a noted canonist of his time, wrote, commenting on the Jandel Constitutions, “Though there is not any ordinance as to the wearing of Rosaries, it seems were are bound to wear them in virtue of the ancient and universal custom of the order.” So before 1924 Dominicans wore the habit Rosary, not because of legislation, but because of custom with force of law. How custom become law is no our topic here, but rather the question is when did the custom arise and when did it become “universal.”
In our primitive constitutions (ca. 1220), the conversi or lay brothers (now called cooperator brothers) were required to say set numbers of Paters for the various canonical hours, which they could not sing with the clerics because they normally were illiterate and had manual labor to do to support the community. But in 1252, the Provincial Chapter of Dacia, held at Lund in what is today Sweden, made the first attempt to add a 100 Aves to the 100 Paters lay brothers said in their suffrages for dead. This did not last, but by the early 1300s, 100 Paters and Aves had became the conversi suffrage for a dead member of their community. Then, in 1366, the General Chapter at Rome first added Aves to all Paters that the convesi said instead of the Divine Office. After some back and forth, this practice was finalized by the early 1400s. But none of this was the “Dominican” Rosary as we know it, with 15 decades of 1 Pater, 10 Aves, and a Gloria Patri. As far as we can tell, that form, with a set of 15 mysteries to meditate on, first appeared in the writings of Dominic of Prussia (1382–1461), a Carthusian monk. So, the custom of wearing the Rosary has to date after the mid-1460s.
There is nothing that I have found that indicates any Dominican wearing of, or legislation on, the Holy Rosary, however, for another 100 years. By then, I understand that in the 1540s, Fray Domingo Betanzos, O.P. (d. 1549), first provincial of the Dominican province of Mexico, required friars of that Province to wear a Rosary around their necks. This practice would then spread with Spanish Dominicans to South America, and eventually to the Philippines and the Far East. This is the first example of wearing of the Holy Rosary with the habit, although it is not universal and not on the belt. On September 1569, the Dominican Pope, Saint Pius V, acknowledged as a “pious belief” the legends linking Dominic and the Holy Rosary, usually connected with Alan de la Roche, in his bull Consueverunt Romani Pontifices, which also granted indulgences for those saying it and meditating on the mysteries. Then in 1571 comes the first-known mention of the Rosary in any legislation of the Order as a whole The General Chapter at Rome in that year urged the promotion of the Rosary in preaching. This is not surprising, as that was the year of the great victory over the Muslim invasion of Christian Europe at the Battle of Lepanto, a victory that Pope Pius ascribed to praying the Rosary.
|St. Dominic, no Habit Rosary, 1593|
Nevertheless, as is clear from the image of the elderly St. Martin de Porres I featured in my earlier post that, in the Spanish Dominions at least, the wearing of a Rosary around the neck had become common, even customary. Then, in 1670, at the Rome Chapter, the daily recitation of the Rosary in choir by all friars, priests as well as lay brothers, was mandated, a requirement that remains to this day when not impeded by pastoral responsibilities.
|St. Dominc wearing the Rosary, by Coello|
|St. Rose of Lima with a Rosary|
So, my conclusion is that the custom of wearing a habit Rosary become more or less universal in the late 1600s. It certainly was so by the 1700s, as I know of no images of Dominicans from that century or later without it. If, however, anyone knows an image of that late date showing a Dominican without a habit Rosary, let me now and I will add it to this post.