Thursday, December 22, 2016

The 800th Anniversary of the Founding of the Dominicans

Many older editions of the Missal and Breviary contain in the supplement “for certain places” a feast called “The Patronage of the Virgin Mary”, usually assigned to the second Sunday of November. Liturgically, one might almost describe it as a “generic” feast, since it has no proper texts for either the Mass or the Office. Cardinal Prosper Lambertini, the future Pope Benedict XIV, noted in his treatise on the feasts of Our Lord and Our Lady that it was instituted in the Spanish Empire in 1679, and adopted in the Pontifical State by Pope Benedict XIII (1724-30). By the later 19th century, it had been added to the calendars of a number of religious orders, including the Dominicans and Discalced Carmelites.

After Pope St Pius X’s reform of the Breviary Psalter, the calendars of the religious orders were relieved of a number of feasts perceived for one reason or another as superfluous, and the feast of Our Lady’s Patronage was often among them. It is included in one of my copies of the Missal, printed by Desclée in 1913, but missing from their 1941 edition. It was removed from the calendar of the Discalced Carmelites, certainly because the idea of it was already “covered”, so to speak, by the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, which they celebrated with an octave at the same degree of solemnity as Epiphany and Corpus Christi.

The Dominicans, however, kept it, and fixed it to December 22nd, the day on which their Order was canonically approved by Pope Honorius III in 1216. They also maintained a proper Collect for the feast, which refers to the institution of the Order as follows.

Deus, qui sub beatissimæ virginis Mariæ singulari patrocinio Ordinem Prædicatorum ad animarum salutem institui, ejusque perpetuis beneficiis cumulari voluisti: præsta supplicibus tuis, ut cujus hodie commemorationem colimus, illius protecti auxiliis ad cælestem gloriam perducamur. Per...
O God, who willed that Order of Preachers be instituted for the salvation of souls, under the special protection of the most blessed Virgin Mary, and be increased by Her constant benefits: grant to Thy suppliants that we may be led to the glory of heaven, protected by aid of Her whose commemoration we keep today. Through Our Lord...

Pope Honorius III Approves the Rule of St Dominic, by Leandro Bassano; from the Dominican church of Ss John and Paul in Venice. (Click to enlarge)
In the 1960 reform of the Dominican Missal and Breviary, which was exceedingly careless about the history and traditions of the Order, the feast was reduced to a mere commemoration at Lauds, and in the Mass of the feria of Advent. This defect and a great many others like it have been remedied in the Dominican calendar of the Novus Ordo, on which “the feast of the Patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary over the Order of Preachers” is now assigned to May 8th.

This means, of course, that today is the 800th anniversary of the founding of the Order, and we should take the occasion to thank God for the many benefits which have accrued to the Church from the Order of Preachers over so many centuries, and pray that it may always flourish.

The current Dominican Jubilee began in a broad sense in 2006, with the 800th anniversary of the foundation of their very first convent in Prouille in 1206. It now ends 10 years later with a commemoration of the formal founding of the friars. Since the original bull of Pope Honorius was confirmed by a second bull on January 21 of 1227, there will be a closing Mass on that date this coming year, celebrated by the Pope at the Basilica of St John Lateran, the cathedral of Rome.

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