Marian devotion abounds in the lives of the saints, and the Dominican saints are no exception. As we celebrate today the feast of All Saints of the Order of Preachers, it’s worth recalling the crucial role the Blessed Virgin has played as our patroness.
Before founding the Order, Saint Dominic spent many years preaching to the Albigensian heretics in southern France. According to tradition, Our Lady appeared to him in 1214 and presented to him the Holy Rosary as an effective instrument in the conversion of sinners. Later on, in the fifteenth century, Blessed Alan de la Roche (a French Dominican) would follow in the footsteps of Saint Dominic by his constant preaching on the Rosary and the importance of recourse to the Mother of God.
While the Rosary is arguably the most notable form of Marian devotion in the Dominican Order, the chanting of the Salve Regina is not far behind. One of the most beautiful stories is of Blessed Sadoc and forty-eight other Dominican friars, who were martyred in 1260 by the Tartars in Poland. The friars were miraculously warned of their martyrdom on the previous day. On the day of their death, each friar went to confession and Mass and then carried out his daily duties faithfully. As was customary, they sang the Salve Regina after night prayer. It was during this beautiful chant to Our Lady that the Tartars invaded the priory and killed the brethren.
One final story helps to underscore the role of Mary in Dominican life. One day while praying, Saint Dominic received a vision of heaven, where he saw religious from all the various Orders, except his own, standing in God’s presence. Saddened by this, Dominic began to weep. Christ asked him why he was weeping and if he wished to see where his brethren were in the heavenly court. Christ explained that He entrusted the friars preachers to the Blessed Virgin. Mary then swept her mantle open which encompassed nearly all of the heavenly court. It was there, under the mantle of Mary, that Dominic saw his brethren. This led Dominic to exhort the friars to follow the wishes of Christ and entrust themselves to Mary’s maternal protection.
For the past 800 years, the holy men and women of the Dominican Order, along with the rest of the Church, have identified themselves with Saint John, who received Mary as his mother at the foot of the Cross (Jn 19:26–7). As we celebrate the Dominican saints, known and unknown, let us imitate them by entrusting ourselves to the maternal care of the Blessed Virgin Mary. As it was through her that Christ entered the world, so it is through her that we shall find him.
Image: The Dominican Church and Priory of St. James (Sandomierz, Poland), the second oldest Dominican church in Poland and site of the martyrdom of Blessed Sadoc and forty-eight other Dominican friars in 1260