Ending the Day with the Virgin Mary

August 15, 2014

The Dominican Order has always had an intimate devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, seeing her as the Queen of Preachers, who holds the Word of God in her heart. As we celebrate the great solemnity of the Assumption today, we present one of the early Order’s great Marian stories, about the origin of the Dominican practice of singing the Salve Regina at the end of Night Prayer. From The Lives of the Brethren THE Virgin Mother of all love both cherishes with a very special affection and watches over this Order which she has founded, while the devil-who is jealous of everything that is good, and who hesitated not to tempt the Lord of allassailed our brethren in Bologna and Paris. As superiors bore witness, he threatened one with a burning furnace which seemed about to fall upon him, he would suddenly embrace another under the guise of a woman, to this one he appeared like an ass with horns, to another he offered fiery serpents, others he abused with scurrilous words, so much so that at last some of the brethren had to keep guard while the rest slept: some lost their reason, others were horribly tormented. Having recourse to their singular protectress, Mary most holy, they made it a rule to have a solemn procession, after Compline, while singing the Salve Regina with its proper prayer. At once the phantoms were put to flight, those who had been tormented were left in peace, two who had gone mad were restored to their wits (one of them in Paris was son to a king), and from that time all went well with them. How pleasing their procession was to God and his holy Mother was shown by the piety of the people, the way they thronged to our churches, the devotion of the clergy who came to assist at it, the tears and sighs of devotion, and the visions accorded. Many persons testified to this fact, that when the brethren were approaching the Lady altar, they saw her and a throng of heavenly citizens come down from on high, and as the words ‘O sweet Virgin Mary’ were sung, she bowed to them in turn, and gave them her blessing: after this, as they returned to the choir, she went back to heaven. A holy and honest woman dwelling in Marseilles, but a Lombard by race, who loved God and our Order well, one evening was caught up in ecstasy in the church during the singing of the Salve, and saw four things deserving of being ever remembered and prized. She observed the (Queen of mercy perform four actions in keeping with the four sentiments of the antiphon. First of all, as the brethren sang the words ‘Our life, our sweetness, and our hope,’ she saw the blessed Virgin graciously return their salutation. As the anthem was continued, at the words ‘Turn then, O gracious advocate,’ she observed her fall on her knees before her Son and make intercession for them. At the phrase ‘Thine eyes of mercy towards us,‘ she looked at them with a most gracious and happy smile; lastly, as they sang, ‘After this our exile, show unto its the blessed f uit of thy womb, Jesus, O clement, O holy, O sweet Virgin Mary,’ she saw her clasp her Son as a child, and hold him out to each in turn. The woman remained in this rapture until the signal was given at the end of Compline, and, afterwards, privately told it, with many tears, to her confessor, who was a very prudent man.

Image: Westminster Cathedral, Our Lady and St. Dominic, photo credit Lawrence Lew, O.P.

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