Mary, Our Patroness
Since Jesus told the beloved apostle, “Behold your mother,” at the cross, Christians have gone to Mary, as she is our mother in the order of grace. But Dominicans have a special devotion to Our Lady as she is our Patroness. Blessed Humbert of Romans declared that “the Blessed Virgin was of great help in the beginning of the Order…and it is to be hoped that she will bring it to a good end.” (Opera II< 70-71). From the very beginning of the Order, stories abound of how Mary helped bring our Order into existence and of her continual care and protection of its members. Here is one such story as told by one of the first nuns of the Order, Blessed Cecilia.
How the Blessed Virgin Appeared to [Saint Dominic] in Prayer and Revealed her Protection Over the Order
One night, after prolonging his prayers until midnight, he left the church and came to the dormitory, where he completed what he had come to do and, taking his place at one end of the dormitory, continued to pray. As he stood praying, he glanced at the other end of the dormitory and saw three beautiful women enter, but noticed that the one in the middle was a venerable lady far more beautiful and dignified than the other two. One of them was carrying a beautiful, shining vessel and the other an aspersorium which she handed to the lady in the center, who went from bed to bed sprinkling the brethren with holy water and blessing them.
The lady said to Blessed Dominic: “I am the one you call upon in the evening. When you say, ‘Turn therefore most gracious advocate thine eyes of mercy toward us,’ I prostrate myself before my Son and ask him to preserve this Order.” After this she continued to sprinkle and bless all the others and then disappeared.
When she was gone Blessed Dominic returned to pray in the place he stood before. Suddenly, he was rapt in spirit before God and saw Our Lord and the Blessed Virgin sitting at His right. It seemed to Blessed Dominic that Our Lady was wearing a cape of bright blue, the color of sapphire. As Blessed Dominic looked around, he could see religious of all the orders but his own around the throne of God, so that he began to weep bitterly and stood far away, not daring to approach the Lord and His mother.
Then Our Lady motioned for him to come near. But he would not dare, until Our Lord Himself also called him. Then Blessed Dominic cast himself before them weeping bitterly. But Our Lord told him to rise, and when he did, Our Lord asked him, “Why are you weeping so?” “I am weeping because I see all the other orders here but no sign of my own.” And the Lord said to him, “Do you want to see your Order?” And he answered, “Yes, Lord.”
Then Our Lord, putting his hand upon the shoulder of the Blessed Virgin, said to Blessed Dominic, “I have entrusted your Order to my Mother.” Then he asked him again, “Do you still wish to see your Order?” And against he answered, “Yes, Lord.” Then the Blessed Virgin opened the cape which covered her and spread it out before Blessed Dominic, to whom it seemed vast enough to cover the entire heaven and, under it, he saw a large multitude of the brethren. Then, prostrating himself, Blessed Dominic gave thanks to God and to Blessed Mary His Mother.