Year of Mary and the Eucharist

Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, TX has declared that 2022 will be a year dedicated to Mary and the Eucharist for all of us here in the diocese. This has special meaning to us because Eucharistic devotion is an important part of our spirituality here. The Blessed Sacrament is exposed in our chapel from 8 AM to 8 PM every day, and each sister takes a turn praying with Our Lord truly present under this sacramental sign. We also welcome anyone who wishes to come and pray with us during these times.

It almost goes without saying that Mary is another big part of our lives! Each of us takes the name “Mary” as part of our religious name–usually just Mary but sometimes it’s Maria, Marie, Miriam, etc.–and cherishes a special devotion to the Mother of God, especially as Queen of the Most Holy Rosary. We pray the rosary together every afternoon at about 2:40 pm (on Sundays we say it privately) and you are welcome to join us for that, too.

Dominicans through the centuries have been devoted to Mary and the Eucharist. Legend has it that Our Lady herself gave St. Dominic the rosary as a powerful prayer to help in his work re-establishing the Catholic faith in Europe. St. Catherine of Siena, it is said, lived on nothing but the Eucharist for the last few months of her life. Our own monastery traces its Eucharistic roots back to France, where a monastery of Dominican nuns established perpetual adoration and then brought this tradition to the United States when a foundation was made here.

We feel blessed to be a part of a year that will lift hearts and minds to Mary and the Eucharist–in the diocese of Tyler, Texas and hopefully in many other places as well. If you are in the Lufkin area, please come by and spend some time with Jesus–He’s waiting for you!

St. Francis of Assisi

There’s a story that St. Dominic and St. Francis actually met one time. Even if this is more pious fiction than fact, it’s true that the two founders had at least one major thing in common: their desire to found a new kind of religious order, a order that was grounded in evangelical poverty. These new kinds of friars were called “mendicants”, which is a fancy word for “beggars”, because that is what these early friars did to obtain the necessities of life. There are some significant differences between the two orders, of course–St. Dominic believed that education and study were necessary for preaching, while St. Francis believed in preaching “from the heart”. Still, because of their similar charisms, the Franciscans and Dominicans have always considered themselves “cousins”. In the Dominican Order, October 4 is a feast day (not just a memorial) and in our monastery, we sing an antiphon in honor of the two founders, both on St. Dominic’s Day (August 8) and St. Francis’s Day (October 4).

Our apostolic Father Dominic, and seraphic Father Francis, have taught us your law, O Lord.

St. Francis of Assisi, pray for us!

St. Dominic’s Day 2021

We always celebrate the feast of St. Dominic with special solemnity, but this year has been extra-special as we also celebrate the 800th anniversary of Dominic’s dies natalis, or “birth into heaven”. The theme proposed by the Order for this year is “At Table With Dominic”, and uses the image above as its visual presentation–the mascarella table, a painting of Dominic and his friars eating a meal together. The actual date of Dominic’s death is August 6, but since the Transfiguration now falls on that date, we celebrate Dominic on August 8.

We began the day with a lovely Mass celebrated by our chaplain, Fr. Ian Bordenave.

Fr, Ian in the beautifully decorated sanctuary of our chapel
Sr. Mary Rose did her usual excellent job as lector

Following Mass, breakfast, and prayers (we can’t omit these important things!) we all gathered in the community room to play Domingo!–which is, of course, a Dominican themed bingo game, using famous events, places, people and so on instead of numbers. A good time was had by all, and everyone won a prize!

We were delighted to have the whole Dominican family present at Mass, including our local chapter of the Dominican Laity and our good friends, the Dominican Sisters of Fatima.

The sisters brought us many lovely gifts, including this plant!

We had a delicious treat of milkshakes in the afternoon, and in the evening we watched the movie “Dominic: Light of the Church”, by the Dominican province in the Philippines. It was very good!

The day concluded with our usual prayers of Compline. At the end of Compline, we always sing a hymn to St. Dominic–most days, this is “O Lumen Ecclesiae”, “Light of the Church”. May Dominic light the way for the Church and for all people for many more years to come!

The White Scapular

During our retreat, Fr. John Sica, OP reminded us of a few things characteristic of Dominicans that we thought might be interesting to highlight here on the blog. One of these is the Dominican \”white scapular\”.

People sometimes ask us, anxiously, if we are wearing a brown scapular. This refers to the Carmelite brown scapular and its famous promise that those who wear it will be delivered from Purgatory by our Blessed Mother after they die.We usually smile and say, \”No, but I am wearing a white scapular.\” 

\”It\’s not the same,\” they insist. \”The brown scapular is the only one that can save you.\”

There\’s nothing wrong with wearing the brown scapular if it inspires you to lead a better life, go to Confession regularly, and have a devotion to Mary. But no mere scapular, white, brown, green, or any other color, is a Get Out Of Purgatory Free ticket. 

That being said, why do Dominicans wear a white scapular?

A scapular was originally a kind of work-apron, meant to guard the habit from wear and tear and stains. So when St. Dominic began founding the Order, he had his new followers wear a habit like his, which happened to be the habit of the Augustinian canons: a white habit with a white hood (capuce) and a belt, and shoes (sandals are permitted today). There was no scapular, because they weren\’t planning to do a lot of manual work. Their work would be intellectual. 

And then Blessed Reginald of Orleans came on the scene. 

Reginald was a priest and a canon lawyer before he met Dominic in Rome, in about 1218. He was dissatisfied with his somewhat worldly life and wanted something more, and had long conversations with Dominic about the new Order of Preachers. Still, he remained undecided until he fell extremely ill. One evening, as he lay on his sickbed, he had a dream in which the Blessed Virgin Mary came to him and anointed him. Holding out a Dominican habit, she also told him that if he put on this garment he would be saved. Our Lady\’s version of the habit included a white scapular. When Reginald awoke, he was completely cured. He entered the Order and received the habit–with the white scapular added. And Dominicans have worn this white scapular ever since. (Usually with hands neatly tucked under.)

What is a Dominican Friar?
Some of our brothers in St. Louis, MO

So, Our Lady plays a big part in the Dominican devotion to the white scapular, which (unlike most work aprons) is formally blessed when a brother or sister makes profession. Sometimes Dominicans even say (modestly) that the Dominican habit is special because it was a particular gift from Mary.

But why don\’t Dominicans go around promoting the white scapular? Well, as we mentioned above–it\’s a part of the habit. It is also given to members of the Dominican Laity when they make profession as a sign of their part in the Order. It doesn\’t carry any universal promises of blessings for the general public.There are other white scapular out there in Christendom that may carry such promises with them, but not the Dominican scapular. 

The One True Faith: The Small Dominican Scapular
Example of a white scapular that could be worn by a member of the Dominican Laity

If you are interested in a Dominican devotion that does carry promises, we highly recommend the Rosary. But that\’s a huge topic! Maybe we\’ll look at that another time…

Refuge of Sinners

Why do we call Mary the \”refuge of sinners\”? It seems that she has this title because, as the most perfect of mothers, she is one any sinner can turn to, no matter how terrible the sins, and ask for her mercy and intercession with Our Lord. So many promises of salvation through the intercession of Mary have been revealed to the saints. For example, Mary is said to have told St. Dominic, Blessed Alan, and St. Louis de Montfort all that anyone devoted to the Rosary would be saved. 
This does not mean, however, that we should be presumptuous and just commit any kind of sin we choose, imagining that a few hurried Hail Marys and Our Fathers will save us from hell. Instead, we should pray the Rosary with the hope of salvation in mind, with the desire to overcome our sinful tendencies and amend our lives. As a counterpoint to this welcoming image of Mary, we might remember Michelangelo\’s \”Last Judgement\”, where an implacable Christ sends those on His left hand into hell while His mother turns away, unable to bear the sight of her children leaving the face of God forever.

Holy Mary our Mother, Refuge of Sinners, help us to amend our ways and turn back to our Lord Jesus Christ, your only Son. May we never imagine that our salvation is guaranteed, and help us to avoid judging others, for only God knows the heart.