Sister Margaret Palliser shared this reflection with the Sisters and Associates at Dominican Convent on May 8, the Feast of Mary's Patronage of the Dominican Order.
On this Feast of the Patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Dominican Order, I invite you to close your eyes… and picture your favorite image of Mary.
I see smiling faces… what are you feeling? What draws you to that image? What questions does it make you want to ask? What questions and yearnings does it answer?
Today we crown Mary our Mother as our Queen. Ours is a simple ritual, a far cry from the pomp and circumstance of the crowning of Charles III two days ago! We crown Mary as Queen of Heaven, an especially fitting tradition, in light of the story of Dominic’s extraordinary encounter with Mary in a vision—a vision that has given us another powerful image to cherish.
Saint Dominic was caught up in spirit to the throne of God where he saw our Lord and the Blessed Virgin sitting on his right hand. Mary was wearing a mantle of deep blue, the color of sapphire. As he gazed around, Dominic saw religious of every Order in the Church standing in God's presence, but not one of his own family, so he began to weep bitterly, standing far away, not daring to approach our Lord and his mother.
Then Mary motioned for him to come near, but still, he did not dare to do so until our Lord also called to him; then he came up and threw himself down before them, weeping as if his heart would break. Christ told him to rise and asked him gently: “Why are you weeping?” Dominic answered, “I am weeping because I see here members of every religious Order, but there is no sign of my own, not one.”
Then our Lord said: “Do you want to see your Order?” Dominic answered, “Yes, Lord.” Placing his hand on the Blessed Virgin's shoulder, Christ replied: “I have entrusted your Order to my mother.” The Blessed Virgin drew back her mantle and opened it wide before Dominic. It seemed large enough to cover the entire heaven, and beneath it, he saw a great host of his brethren.
In our gospel today, we heard another familiar story about Mary:
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. [John 19:26-27]
Mary and John would not be alone. They would have each other for support, comfort, encouragement, and protection.
On the cross—through the disciple John—Jesus gave Mary to us as a mother. She protects and supports us as our mother. And, in a way, because Mary is given as mother to us all, Jesus gives us each other. We are not alone. We have Mary—our mother and protector—and we have each other.
In many ways, Mary is the model for us as Dominican women: a woman of unwavering faith who contemplated the Word in her heart, and who lived “to praise, to bless, and to preach” God’s unconditional love and goodness.
As we grow older, my siblings and I are able to see more clearly in each other the family resemblance to our parents. Is the same thing true for us in our Dominican Family? As we grow older, are we able to see a family resemblance to Mary our Mother?
I think it’s significant that we are not alone under that very large mantle of Mary. As Dominicans, we are in this together. We have each other—to treasure, to support, to protect. In some ways, we are each other’s mantle of support, comfort, encouragement, and protection.
And each one of us has a mantle of influence, a mantle of resources, a mantle of wisdom. What and whom do I protect under my mantle? Over whom are we Sparkill Dominican Sisters willing to stretch our mantle of protection? Each other? The vulnerable and marginalized in our world? Our common home, our planet?
Close your eyes and picture again that favorite image of Mary… can we see in ourselves and in our Sisters the family resemblance of this woman of faith, this mother who supports, comforts, encourages, and protects?
As Dominicans, we are called to be Mary’s mantle—to treasure, protect, and support not only one another, but also our precious planet, our common home, and the vulnerable and marginalized in our society.
Are we ready to embrace our call to be Mary’s Mantle in our world?
– Sister Margaret Palliser, OP
Sister Margaret served on the Leadership Team for the Sparkill Dominicans
for 12 years and now continues to share her expertise and knowledge
as director of the Office of Dominican Life.