During the month of November, the Dominican Sisters of Sparkill introduced a new Dominican song of final commendation for their funeral celebrations. Written by Sister Margaret Palliser, OP, “Under Mary’s Mantle” takes its inspiration from one of the stories recorded by Blessed Cecilia Cesarini (1203-1290), one of the first Dominican nuns in Rome who was the first prioress of the Dominican convent of nuns in Bologna. In her late 90s, Blessed Cecilia was asked by Theodore of Apoldia to record her memories of Dominic and the early days of the Order. She included this beautiful vignette:
Dominic was caught up in spirit before God and saw Our Lord and the Blessed Virgin sitting at his right. It seemed to Dominic that Our Lady was wearing a mantle of bright blue, the color of sapphire. As Dominic looked around, he could see religious of all the orders but his own before the throne of God. 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. He would not dare, until our Lord himself also called him. Then Dominic cast himself before them weeping bitterly. Our Lord told him to rise, and when he did, Our Lord asked him, “Why are you weeping?” Dominic said, “I am weeping because I see all other orders here but there is no sign of my own.” The Lord said to him, “Do you want to see your Order?” Dominic answered, “Yes, Lord.” Then Our Lord, putting his hand upon the shoulders of the Blessed Virgin, said to Dominic, “I have entrusted your Order to my Mother.” Then the Blessed Virgin opened the mantle that covered her and spread it out before Dominic. It seemed vast enough to cover the entire heaven and, under it, he saw a large multitude of his brethren. Then, prostrating himself, Dominic gave thanks to God and to Blessed Mary.
– Excerpted from the narration in The Miracles of Saint Dominic by Blessed Cecilia (c. 1280)
According to Sister Margaret, “We wanted to have a distinctly Dominican commendation hymn to sing at the funerals of our Sisters. The story of Dominic’s vision of the Blessed Mother protecting the members of his Order seemed to be a perfect image of the heavenly welcome we anticipate for our deceased Sisters and Associates.”
An audio recording for “Under Mary’s Mantle” may be found here, as well as a form for requesting PDFs of the instrumental parts (keyboard, guitar, flute, and trumpet). Members of the Dominican Family have permission to use the music; the only condition is that it be properly credited regarding author/composer and copyright notice.
Graphic: The Dominican Family under Mary’s Mantle, © Thoma Swanson, OP. Sister Thoma graciously gave permission for us to use her beautiful watercolor graphic for the cover of the sheet music for “Under Mary’s Mantle.”