Saturday, August 8, 2015

Happy Feast of St. Dominic

Today is the feast of St. Dominic, who along with St. Francis of Assisi was the great mendicant founder of the Medieval era. Next year, his Order of Preachers celebrates its 800th jubilee! On the day after he died, August 5, 1221, the Order of Preachers established a chapter in Oxford. The Dominicans are present there today at Blackfriars.

As the Blackfriars website notes:

At the Reformation, there were 55 houses in England and Wales. Their visitation began in 1538, and by March 1539 all were dissolved. Those friars who did not accept appointments in the Established Church were left without a pension and had to seek a Dominican life in the priories of Europe. In disguise and using aliases, they would return to England one by one as missionaries. Some were captured, imprisoned and tortured. Community life was restored in the Province by the foundation of a priory at Bornhem, Flanders, in what is today Belgium, in 1658, by Philip (later Cardinal) Howard. He also refounded the nuns, and began a school, to which English Catholics could send their sons, and where potential friars could be formed. So many men wanted to join the Order that a second priory was required, and a house was founded first in Rome and then in Louvain.

Bornhem provided the friars with new base for their missions back in England. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, there were probably a dozen friars working the missions at any one time. Between 1620 and 1800 there were about sixty different mission stations in England, but only a few were permanent all the way through the period. Dominicans also worked as chaplains in foreign embassies in London. From 1730 the brothers felt able to hold their chapter meetings in England. 1745 was the last year a Dominican was imprisoned for being a priest. After the French Revolution, the priory at Bornhem was lost. Some friars set out for America, where the Province of St Joseph was founded in 1805. Others, together with the nuns and the school, returned to England.

During the reign of Mary I, the Dominicans had returned briefly to England as pastors at St. Bartholomew the Great, Smithfield. Her mother's marriage "trial" before the Papal Legatine Court took place in the London Blackfriars on June 21, 1529. After Emancipation in 1829 and Restoration of the Hierarchy in 1850, the order returned to England again. Great English Dominicans of the twentieth century include Father Bede Jarrett and Father Vincent McNabb (he was Irish but lived and worked in London!)

St. Dominic, pray for us.

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