Today is the 791st birthday of the Order of Preachers.
While we nuns are winding down our 800th anniversary celebration of the founding of the first monastery by St. Dominic, his new order wasn't founded until this day 10 years later. For 10 years, St. Dominic preached against the heretics in southern France—sometimes with a few companions but often alone. Slowly, a radically new order began taking shape. Why radical? Because unlike other orders this new Order of Preachers would combine the apostolic life of the Apostles with mendicant itinerancy while at the same time having the monastic elements of silence, prayer, sung Divine Office, study and community life. It took 2 Popes and 4 Bulls for St. Dominic to get full approval of the Order of Preachers.
Even the name was radical. We might not think so today but in St. Dominic's time it was, for the office of Preaching belongs properly to the Bishop and his priests share in this office. What St. Dominic wanted was that his men (who would be ordained to the priesthood) receive the office of Preaching by reason of belonging to the Order. Both Innocent the IV and Honorious III trusted St. Dominic and knew him to be a man on fire for God and a man in whom the Holy Spirit acted powerfully. So, on December 22, 1216 the Order of Preachers was born.
As we journey through these 9 years of preparation for the 800th anniversary of the Order of Preachers, we nuns continue to do what we have always done: support the preaching of our brothers and by extension, the whole Dominican Family by our life of silent preaching, intercession, prayer and praise. Like Esther we plead before the King of Heaven for His people. Like Moses we lift our arms in supplication while our Brothers are in the battle that rages around us. And like our first sisters in the little run- down monastery of Prouilhe who cared and supported St. Dominic, we continue to show our support for our brothers by encouragement, mending habits and receiving them into our monastic home so that they can return to the battle refreshed and renewed (with clean habits in the bargain!).