September 20, 2011

(Our) Holy Father

At the Mass for the perpetual profession of friars, the litany of the saints is sung as the candidates pray prostrate. At this year's perpetual profession the setting of the litany by John Becker was used. I have a vivid memory of the first time I heard this setting; it was (I think) September 17, 1994 and I was at St. Francis of Assisi on 31st St. in Manhattan for another perpetual profession. I was a postulant to the OFM at the time. I also remember that it was the first time I ever heard the responsorial psalm sung at Mass, which just goes to show how shallow my Catholic experience was at the time. Anyway, on that day I remember being caught up in the moment and thinking that the Becker litany was the most beautiful thing ever. Over the years I've grown rather sick of it, but I don't mind singing it once in a while.

As in various litanies of the saints, Francis and Dominic are paired in one invocation. Of course they are counterparts in various senses. From this a conversation arose at table about Franciscan veneration of St. Dominic. I had long remarked that Dominic has a certain solemnity in the Franciscan calendar: his day is a feast for us, raised slightly from the obligatory memorial he is in the general Roman calendar. (In the Extraordinary Form the distinction is between a ii and iii class feast.) I have always presumed that this is mirrored in the Dominican calendar such that Francis is raised to a feast, but I have never checked this. Anybody know?

In our conversation, a venerable and devout friar pointed something out that I had never noticed before: in the Franciscan calendar both Francis and Dominic are given the title 'holy father,' but only Francis is called 'our holy father.' So this morning I went to check on this, and found it just as he said. In the current Roman-Franciscan Liturgy of the Hours, the solemnity of St. Francis is titled, "Our Holy Father Francis, Deacon, Founder of the Three Orders," while the feast of St. Dominic is simply titled, "Holy Father Dominic, Priest, Founder of the Order of Preachers." I presume that this is the same in the Roman-Franciscan Sacramentary, but I can't check because we don't have one at the friary where I live. The same pattern is found in the 1962 Missale Romano-Seraphicum and Breviarium Romano-Seraphicum: the i class feast of St. Francis is titled, "In Solemnitate S. Patris Nostri Francisci Conf. Fundatoris Trium Ordinum," while the ii class feast of St. Dominic is simply, "Sancti Patris Dominici Confessoris."

Interestingly, in the most recent Franciscan rite of religious profession (which, as far as I know, has not been approved by the Holy See) Francis and Dominic do not appear together. Both appear in a little section of the litany that seems to be dedicated to religious founders: St. Basil, St. Augustine, St. Anthony, St. Benedict, St. Dominic, St. Ignatius and St. Alphonsus, Our Holy Father St. Francis, Holy Mother St. Clare. Francis is still styled 'our holy father,' but Dominic has lost his 'holy father.' A little rupture in the tradition, no?

Holy Father Dominic, pray for us.
Our Holy Father Francis, pray for us.


Cole Matson said...

The 2011 ordo for the English Province of the Order of Preachers has "Our Seraphic Father Saint Francis of Assisi", which is a feast.

OTOH, I see St Dominic listed on Aug. 8th as "Our Holy Father Dominic", memorial. ?? It's only listed as a solemnity in London and Newcastle, where he is the patron of the priory and parish churches. "The Translation of Our Holy Father Dominic" on May 24th, however, is a full solemnity. I'm quite surprised at the relatively lower rank of St Dominic's proper feast day, myself.


Btw, our local Dominicans have a Franciscan preach on Dominic's feast day, and a Dominican is invited to preach for the Franciscans on Francis' feast day. Do y'all do the same?

Brother Charles said...

The preaching is an old tradition, though not always sought.

BC said...

St. Francis is listed as a feast on the U.S. Ordo (pdf) as well.

The Ordo doesn't call him holy father, but the Dominican Litany does call him Holy Father.

Holy Father Dominic is celebrated as a Solemnity here in the states (see Ordo above). So places celebrate the translation as a solemnity instead, because friars are often scattered in August.

Dancing With Pussycats said...

Many years ago, a Dominican prioress gave me a holy card of Dominic and Francis embracing as they met on a city street and she told me that Dominic and Francis were the best of friends. To honor that friendship, it was traditional that on the feast day of St. Francis, they would have a Dominican priest celebrate the mass; and on the feast day of St. Dominic, the Franciscans would would have a Dominican priest celebrate their mass.

Which doesn't answer your question, I know, but is interesting and touching nevertheless.

Cloister said...

Hi! As Cole says, in the UK it is customary for one of the Franciscan brethren to preach on the Feast of The Translation (May24th), and for one of the Dominicans to preach on the Feast of St. Francis. The communities invite each other over and, well, much festivity ensues.

The reason the Feast of the Translation is BIG, and the Feast of St Dominic in August 8th is more muted is, as far as I know, rather practical. In August the Dominican brethren are often traveling; students are preaching in new placements, if people are moving community or job they do it in this month, people take their holidays. Dominic deserves a full house, so he gets May 24th as a big community celebration.

In the litany St. Francis comes just before OUR HOLY FATHER ST DOMINIC (often in captials) is called upon, twice and fortissimo.