The sarcophagus containing the remains of Saint Dominic de Guzman. Basilica di San Domenico, Bologna, Italy. (Credit to the original owner of the photo.)
On May 24, the Dominican Family commemorates the first translation (transfer) of Saint Dominic from his original tomb, which happened precisely on this day in 1233, at the urging of Pope Gregory IX. Many people had been healed of their illnesses after praying for his intercession at his tomb. The transfer was also marked by miracles, proof of Saint Dominic's sanctity. The following year, he was canonized by the Pope.
The following is an account of the transfer, from the letters of Blessed Jordan of Saxony, the second Master of the Order and successor of Saint Dominic.
To all the brothers of the Order of Preachers whom he loves in the beloved Son of God, Brother Jordan, humble Master and Servant of the same Order, wishes health and eternal joy.
In its unsearchable wisdom the divine goodness is often accustomed to delay the manifestation of virtue, not that it might slip into oblivion, but rather that after having been hidden, it may be revealed more abundantly at an opportune moment. Whether God wished to so provide greater benefits for the Church or whether for some other reason, certain brothers whose simplicity outweighed their prudence decided that it would be quite sufficient if the glory of Saint Dominic, the servant of the Most High and the founder of the Order of Preachers, were known to God alone. They decided it was not worth the effort to bring that glory to the attention of others.
However, some thought otherwise, but offered no opposition since they were fainthearted. So it was that for nearly twelve years the glory of our blessed Father Dominic remained hidden, with little regard for his holiness. The treasure was hidden and of no use to anyone. Dominic's virtue had been demonstrated many times, but it had been covered over by the negligence of his sons.
But then the wonderful day dawned to celebrate the transfer of the remains of this illustrious doctor. The venerable archbishop of Ravenna and a large number of bishops and prelates were present, as well as a vast multitude of people from different regions who were giving remarkable witness by their devotion. Present also was the militia of Bologna, who would not allow this most holy body to be removed from their care. The anxious brothers stood about; the timid grew pale and prayed and, although they had nothing to fear, they were seized with misgivings. They feared that the body of Saint Dominic which had lain in a mean tomb exposed to the elements, would be found eaten by worms and giving off a foul odor, a circumstance that would diminish the devotion of such important persons. The bishops approached devoutly, the workers applied their tools, and the stone that had been firmly cemented to the sepulcher was removed. Inside the tomb was the wooden coffin, just as it had been placed there by the venerable Pope Gregory when he was bishop of Ostia. A small opening was visible in the coffin.
As soon as the stone was taken away a wonderful odor poured out from the opening and its fragrance caused astonishment among those present. They were amazed and overcome with wonder at this strange event. Everyone shed tears and feelings of joy, of fear and of hope rose in all hearts. These extraordinary occurrences moved all who smelt the sweetness of this wonderful scent. We ourselves have smelt the sweetness of this perfume and we bear witness to what we have seen and smelt. Although we eagerly remained for a long time near the body of Dominic, we were unable to sate ourselves with such a great sweetness. If one's hand, or a belt, or some other object touched the body, the scent emanated from it for some time.
The body was carried to the marble sepulcher where it was to rest and the perfume encompassed it. This marvellous aroma, which the holy body breathed forth, was evidence to everyone how much the saint had truly been the aroma of Christ.
The archbishop celebrated the solemn Mass. It was Pentecost Tuesday, and the choir intoned the introit of the day: "Receive the joy of your glory, giving thanks to God who has called you to the heavenly kingdom." The brethren joyfully regarded these words as a witness from heaven. The trumpets reverberated, the faithful lit countless candles, the procession went forward solemnly, and on all sides the acclamation sounded: "Blessed be Jesus Christ!" All this was done in the city of Bologna, on the 24th day of May, in the year 1233, while Gregory IX occupied the Roman See and Frederick II was emperor. May it redound to the honor of our Lord Jesus Christ and of blessed Dominic his most faithful servant.
Acknowledgment. Source of text: Supplement to the Liturgy of the Hours for the Order of Preachers, Dominican Province of the Philippines (2012).
Young Thomasian Professionals Lay Dominican Group
Santísimo Rosario Parish, University of Santo Tomás
España Boulevard, Manila 1015 Philippines