Dominicana – Blessed Reginald of Orleans, Confessor

detail of a painting of Blessed Reginald of Orléans receiving the vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary; Butinone Bernardino, late 15th century; Santa Maria delle Grazie Church, Milan, Italy; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsReginald was born at Saint-Giles, in the south of France, and had taught Canon Law with applause in the University of Paris before being raised to the dignity of Dean of the Chapter of Orleans. Coming to Rome in company with his Bishop in the beginning of the year 1218, with the intention of visiting the tombs of the Apostles before going on pilgrimage to the holy places of Jerusalem, he there became acquainted with our Holy Father, Saint Dominic. To him he opened his whole heart, telling him that he greatly desired to quit all things in order to go about preaching Jesus Christ in a state of voluntary poverty. The holy patriarch joyfully promised to receive him into the Order.

Shortly after, Reginald was taken dangerously ill, and the Blessed Dominic, as he himself related to the Brethren, earnestly implored God that He would not take from him a son as yet hardly born, but that He would at least prolong his life, if it were but for a little while. And even whilst he yet prayed, the Blessed Virgin Mary, accompanied by the virgin martyrs, Saint Cecilia and Saint Catharine, appeared to Master Reginald, and extending her virginal hand, anointed his eyes, ears, nostrils, mouth, hands, and feet, pronouncing certain words appropriate to each anointing. Then she showed him the habit of the Friars Preachers, saying to him, “Behold the habit of thy Order.” And so she disappeared from his eyes, and Reginald perceived that he was cured. He related all that had passed to his Holy Father, praying him, however, to keep the circumstances secret till after his death. S. Dominic complied with his request; and, in announcing to his Brethren that the linen surplice of the Canons Regular was to be exchanged for the woolen scapular, which was the particular part of the habit which the Blessed Virgin had been seen holding in her hands, he did not make known the reason of the change until after Reginald’s death.

This beautiful story is commemorated in the ceremony of clothing, in the words which accompany the giving of the scapular: “Receive the holy scapular of our Order, the most distinguished part of the Dominican habit, the maternal pledge from heaven of the love of the Blessed Virgin Mary towards us.”

The remaining events of Blessed Reginald’s brief but brilliant career must be summed up in a few words. After his clothing, he departed for the Holy Land, and on his return, after founding a Convent in Sicily, he ruled the Order as Vicar whilst Saint Dominic visited Spain. At the same time he assumed the government of the Convent of Bologna, where, within six months, he received more than a hundred members into the Order, many of them men of great learning and distinction; so that it came to be a common saying that it was scarce safe to go and hear Master Reginald if you did not wish to take the Friars’ habit.

The great talents and success of Blessed Reginald induced Saint Dominic to remove him to Paris, to the great sorrow of his Brethren; for, notwithstanding the severity of his discipline, they were tenderly attached to their saintly Prior and wept as though being torn from their mothers’ arms.

At Paris, his burning eloquence drew all to hear him, and vocations to the Order were as striking as at Bologna. Being one day asked how he, who had been used to so luxurious a life in the world, had found it possible to persevere in the penitential life of the Order, Reginald humbly cast his eyes upon the ground and replied: “Truly, I do not think to merit anything for that before the tribunal of God. He has given me so much consolation in my soul, that the rigors of which you speak have become very sweet and easy to me.”

One of the most remarkable subjects whom he drew to the Order was Blessed Jordan of Saxony, to whom God was pleased to reveal the approaching death of Reginald in a vision, wherein he beheld a clear and sparkling fountain suddenly spring up in the Dominican Church of Saint James, and as suddenly fail.

The death of the holy man took place in February, 1220, when he had worn the habit scarcely two years. When Abbot Mathew, who then governed the Community at Paris, came to announce to him that his illness was mortal and proposed to administer to him the Sacrament of Extreme Unction, the dying man made answer: “I do not fear the assault of death, since the blessed hands of Mary anointed me in Rome. Nevertheless, because I would not make light of the Church’s Sacrament, I will receive it, and humbly ask that it may be given to me.” Blessed Reginald has ever been held in veneration in the Order, though he was not solemnly beatified until the pontificate of Pius the Ninth.

– text taken from the magazine Dominicana, author not listed, 1905