GREAT BALL OF FIRE: July 22nd -- Celebrating the Seignadou

Cross on the hill of Fanjeaux commemorates the Seignadou--the Sign of God.

"One evening in 1206, outside the north gates of the village of Fanjeaux, St. Dominic sat reading about St. Mary Magdalen whose feast day it was. As he reflected on the life of the saint he was moved to ask God for guidance in what he should do. He also asked for a sign from the Blessed Virgin to help him. Just then a globe of fire came out of the heavens, hovered a bit and then in a blaze of glory settled over the forlorn and desolate church of Prouille which was nearby. The saint could not believe his eyes. He came back to the same spot the next evening and the sign was repeated. He returned again on the third evening and sure enough the vision appeared again. He took this as the sign he had prayed for and determined that the church at Prouille was the place God wanted him to begin his work. This vision is known as the Seignadou, "the sign of God" in the language of the place and time.

View from the Seignadou

The way he began his work was to collect a group of women at Prouille and form them into nuns. This was not just a gathering of a group of pious women. Rather it was a daring tactic to counteract a strategy of the Albigensians who used similar groups of women who had attained the rank of "perfect" to teach the children of impoverished Catholic nobles and raise them in the heresy. These convents also served as apostolic centers where people could go for instruction and help. This is exactly what St. Dominic intended to do, but only for Catholic women, specifically, those who had been heretics but had returned to the Church. The initial group was nine in number. He gave them a simple white habit with a black veil. They were cloistered....Bishop Diego highly approved of this move as did the bishop of Toulouse who in addition gave the sisters title to the church and land as well as the tithes and first fruits due to it. Thus, the financial security of the new foundation was assured. In addition, St. Dominic moved the little band of men who were working with him on to the property so it became a kind of double monastery, common at that time."

Saint Mary Magdalen, the penitent Apostle to the Apostles, therefore, would become the patroness and mother not only of the converted nuns of Prouille but of the Order of Preachers about to be born.

Thanks to fr. Gregory Anderson, OP for the text.