Novena to St. Dominic-Day Six
Saint Dominic and the Nuns-Various Texts
A Monastery for Sisters is Founded at Prouille
In order to give assistance to certain women of the nobility whose parents were led by poverty to give them over to the heretics for training and support, he established a monastery between Fanjeaux and Montreal in a place called Prouille. There, to this day, handmaids of Christ give a pleasing service to their Creator. By the vigor of their holiness and the noble purity of their innocence, they lead a life which is of spiritual benefit to themselves, a source of edification to men, a joy to the angels, and a pleasure to 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."
Berengaria declared under oath that she was an eye-witness when Blessed Dominic told the nine women converted from error to behold the thing which possessed them: a demon in the form of a cat with fiery eyes as large as a cow’s and with a long tongue that breathed a firelike substance and with a tail as thick as a dog’s and more than a foot long. At his command this creature escaped through the opening for the bell-rope in the tower and disappeared from their sight. But before doing all this, he had told them to have no more fears, as he would show them the master they had been serving.
How Blessed Dominic Established the Convent of San Sisto for the Sisters and Transported to it an Image of the Blessed Virgin.
When Blessed Dominic was carrying out Pope Honorius’ command to assemble all the nuns residing in various convents in Rome and establish them in the Church of San Sisto, where the brethren were then living, one of those affected was the abbess of St. Mary in Tempulo, which housed the statue of the Blessed Virgin that is now in the Church of San Sisto. This abbess promised that she and Sister Cecilia and all the other nuns but one would enter and make profession into the hands of Blessed Dominic, if that image of the Blessed Virgin would remain with them in the Church of San Sisto. But if that image were ever returned to its former place, she and all the other sisters would be absolved of their profession. This condition was willingly accepted by Blessed Dominic.
After their profession, Blessed Dominic told them that he did not want them to leave their cloister to visit their relatives and friends. When the relatives heard of this, they came to the convent and began to upbraid the abbess and nuns very severely for letting such a noble monastery fall into disuse and for willingly putting themselves in the hands of that coarse and offensive nobody. As a consequence, some of them repented of the profession they had made. Therefore, Blessed Dominic, knowing of this through the Spirit, went to them one morning and after Mass said to them, “My daughters, already you have changed your mind and wish to walk no longer on the Lord’s highway. Now I want everyone of you who still wishes to enter of her own will to repeat her profession into my hands.” Then the abbess and the others, even those who had previously repented but were recalled by his merits, made profession once more into his hands.
When all were professed under the same condition as before, Blessed Dominic collected all the keys of the convent and, from then on, assumed full control of the convent. Then he appointed lay brothers to guard the convent day and night, to provide food and all necessities for the sisters and not to permit them to speak with their relatives or other persons, unless others were present.
Then, after the Lord Pope had given the Church of Santa Sabina to the brethren and they had carried all their utensils and books and other things from San Sisto, Blessed Dominic wanted the abbess and the other sisters to move into the Church of San Sisto. This they did on the first Sunday of Lent. Sister Cecilia, who was then seventeen years of age, was the first to receive the habit from Blessed Dominic as he stood at the front door. For the third time, she made profession into his hands. After her came the abbess and all the nuns of her convent, and finally a number of other religious and lay women, so that their number totaled forty-four.
On the evening of the day following their profession the image of the Blessed Virgin was brought to the church of San Sisto. But, for fear of the Roman people who opposed its removal on the ground that it was easier for them to see it where it was, Blessed Dominic and two cardinals — Lord Nicholas and Lord Stephen, whose nephew he had restored to life — preceded and, followed by many other persons carrying lighted torches, marched barefoot carrying the image on their shoulders to the Church of San Sisto. There they were met by the sisters who had removed their shoes and were praying as they waited. With great reverence, the statue was installed in the sisters’ Church where it still stands to this day to the honor of Our Lord Jesus Christ to Whom be honor and glory forever. Amen.
Pray for us, blessed father, St. Dominic,
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us pray, O most blessed father, St. Dominic, who loved our Lord Jesus Christ in the most perfect manner and served Mary, His Virgin Mother, with most fervent devotion, pray for us, your children, that we may ever grow in love of the Sacrament of the Altar, and that, next to God, we may at all times trust in the protection of the Queen of Heaven, so that at the hour of death we may be received by her into heaven, and ever abide under the mantle of her love. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.