To Heaven with Diana!
As the Master of the Order wrote recently: "It is truly right and just that we thank God for the gift of our contemplative sisters! They support us in the path we follow; they participate in a special way in our preaching; they welcome us that we may share the hopes and joys, the grief and anxieties of our itinerant ministry. As Saint Catherine of Siena did, so they encourage us to have no fear, to go forth in the highways and byways to meet those who thirst for God; they compel us to live a passion for Christ and for humanity."
In a sense the blessed couple who epitomise the relationship between the nuns and the friars are Blessed Jordan of Saxony and Blessed Diana d'Andalo whom we remember today. The letters which the Second Master of the Order wrote to her are a testimony to the mutual love and spiritual well-being that is at the heart of the relationship between the friars and the nuns; they stand as an outstanding example of Dominican spirituality and are solidly within the tradition of saints who corresponded and so spurred each other on to greater holiness and love for God. To read more about these letters and the saints who exchanged them, I would encourage you to obtain a copy of 'To Heaven With Diana' by fr Gerald Vann, OP, which has been recently re-published in a beautiful new edition by the Dominican Nuns of Summit, New Jersey or, you may wish to read my previous post about this or read the letters online.
Following is an extract from the Chronicle of the foundation of the Monastery of St Agnes in Bologna where Bl Diana lived with Bl Cecilia. Also commemorated today was a Bl Amata and she is depicted with Bl Diana and Bl Cecilia in the painting above which is from the Priory of Santo Tomas in Avila.
"In the year of the Lord 1218, Friars Preachers were sent by St Dominic from Rome to Bologna. On their arrival they asked Br Rudolph for the church of St Nicholas, known as St Nicholas of the Vines because of its location. The brother in question was at that time the priest of that church. This, however, was the property of the Lord d'Andalo, the father of that most illustrious woman, the Lady Diana. The said Lord d'Andalo did not wish to give the aforementioned place to the friars, but at the request of the Lady Diana who was later to found the Monastery of St Agnes, he gave his assent and handed it over to them. Here the friars built a house and a cloister and by the grace of Christ they began to grow in numbers.
Meanwhile, since Master Reginald had come to Bologna and was preaching the word of God with great fervour, this Lady Diana, moved by the Holy Spirit, began to disdain the pomp and vanity of the world and to frequent the company of and to speak with the Friars Preachers. As a result, when blessed Dominic came to Bologna, she began to love him with all her affection and to speak with him about the salvation of her soul. Finally, a short time later she made profession in his hands.
Encouraged by her example, many noble women and illustrious matrons of the city of Bologna began to visit the Friars Preachers and converse with them about the salvation of their souls. As a result, the devotion of noble knights and their women relatives was awakened and they began to assist and revere the brethren.
In the meantime Diana, mindful of her vow, began to speak with blessed Dominic about how she could fulfil it. And so on a certain day, blessed Dominic called his brethren together and asked their consent to build a convent for women that would belong to the Order in name and in fact. When the brethren had given their opinions, the blessed man himself turned to prayer, as was his custom. Some days later after the chapter prayer, he said: 'Brothers, it is entirely fitting that a convent for women be built, even if the building of our own house be put off.'
The Lady Diana resided at the home of her father in body, but not in spirit... Once a small house had been built, the brethren came for her and brought her and four other women of Bologna to it. This happened in the year of the Lord 1223, within the Octave of the Sunday after Ascension. On the feast of the apostles Peter and Paul, they received the habit of the Order from... Master Jordan [of Saxony].
Master Jordan of happy memory wanted four sisters to be brought from St Sixtus [in Rome] with the permission of the Supreme Pontiff to teach them the way of religious life. Thus four sisters who had made their profession in the hands of the blessed Dominic and had received the habit from him came to the Monastery of St Agnes. They stayed with them until they died, helping them by the great vigour of their holiness. Sister Cecilia, who was one of those sisters, is still alive today."
Let us pray:
"Merciful Lord, we welcome in joy the feast of Blessed Diana and Blessed Cecilia. With the help of their prayers may devotion to truth and love for our brothers and sisters fill our hearts and our lives. Through Christ our Lord." Amen.
May these Beati and their sisters around the world continue to pray for us and may God shed the light of His face upon them.