Blessed Diana and Blessed Cecilia
Bl. Diana and Bl. Cecilia helped to establish the Monastery of St. Agnes in Bologna, along with Bl. Amata, who was very likely named by St. Dominic himself (meaning “beloved”).
Cecilia had already been a Benedictine nun when St. Dominic was taking on monastic reforms of nuns’ convents at the direction of Pope Honorius III. After refounding St. Sixtus in Rome, Bl. Cecilia went to St. Agnes, where she served as prioress. Bl. Cecilia is especially loved by Dominicans because she, alone amongst the contemporaries of Holy Father Dominic, committed a description of his appearance to writing:
He was of middle height and slender figure, of handsome and somewhat ruddy countenance, his hair and beard of auburn, and with lustrous eyes. From out his forehead and between his eye brows a radiant light shone forth, which drew everyone to revere and love him. He was always joyous and cheerful, except when moved to compassion at anyone’s sorrows. His hands were beautiful and tapering; his voice was clear, noble, and musical; he was never bald, but kept his religious tonsure entire, mingled here and there with a few gray hairs
Diana was of noble birth and extremely powerful family. Inspired by the preaching of Reginald of Orleans, she desired to give her life entirely to the Order. She overcame severe (and even physically brutal) opposition from her family, and received the habit from Bl. Jordan of Saxony, with whom she would enjoy a most beautiful spiritual friendship. The following account in the Dominican Office of Readings is taken from the Monastery of St. Agnes’ Chronicle:
Holy Father Dominic was in Bologna at the time and, when he heard how injured she was, he was filled with compassion and sent her letters secretly, for her parents would not permit her to speak with anyone unless one of her relatives was present. In the midst of all this blessed Dominic died and entered eternal happiness. When Sister Diana had recovered a little, she escaped and went to the aforesaid monastery. Thereupon her desperate parents let her go. She remained in that monastery from the feast of All Saints until the week within the octave of the Ascension. While she was there, Master Jordan of happy memory, who had been provincial of Lombardy at the time, together with the brethren to whom blessed Dominic had entrusted this task, faithfully helped her to carry out her long desired plan.
Bl. Jordan encouraged Bl. Diana in words such as these:
Let your hearts be always filled with a burning desire for the blessed city of the saints in heaven, that glorious storeroom of perfect joy amid gladness, that abode refulgent with the radiance of utter beauty, far exceeding human understanding: a realm truly divine, worthy to be the dwelling place of those created in the image and likeness of God.