Dominica of Paradiso, by Lady Georgiana Fullerton

Domenica del ParadisoAbout four hundred years ago there lived at a small country village near Florence, called Paradiso, a poor gardener and his wife, whose names were Francis and Costanza. They had several children, of whom the youngest was named Dominica, who was brought up to the life of labour and hardship ordinary among the poorer peasantry of Italy, and whose daily task it was to help in the cultivation of the garden on which the whole family depended for support. Beyond the first rudiments of the Christian faith, Dominica received no education; for her parents were in no way superior in intelligence to others of their class in life. Nevertheless, from her very infancy she showed signs that the few instructions which they were able to give her had made a wonderful impression on her heart; and as her soul received each new religious idea, it was cherished and meditated on; so that she gathered materials enough out of these simple elements to build up a life of the highest contemplative prayer. Among all the biographies of the saints which have been preserved to us, there are few which so vividly illustrate the growth of a profound and supernatural devotion in the heart of an uneducated child as that before us. Nor will it be thought that the extreme simplicity which mingles with some of the passages of her life which are here selected, lessens the beauty of a narrative whose incidents charm us like a poem.

Dominica was marked in a special way as the child of Mary, even from her cradle. The first occasion when we read of the Blessed Virgin appearing to her was one day when she was lying on her poor little bed, being then only four years old. The presence of the Divine Mother with a train of shining angels then first awoke in her little heart a longing after God and heaven; and she began to pray-though scarcely knowing the meaning of the words she uttered-that she might be taught the way to reach that glory, the vision of which had captivated her imagination. Then she came to understand that fidelity to God’s precepts, and contrition for sin, was the path of saintliness; and so were traced out on her soul the first lineaments of perfection. Now she had learnt that contrition was a sorrow for sin; and the simple sort of catechism which her mother was accustomed to teach her spoke also of the heart being full of sin, and how tears of penitence were necessary to wash it from its corrupt steins. A metaphor of any kind was far beyond the reach of Dominica’s comprehension; she therefore took these expressions in a very straightforward way, and wept heartily to think her heart should be so defiled and dangerous a thing. And the handkerchief which was wet with her childish tears she laid over her breast, thinking that this must be the way to wash away the stains they talked of.

All day long she revolved in her mind the one idea which had been revealed to her soul,—perfection, as the road to God’s presence; and thinking incessantly of these things amid the various occupations in which she was engaged, she came to make every part of her day’s work associated with the subjects of her meditation. To her eye, all untaught by man, but enlightened by the Divine light, the invisible things of God were clearly seen by the things that were visible. Once she was helping an elder sister to make some cakes mixed with poppy-seeds, to give to her brother who was ill and suffering from want of sleep. As she baked the cakes, her thoughts were, as usual, busy finding divine meanings in the things before her. The interior voice, whose whispers she as yet scarcely understood, seemed to speak to her of another kind of food which should satisfy the soul, so that it should slumber and repose in the sleep of Divine love. Then she prayed very earnestly to be given this wonderful food; and the voice spoke in answer, and said, “Daughter, the food of which I spake is none other than My love, with which when the saints in heaven are filled and satisfied, they sleep so sweetly, that they forget all created things, and watch only unto Me.” And Dominica wondered how the saints took this marvellous slumber, and whether it were on beds made like her own straw mattress, or in the bosom of God, even as her mother was wont to rock the little baby to sleep. When she was at work, in the garden, she would raise her eyes to heaven, and think how she could make her heart a garden of flowers for the delight of God. And once, as she so mused, He who had undertaken the office of teacher and director to her soul appeared to her, and taught her that prayer would keep that soul ever fresh and green before Him; and that He would open in that garden five limpid and crystal fountains to refresh it, even the five wounds of His Sacred Passion; and that she, on her part, must keep it free from weeds, daily plucking up evil passions, and the idle thoughts of vanity and the world; that so it might be beautiful to the eye, and abundant in all-pleasant fruits. If she ran upstairs, her thoughts ascended to heaven; if she came down, she abased herself in the depths of lowliness and humility. The oxen ploughing in the field reminded her to bear meekly the yoke of obedience; and as she stood in her father’s wine-press she taught herself to tread under her own will and nature, if she would taste of the sweetness of divine consolations. Once the sight of a hen with her brood of chickens so vividly brought before her the mystery of the Incarnation, and that wonderful love which gave its life to cover our sins and shield us from the wrath of God, that she was rapt in a state of ecstasy, and so remained in the garden all that day and the following night. And again, as she gathered the ripe apples which her mother was hoarding for the winter, she became absorbed in contemplating the beauty of that soul wherein the fruits of virtue are brought forth, making it pleasant in the eye of God. And she sighed deeply, and said, “Oh, that I knew how to store my soul with these precious fruits! how happy should I then be!” And the Spouse of her heart came swiftly to her, and showed her how for every apple she gathered for the love of Him, there was brought forth a glorious fruit within her soul, more gracious and beautiful in His sight than the fairest apples of her garden. All this was going on in her mind whilst yet not six years old; and so her life divided itself between the homely exterior labour and rough discipline of a peasant life, and an interior of spiritual contemplation, wherein were revealed to her many of the profoundest secrets of mystic theology. The world became to her a book written within and without with the name of God; all creatures talked to her of Him. And this was sometimes permitted to be manifested in extraordinary ways; as once, when walking by the side of a lake near their cottage, the thought suggested itself that the fish, being creatures of God, must be obedient to Him, and ready to do Him service. Therefore she stood by the water-side, and called them to come and help her whilst she sang His praises; and the fish, swimming to the shore, did so after their kind, leaping and jumping about out of the water; while she sat on the grass, and sang a little song which she had learnt, and was fond of repeating to herself over her work in the garden.

One day she was ill, and her mother desired her to eat some meat, which she did, although it was Friday; and afterwards felt great scruples, fearing she had committed a great sin. She had never yet been to confession, being under the age when it is usual for children to confess. But she now felt very anxious to relieve her conscience of this weight; only, being confined to her bed, she could not get to the church; nor did she dare to ask her mother to send for the priest. She therefore considered within herself what she should do; and she remembered to have seen the people in the church not only kneeling in the confessionals, but also before the crucifixes and devout images on the altars; and in her simplicity, she thought that they were likewise confessing their sins to them. Now there was a little picture of the Madonna holding the Holy Child in her arms, which hung in her room, and Dominica thought she could confess to this; therefore, getting out of bed, she knelt down devoutly before it, and confessed her fault in eating the meat with many tears, praying the little Jesus to give her absolution for her fault, which she thought He would do by placing His hand on her head, as she had seen the old priest do to the little children of the village. But when she had knelt a long time, and saw that the image did not move, she became very unhappy, and prayed all the harder that He would not deny her absolution, but would give her the sign she asked for. Then it pleased our Lord to grant her the answer which her simple confidence extorted from Him; and the figures of the Mother and the Son raised their hands, and placed them on the child’s head, who remained filled with delight at the thought that her sins were now forgiven her, and her conscience at rest.

After this her mother took her once a year to confession in the church. It grieved her much not to be able to go oftener; but her angel-guardian taught her to submit in this matter to her mother’s pleasure, and to supply the place of more frequent confession by every evening examining her conscience, and confessing her daily faults before the same picture as before. Nor was this the only teaching which she received from him; he taught her that the path to Paradise was a way of suffering; and that they who aspired to the mystic nuptials of Christ were careful to clothe themselves with the livery of the cross. And Dominica, in obedience to these instructions, began to afflict her body with fasts and other austerities, and gave the food which she saved from her own dinner to the poor. She ever showed great devotion to the Blessed Virgin, especially after the circumstances narrated above; and made it her particular duty to light the lamp before her picture every Saturday, and to garland it with flowers on that day, as being specially dedicated to her. On one of these occasions, Mary appeared to her with her Divine Child in her arms, and promised her that in reward for her devotion she should one day become His spouse, but not until she had grown further in perfection and in His love. This promise became thenceforth the absorbing subject of her thoughts; and at seven years of age she consecrated herself to Him, whom from that hour she considered her Spouse, by a solemn vow, cutting off her beautiful golden hair, as she understood the custom was, and offering it to her Lord. When her mother saw her hair cut off, she was greatly displeased, and commanded her to suffer it to grow again, and not to attempt to cut it a second time. Dominica obeyed; but she secretly prayed that God would send her some infirmity of the head, which might prevent the growth of the hair. And this indeed happened; so that the head remained closely cut until her fifteenth year, when it was cured, and miraculously crowned, as we shall see, by God.

Our Blessed Lady very often favoured her with her visible presence; but on these occasions she appeared alone, and without her Son. Dominica was greatly grieved at the absence of her Lord, and at length one day resolved to ask the Blessed Virgin the reason why He never came. “O Divine Lady,” she said, “you come very often to see me and talk to me; but you never bring Him who is to be my Spouse; why is this, for it grieves me that I never see Him?” Then our Lady, smiling on her, showed her the Holy Infant sleeping in her bosom. Dominica was delighted at the sight. “But how very small He is!” she exclaimed “He will grow,” replied Mary, “when you will, and as much as you will; and as she spoke, Dominica perceived that He was already much larger. “Ah! He is already growing,” she exclaimed; “now He is twice the size He was!—how is that?” “He grows with your growth,” again replied Mary; “and your growth must be not in the flesh, but in the spirit: when you have attained to your full growth in holiness, He will come and celebrate those espousals which you desire so much.” Then the Child extended His hand to Dominica as a token of His renewed promise; and the vision disappeared. She remained very sad and disconsolate; and her grief, when she thought of the loveliness of Jesus, and the long time that was yet to elapse before His promise could be fulfilled, became so poignant, that she fell ill, and spent eight days in continual tears and sorrow of heart. This abandonment of her soul to grief was by no means pleasing to the Blessed Virgin, who appeared again at the end of the eight days, and gave her a sharp reproof for her want of resignation. “Daughter,” she said, “you grieve for the loss of sensible consolations; but know this, that to those who attach themselves to such things, visions, and revelations, and the sensible presence of the Beloved, are not blessings but evils: wherefore put away your sorrow, and serve God with a joyful and contented heart.” “But how can I be joyful,” said the weeping child, “whilst I am so far from my Spouse and His palace, and still kept a prisoner in this vale of tears?” Then the merciful heart of Mary was moved with pity, and she said, “Follow me with your eyes, and you shall see a glimpse of the country where He dwells;” and so saying, she rose towards heaven before her eyes. Dominica watched her as she had said, and she saw how the heavens opened to receive their queen; and caught through the parted doors of those celestial regions something of the glory of the New Jerusalem. She saw her pass on through the countless choirs of the angels, till she came close to the throne of God; and in the midst of the unapproachable light she saw the Child Jesus, more beautiful and glorious than she had ever seen Him before; and then, even as she gazed on Him, forgetting all beside, the golden gates closed on the scene, and shut it from her eyes. Now when Dominica looked round, and saw that it had all passed away, she remained full of an unspeakable longing to reach that glorious country, or at least to see it once again. She kept her eyes constantly fixed on the sky, for she thought perhaps it might once more open; and in her simplicity she thought she should be nearer to her Lord, and to the beauty amid which He dwelt, on high places: therefore, at night, when all the family were asleep, she rose softly, and taking a ladder, mounted to the roof, where she spent the night in prayer, looking wistfully at the stars, which she thought were at least little sparks of that great glory which had been revealed to her. And having repeated this several times, it pleased God more than once to open the vision of heaven to her again; so that she came to have a familiarity with that blessed place, and to know the choirs of angels one from another, and to tell the different degrees of the blessed by the crowns they wore, and many ether mysteries which, whilst she beheld, she as yet did not fully comprehend.

When Easter came, her mother took her to church, and she saw all the people going to Communion, and grieved much to think she was too young to be suffered to approach with them. It seemed also very strange to her that they should come to so wonderful a banquet, and go away again, just as if nothing had happened to them; and she thought it would not be so with her: for, indeed, whenever she was present at Mass, and the priest elevated the Sacred Host before her eyes, she saw the visible person of her divine Spouse, adorned with so wonderful a beauty that it seemed marvellous to her that no one else seemed moved by the sight; and she thought that all saw what she saw, and never dreamt that it was a revelation granted to her eyes alone. And once, as she thus reasoned within herself, and looked sorrowfully on the crowds who were going to receive a happiness which was denied to her, the Lord of her soul Himself drew near to comfort her with a foretaste of His presence, and Dominica felt on her tongue a drop of His precious Blood.

Autumn brought the harvest, and with it hard work in the fields for Dominica, whose prayers and visions never interrupted her life of daily labour. She was one day in the fields watching them burn the stubble, and helping to heap the loads of straw and rubbish on to the fire. With childlike glee, she danced and clapped her hands to see the flames leaping high into the air; and she thought to herself that the fire was like Divine love, and longed that her own heart could be consumed in its flames like the worthless straw. Then the voice of her Spouse spoke within her and said, “What would you do, Dominica, if you saw your Spouse in the midst of those flames?” And she answered, “I would run to Him and embrace Him.” “But,” replied the voice, “would you not fear the fire? do you not remember how terrible was the pain when your sister burnt her hand?” And even at that moment Dominica saw through the flames, how a beautiful lady entered the field on the other side of the fire, leading a child of surpassing loveliness by the hand. As she looked at them the lady spoke to her: “Dominica,” she said, “why are you here, and what do you seek?” And Dominica replied, “I am looking at the flames, and I am seeking for God in them!” “God.” answered the lady, “is very near you, and yet you do not know Him.” Then her eyes opened, and she knew that she had been speaking to no other than Jesus and Mary; and forgetting the fire and her own danger, and all but the presence of her Beloved, she ran through the flames to the other side, and cast herself at His feet. In doing this she was severely burnt, for her legs and arms were bare like other peasant children; but Dominica did not feel the pain, for she was gazing on her Lord. And the glorious Child took her lovingly by the hand, and said, “O Dominica, thou has conquered flames for the love of Me; therefore shall thou ever abide in My grace, and shalt dwell with Me for ever.” Then he blessed her; and disappearing from sight, Dominica was again alone. On looking round her, she found that it was quite dark, and the stars were shining brightly; for the moments that had seemed to her to fly so quickly had indeed been hours, and it was now night. She began to be very frightened; knowing that her absence would cause great alarm; but we are assured that, on returning in the morning, she found she had not been missed, her angel-guardian having taken her form, and discharged all the household offices which it was her duty to perform.

On another occasion, she was as usual at work in the garden, whilst her brothers were bringing in a load of manure which smelt very offensive. The habit of drawing spiritual meanings from all external objects had become so completely second nature to Dominica, that her thoughts seem to have shaped themselves into these analogies on all occasions. The bad smell therefore suggested to her mind an image of mortal sin, and she prayed that she might be taught in some way how it appeared in the eyes-of God. At that moment a soldier entered the garden for the purpose of purchasing some vegetables, and Dominica perceived that his soul was very offensive in the sight of God. She looked in his face, and it seemed to her so disfigured by foul and monstrous deformity, that she was moved with a deep compassion for him; she prayed therefore very earnestly, that God would give him the grace of conversion, and save him from his miserable state. She longed to say something to him; but not daring to address him, she remained before him, still looking up in his face, and weeping bitterly. Her manner at length drew his attention, and he asked her what was the matter, and why she kept thus looking at him and weeping. “I weep,” she answered, “because your soul is so ugly; you must certainly be very unhappy. How is it you do not remember the Precious Blood which redeemed you from the power of the devil? Do you not see the bow bent, and the arrow ready to fly?” “What bow, and what arrow, are you talking of?” said the astonished man. “The bow,” replied the child, “is divine justice, and the arrow is death and the judgment, which will certainly overtake you if you do not change your wicked life and become a good man.” As she spoke, the simplicity of her words fairly conquered the obdurate heart to which they were addressed. With tears rolling down his cheeks, he knelt before her, and confessed he was indeed an enormous sinner, who deserved nothing but hell; but that if she would help him with her prayers, he would go that very day to confession, and begin a new life; and with this promise he left her. For eight days Dominica continued in very earnest prayer for him, in spite of unheard-of troubles and persecutions of the devils; but on the eighth she knew that her prayers had been heard, for she saw his soul white and clean like that of a newly-baptised child; and he himself came to thank her for the grace she had obtained for him, and by means of which he had been enabled to make a good and contrite confession. He told her, moreover, that he was resolved to leave the world and retire to a hermitage, to spend the remainder of his life in penance; but prayed her, before he went, at least to give him her blessing. This request puzzled Dominica; and she replied she would readily oblige him, but she did not know how. Then her angel raised her little hand, and guided it to sign the sign of the Cross above his head; and a voice which was not hers said for her, “May God bless thee in this world and in the world to come.” Fourteen years after, this man died in his hermitage, with the reputation of sanctity.

This first conversion awoke in her soul an ardent thirst for the salvation of sinners. It was a new feeling, and to her quick and sensitive soul one which soon became wholly absorbing. Happening about this time to see a little picture representing the sufferings of the souls in hell, she was greatly touched with compassion, and innocently prayed God to relieve them and set them free. Then her faithful guardian instructed her on this matter, and taught her that the only way to save souls from hell was, to prevent sin and convert sinners by her prayers. And to increase her zeal he showed her, not a picture, but the real sufferings of the lost souls; and the sentiments of pity which these excited were so lively, that a desire awoke within her to suffer something in her own body, in order to save other souls from these terrible flames. And with the idea of experiencing something of a like kind of suffering, she took a lighted torch, and courageously held it to her shoulder till the flesh was burnt, which caused her agonies of pain for many days. These, however, she had self-command enough to conceal, in spite of some emotions of very natural alarm, which determined her to find out if possible some other less dangerous method of afflicting her body. She even prayed God to teach her in what way she should do this; and one day seeing a picture in the church of Saint John Baptist clothed in his garment of camel’s hair, the thought was suggested to her mind of forming some such garment for herself out of horsehair; which she accordingly did, and wore it for nine years. And here one can hardly fail to admire the means by which, step by step, she was led on in the path of a saintly life. Human teaching she had none; she had probably never seen a book: but yet we see how the commonest incidents and accidents, being accompanied by God’s grace, were enough to reveal the secrets of His counsels to her soul. A picture, or a chance word, or the thought which rose spontaneously out of some image of the visible things around her, were food enough for a soul which literally “waited continually upon God;” it drew sustenance and life out of what seemed the very barrenest desert.

From this time commenced a new life of austerity, so rigorous and continual, that extraordinary strength must have been supplied to have enabled her to live under the perpetual tortures she inflicted on her innocent flesh. And though in the details of these austerities we find many things precisely similar to those related of other saints, yet it is certain that their lives and examples were wholly unknown to her, and therefore that in this matter she must have followed the instinct of her own devotion, guided by the Spirit of God. But, again, we observe how she was directed by that quick and watchful eye of the soul which let nothing escape its vigilance;—a coarse and common print of the Scourging of our Divine Lord, once seen, was enough to teach Dominica those sharp disciplines to blood in which she persevered during the remainder of her life.

We pass over the account of many temptations and apparitions of evil spirits, to give the story of one vision with which she was favoured, whose beauty can perhaps scarcely be equalled by any similar incident to be met with in the Lives of the Saints. It has been said that she was accustomed to observe Saturday as a day of special devotion in honour of the Madonna, whose image on that day had its garland of fresh flowers hung up, and its little lamp brightly burning in the midst. Now it happened that one Saturday Dominica had taken unusual care in the decoration of her little image; she had picked her choicest flowers, and hung them in wreaths and bunches which took her some little time to arrange. But her trouble was well rewarded; for the Blessed Virgin reached out her hand and took some of the flowers, and smelt them, and then gave them to her Son, that He might smell them likewise. Dominica, full of delight, besought them ever thus to smell her flowers, and to forget the unworthiness of her who offered them. And then she remembered that she could not stand there looking at her beloved Madonna any longer; for it was the hour when she was accustomed to go to the cottage-door with the scraps she had saved from her dinner, that she might give alms to any poor beggar who should be passing by. Accordingly, she ran to the door with her basket of broken bread, and waited patiently till some object of charity should pass that way. At length she perceived a woman approaching, leading a child by the hand. By their dress she saw that they were very poor; yet there was an air of dignity, almost of majesty, in the manner and appearance of both. They came up to the spot where she stood; and the child, addressing himself to her with a certain gracious sweetness, held out his hands, as if begging, and said, “You will certainly give me something, my good little peasant girl?” And as he did so, she perceived that in either hand there was a large open wound; and that his dress was likewise covered with blood, as from a fresh wound in his side. Touched with compassion, she bade them wait whilst she entered the house for something to give them; but she had scarcely done so, when she perceived that they were by her side. “Ah!” said Dominica, “what have you done! if my mother knows I have let any one in, she will never forgive me.” “Fear nothing,” said the woman; “we shall do no harm, and no one will see us.” Then Dominica saw that the child’s feet were likewise bleeding; and pitying him very much, she said, “How can your son walk on the rough roads with those wounded feet of his?” And his mother replied, “The child’s love is so great, he never complains of himself.” Now as they were thus talking, the child was looking at the image garlanded with the lovely fresh roses; and with a winning and innocent grace he held up his little hands and asked for some of the flowers: and Dominica could not refuse to give them to him; for spite of their poor rags, there was something about her strange visitors which captivated her heart. And the mother took the roses, and smelt them, and gave them to her son; and turning to Dominica, she said, “Why do you garland that image with flowers? it would seem as if you cared for it very much.” “It is the Madonna and the Holy Child Jesus,” answered Dominica; “and I give them my flowers because I love them dearly.” “And how much do you love them?” continued the woman. “As much as I can,” said Dominica. “And how much is that?” said the woman again. “Ah!” replied Dominica, “it is as much as they help me too.” But still as she spoke she could not take her eyes off the child; for his extraordinary grace and beauty filled her with an emotion she could not comprehend. “Why do you stand thus gazing at my son?” said the woman; “what do you see in him?” “He is such a beautiful child,” said Dominica; and she leant over him to caress him. But she started back with surprise, for those wounds gave forth a wonderful odour, as of Paradise; and turning, to the woman, she exclaimed, “Mother of God! what is this? with what do you anoint your son’s wounds, for the odour of them is sweeter than my sweetest flowers?” “It is the ointment of charity,” said the mother; but Dominica scarcely heard the reply: she was still gazing at the child, and trying to attract his notice, as the manner is with children. “Come to me, my child,” she said, “and I will give you this piece of bread.” “It is of no use,” said the mother; “tell him of Jesus, and how you love Him, and the child will come readily enough.” And at the words he did indeed come; and looking up sweetly into Dominica’s face, he asked, “And do you really love Jesus?” And that sweet odour became so marvellously powerful, that she was yet more filled with surprise; and she said, “O beautiful child, what wonder is this? if your wounds give forth this delicious perfume, what will the perfume of Paradise be like?” “Do not wonder,” said the mother, “that the perfume of Paradise should be where God is;” and then the blindness fell from her eyes, and she knew that she was talking to none other than to Jesus and Mary. And even at that moment the poor rags fell off them, and she saw them dressed in royal robes of surpassing splendour; and the Child Jesus grew to the stature of a man, whilst over the wound of His side there gleamed the radiance of a brilliant star. Dominica fell prostrate at their feet as they rose into the air; and taking the roses from His mother’s bosom, the Divine Spouse scattered them over the head and garments of His beloved, and said, “O My spouse! thou hast adorned My image with garlands and roses, and therefore do I sprinkle thee with these flowers, as an earnest of the everlasting garland with which I will crown these in Paradise;” and so saying, they both disappeared. Dominica strove in vain to follow them with her eyes; but for eight days after there remained the perfume of the wounds, and her head and dress were seen covered with flowers.

At length she arrived at the age when it is customary for children to make their first Communion; and her mother, therefore, took her during Lent to the priest, that he might examine and prepare her for that purpose. A very few words satisfied him that she was full of Divine grace, and he accordingly desired her to go to communion at the approaching Easter, which was considerably sooner than her mother had intended. “How can I do so?” said Dominica; “I am only eleven years old, and my mother is used to say, ‘Children should not go to Communion till they are twelve.’ Moreover, there are but three weeks to Easter, and in that short time I can never prepare fitly to receive our Lord;” and so saying, she began to weep. Nevertheless, the priest laid her under obedience to do as he had said, and sent her away; and Dominica returned home with her thoughts full of this weighty matter of the three weeks of preparation. Now the dignity of the Holy Sacrament appeared to her so very great, that she thought a year would be too little to make ready the chamber of her heart; and thinking how she could make the most of the short time allowed her, she determined not to go to bed for that time but to remain in prayer and meditation all night, that she might make the weeks longer; for indeed, she was so simply impressed with the conviction of her own vileness, that she dreaded lest the Sacred Host should disappear, or some other token of Divine displeasure should be evinced, if she approached without much preparation and examination of heart. So, as we have said, she never went to bed; but remained kneeling and praying all night, examining her innocent conscience, and going over a world of resolutions and forms of preparation, which she believed were necessary to be got through in the time. It was a child’s simple thought;—we love Dominica all the better for the childishness that forgot that its excellent resolve was an impossible one for flesh and blood to keep;—for very often the poor little girl was conquered by weariness, and fell asleep in the midst of her long prayers, and in spite of her manful efforts to keep awake; and then she would try to rouse herself with the thought of her preparation for Communion, and begin all over again, with a kind of nervous terror that the time would be too short after all.

At length Holy Week came, and her mother took her to Florence to hear the preaching of the Passion at the great church of Saint Reparata. It was a new life to Dominica: seated by her mother’s side, she drank in every word of the impassioned eloquence of the preacher; and with her usual innocence, believed that Christ would really visibly appear, and suffer before the eyes of the people as He did on Calvary. And when the preacher said, “yesterday He was betrayed,” and “to-day He is led to death,” she believed he spoke literally; for she had not learnt to understand metaphors better than when, a child of four years old, she had desired to know the kind of bed that the angels slept on. And, indeed, the spectacle was given to her eyes, and she saw the scene of the Crucifixion, and how Mary stood beneath the Cross, and how Nicodemus took down the Sacred Body and laid it in her arms. She saw it, as it were, in the midst of the crowd of people who stood round her, and wondered how they looked so unconcerned; and she herself longed to push her way through them to get nearer to her dying Lord; but the crowd kept her back. Then, when she got back to her own room at home, she knelt down to think of what she had witnessed; and the Blessed Virgin appeared to her, and taught her that it had been but a vision, and one revealed to her alone, and not to the people. Dominica then told her all her fears that her preparation had been too short; that our Lord would certainly never allow her to come to Him; and that she was so unworthy and unfit to communicate, she should drive Him out of the church. But Mary comforted her, and assured her that the tears of contrition she had shed were all the preparation He required.

When Dominica heard this she was a little consoled; yet her fear lest the Sacred Host should indeed fly from her as unworthy was so great, that she spent Holy Saturday in incessant prayer, promising pilgrimages, fasts on bread and water, and every devotion she could remember, if only our Lord would deign to remain with her on the following day. Thus the whole night passed, and in the morning she went, pale and trembling to the church to receive Holy Communion with her mother.

Her agitation increased every moment; but at length it was her turn to go up to the alter steps. She did so, and the priest came to her and pronounced the customary words; but she did not seem to hear him: he bent down over her to rouse her from her stupor; and it was not till he had shaken her by her dress that she was sufficiently recovered to receive. Yet this was not an emotion of terror, but an ecstasy of joy; for at that moment her fears and scruples had been removed by the sight of the Sacred Host, not flying from her as she had feared, but shining like a glorious sun, whose brilliant rays overpowered her by their excessive lustre.

It would be tedious to give in detail any thing like a faithful narration of the ecstasies with which from this time she was favoured every time she communicated. They were so wonderful and so numerous, that we are assured she made a vow by which she obliged herself never to move from the spot where she knelt; and that she did this in order to control the impulse which urged her to cast herself at the feet of her Lord, whom she saw in so glorious a shape whenever the Sacred Host was elevated before her eyes.

Time went on, and Dominica was no longer a child. With womanhood came the cares and charge of the entire family; for her mother, seeing her grave, diligent, and prudent, left every thing in her hands, and troubled herself with none of the household duties. With unmurmuring obedience Dominica accepted every thing that was laid on her; she swept and washed the house, cooked the food, washed the clothes, looked after the garden and the horses, and saw to every thing which was sent to the market. Long before break of day she had to be up to load the mules, and give them in charge to her brother Leonard. When they came home late in the evening, it was she, tired with her innumerable labours, who had to take them to the stable and make up their stalls. Not a moment of her time but was filled up with hard bodily work and fatigue; yet, thanks to the habits of her childhood, she knew how to infuse into all these the spirit of prayer; and her incessant occupations never put a stop to the devotions and austerities which she had accustomed herself to practise; nay, she found means to make them assist her in her mortification. She contrived two crosses of wood garnished with sharp nails, which she constantly wore in such a way, that at every movement of the body, in washing, sweeping, and working in the garden, the nails pressed into the flesh; and so constantly reminded her of the sufferings of her Lord, even when externally engaged in the commonest employments of her peasant life.

But in spite of the way in which she strove to do all in and for God, she secretly sighed after the retirement of the desert or the cloister, and for space and time to pour out her soul in that fulness of contemplation and love which swelled like a deep ocean within it. When she was fifteen, she accidentally heard the history of Saint Mary Magdalen for the first time; and the account of her retirement and long penance in the desert of Marseilles made an impression on her mind which was never effaced. She longed to imitate her, and to find some secret place where she might commence a similar life. Believing this desire to be the vocation of God, she accordingly determined on the experiment; and secretly leaving her mother’s house one night, she went on foot to a neighbouring mountain, and entered a thick wood, where she hoped to find some cavern where she might take up her abode. Her first adventure was the meeting with a wolf; but Dominica knelt down on the earth, not without some secret emotions of terror, and recommended herself to God; after which she rose, and commanded the animal in God’s name to depart without hurting her, which he did, and she pursued her wav without further alarm. At length, near the Valle del Monte, she found such a spot as she was in search of. There was a grotto sunk in the rocky side of the mountain, and near its mouth ran a stream of crystal water. It was the very picture of a hermitage; and Dominica’s happiness was complete. She immediately prepared to take up her night’s lodging in her grotto. But alas! picturesque and inviting as it seemed, it was very small; so small, that when the fervent little devotee had crawled into it, and knelt down to give vent to her joy and thankfulness, she found it impossible to get her whole body into its shelter; but her feet remained outside, and what was worse, dipping into the cold water of the stream. These inconveniences, however, were neither cared for nor even noticed by Dominica. She was alone with God, and that was enough for her. Three days and nights she spent in her little cavern, absorbed in ecstatic contemplation, and without food of any kind; but on the third day a voice spoke to her, and roused her from her long trance of silent happiness. “Dominica,” it said, “rise and come forth; I have already forgiven thee thy sins.” At these words she rose and left her cavern, and beheld a beautiful sight. The Valle del Monte was before her, at she had seen it the evening of her arrival; there was not a human habitation to be seen, nothing but the green woods which clothed the mountain side, and the clear waters of the little stream, and the rocky summits of the hills which rose above the trees. But all these objects were now lit up by a wonderful light, brighter than that of the sun which fell on them from heaven. It grew every moment more and more dazzling, and then she saw in the midst the form of her Divine Lord, attended by his Blessed Mother and a vast company of angels. He spoke again, “Dominica, what seekest thou here, amid these rocks and woods?” “I have been seeking Thee, O Lord,” she replied, “and it seems to me that I have found Thee.” “But,” returned her Spouse, “when I chose thee for my divine espousal, it was not to do thine own will, nor to enjoy aught else than My good pleasure, in doing which thou shalt alone find peace. I have not called thee to the quietude of the desert, but that thou shouldst help me to bear My cross in the great city yonder,—the heavy cross which sinners make for Me by their sins. Hereafter shalt thou see My face in heaven and contemplate Me there for ever; but for the present moment, return to thy mother’s house, and wait for the manifestation of My will.” “I go,” said Dominica; “yet I know not what I can do for Thee in the world; I am nothing but a poor peasant girl, who have been brought up among beasts and oxen. Moreover, if I go back, my mother will certainly beat me, for I have been away three days.” “Fear nothing,” was the answer; “for an angel has taken thy form, and they do not know of thine absence.”

Then Dominica found herself transported, she knew not how, back to her own little room in her mother’s house; and whilst she still wondered, she heard her brother’s voice calling hastily to her from below to come and help unload the mules. Dominica obeyed; but she was not a little confused, when on coming down he began to ask her about some money which he had given her the evening before. She knew of no money,—for, indeed, it had been given not to her, but to the angel in her likeness; and she would have been sorely puzzled how to satisfy his demands, if the angel had not discovered to her the place where the money was placed. And so her absence remained a secret to the family; nor were the circumstances ever revealed, until many years after, when, a short time before her death, her confessor obliged her under obedience to reveal all the graces with which God had favoured her.

At length, in her twentieth year, Dominica resolved to leave the world altogether and enter religion. Her wish was not opposed by her mother, and she entered as lay-sister in the Augustinian convent at Florence. The sisters received her very warmly, for her character for holiness and her discretion and industry were well known to them; and they immediately employed her, much to their own satisfaction, in the garden and kitchen; and kept her so constantly and laboriously occupied, that poor Dominica found that she had even less time for her exercises of prayer than when at home. She endeavoured to make up for the loss by secretly rising at night; but when this was discovered, the Superior, with a mistaken charity, would send her to bed again, saying that after all her hard day’s work she needed rest; not perceiving that the real rest she required was time for her soul to commune with God. Dominica, therefore, became very unhappy; and one day as she was digging in the garden she heard a mournful voice speak plainly and articulately by her side, saying, “Ah, My spouse! why hast thou left Me thus?” And it seemed to her that it was the voice of her Lord, who tenderly expostulated with her for suffering the intercourse which had so closely bound them together to be broken and interrupted by so many occupations. She threw the spade on the ground, and sitting down, covered her face with her hands and wept bitterly. Was it never to end, this life of many cares? It seemed as though her soul, which was struggling to rise into the serene and quiet atmosphere of contemplation, was ever destined to be kept down amid cares and labours from which she could not escape, and which yet seemed, as it were, to separate her from her Lord. So long as it had been His will, she had never resisted nor complained; but now it was not His will. He had said so; and the sweet sorrowful tone pierced her very heart, as she dwelt on the words, and the accent in which they were uttered,—”Ah! why hast thou left Me thus?” And as she wept and prayed and sorrowed, yet saw no way of escape, the same voice spoke again; but now they were words of comfort and encouragement: “Be at peace, Dominica; God will follow His own will, and you shall be comforted.” And, indeed, a short time after she was attacked by a sickness, which compelled the sisters to send her back to her mother’s house; and though on recovering she returned to them, yet she was again taken ill, and again forced to leave. A third time her mother took her back to the convent; but Dominica knew that it was not God’s wish that she should receive the Augustinian habit: and the nuns themselves seemed to feel that this was the case; though, as they well knew her worth and sanctity, it cost them many regrets before they could consent to her finally leaving their community. She returned home, therefore; and now, with the advice of her confessor, entered on a life of strict religious retirement in her mother’s house, until the designs of God regarding her should be more plainly manifested.

The manner of this new life was not a little remarkable. Next to the room where her mother slept was a little rubbish-closet, scarcely large enough to stand in; this she cleared from its rubbish, and chose for her cell. The constant sickness and infirmities which she suffered after her illnesses at the convent prevented her from going out at night and contemplating the heavens, as had been her custom when a child. But she retained her old love for them, and contrived to make a little heaven of blue paper on the roof of her closet, and to cover it with gold stars; which, though but a poor substitute for an Italian sky—that sea of deep liquid sapphire, wherein float the bright stars, looking down like the eyes of the seraphim,—yet doubtless had its charm to the simple taste of its designer; and at any rate it reminded her, during the hours of her prayer, of the beautiful days of her childhood, when the heavens opened to her wondering eyes, and she became familiar with its inhabitants, and thought to get nearer to them and to her Lord by climbing on the roof of the house. Then at one end of the closet was a small altar, and on it a crib, and a representation of Mary, and the Divine Child lying on the straw,—much after the fashion of those still in common use among the peasants of Italy; for she always bore a special devotion to the mystery of the Infancy. A stool before the altar, a wooden bench, and two boxes, completed the furniture of her cell. There was no bed: she allowed herself but two hours’ sleep; and this refreshment, such as it was, was taken on the floor, with her head leaning on the stool, when she lay down in this way, the straightness of the closet preventing her from taking any position that was not painful or constrained.

Yet this strange prison, which she never left save to go to the neighbouring Church of the Bridgetines to hear Mass, was a paradise in Dominica’s eyes; for here, at least, she was left at peace and with God. She kept a continual silence, and divided her time between prayer and work with her needle; and so perfect a mistress was she in all kinds of embroidery, that she obtained large sums of money by her labour. This she left in her mother’s hands, who was thus well satisfied to leave her undisturbed in the possession of her little closet, whilst the profits of her daily labours kept the house. The austerity she practised extended to every kind of bodily denial. Her food was bread and water, taken so sparingly, that we are assured she sometimes spent a week without drinking at all: when she ate any thing, it was on her knees, as she bound herself ever to accompany the necessary refreshment of the body with interior meditation on the Passion. After some little time, she was moved to give the proceeds of her labour no longer to her mother, but to distribute them in alms to the poor; and feeling this inspiration to be the will of God, she immediately executed it, greatly to her mother’s dissatisfaction and her own discomfort; for all the indulgence and toleration she had received at her hands so long as the profits of her work were at the disposal of the family, were now turned into sharp reproaches. Dominica, however, cared very little for the sufferings which her resolution brought on her; for God did not fail to evince His pleasure in many ways.

She was accustomed to wear the Bridgetine habit, with the consent of the nuns; not as belonging to their community, but because it was deemed advisable that she should have the protection and sanction of some outward religious habit in her present mode of life. As she returned one morning from church, a miserable beggar met her and asked an alms She had nothing to give him; yet, rather than send him away without any relief, she took the veil from her head, and giving it to him, continued her way. But presently she felt a great scruple at what she had done; the veil was part of her religious habit; and she accused herself of a great fault in appearing in the public roads without it, so as possibly to scandalise the passers by, and be taken for one who mocked the holy garb of religion. But as these thoughts passed in her mind, there met her a man, the surpassing beauty and nobleness of whose countenance revealed him to be her Lord. He carried in his hand the veil she had just given away; and throwing it over her head,—” Henceforth,” He said, “My spouse, shalt thou have the poverty thou desirest, and shalt live for ever on alms, and as a pilgrim in the world, as I did.” From this time she redoubled her labours in order to obtain large means for the purpose of charity, and besides this, spent much of her time in nursing and tending the sick, as well as relieving them by her alms; and whenever she did this, her own sicknesses and pains were for a time suspended, and she found herself endowed with strength sufficient for the most extraordinary fatigues and exertions.

It was during her residence at home, in her twenty-fourth year, that she received the sacred stigmata. These were not bloody, as in so many cases; but the exact form of the nails appeared in the flesh of the hands and feet; the head protruding on the upper part, and the point coming out in the palms and soles. The crown of thorns was not visible in like manner, though the pain of her head in the part which corresponded to its position was excessive; but very often, in after years, her spiritual children in the monastery of her foundation saw, as she prayed, how the crown appeared round her head in light, and bright rays came out from it and formed its points. Dominica strove to conceal the favour she had received, by wearing long sleeves to hide her hands; but the nails were so large and distinct, that it was impossible to prevent the fact from being known and observed by many. After a while, in answer to her earnest prayer, this extraordinary formation of the nails in the flesh disappeared, and the scars of the wounds alone remained, causing her excessive agony, which redoubled every Friday and during Passion-tide. At length, in her forty-fourth year, the wounds became invisible; but the pain of them continued during her whole life.

She remained at home for three years after the reception of the sacred stigmata. They were years of continual suffering and persecution. The violence and coarse selfishness of her mother’s nature was vented on her in every way and on all occasions. She was made the object of the most bitter reviling, and had to listen to a torrent of abuse, and what was worse, of blasphemous cursing, whenever she appeared in her presence. Once her mother threw her so violently against the wall as to cause her to rupture a blood vessel; yet she bore all meekly and uncomplaining, until at length some friends who lived at Florence, having asked her to take up her abode with them, it was revealed to her that she should remove thither, which she accordingly did. The change of residence, however, brought her little or no relief from persecution; for after a few months, the women with whom she was staying, moved by some jealousy, or disgusted at the retired manner in which she lived, and refused to go about with them or join in their way of life, accused her of every crime they could imagine, and even attempted to poison her. Her mother, hearing of the sufferings to which she was exposed, was moved with a very natural contrition for her own cruelty to her, and set out for Florence to see her, and if possible remove her from the house.

Unable to obtain admission, she had recourse to one of the canons of the city, and implored him to take her daughter under his protection, and defend her against the cruel restraint and persecution to which she was exposed in her present residence. By his interference she was allowed to leave; and a charitable gentleman of Florence, named Giovanni, to whom the circumstances of the case were known, received her into his own home, where she—lived very peaceably for some time. In all these most painful and disturbing changes in her life, Dominica’s tranquillity and resignation remained unmoved. She knew that the will of God had its own designs regarding her, and that these were not yet manifested; but until they were, she was content with whatever was assigned her, and received ill treatment, abandonment, and the desolate destiny of passing from one strange home to another, with an astonishing calmness and indifference. Her position in Giovanni’s house was a very singular one. His wife was a weak and indolent woman, and with little religious character about her; she was the first of the family, however, over whom Dominica’s influence was felt. In a short time her habits of vanity and self-indulgence were laid aside; and she began to pray night and morning, and to attend Mass, which till then she had neglected. Then one of the sons, who was to all outward seeming given up to the thoughtless dissipation of his age, and had always neglected his religious duties, was won over by her, and began a new life. Giovanni himself soon saw what sort of a person he had brought into his house, and that he was in fact entertaining an angel unawares. He therefore insisted on her taking the entire government of the family; and Dominica consented, with the characteristic simplicity which would have made her undertake the government of a kingdom, if her guardian-angel had assured her it was the wish of God. Whilst she ruled and directed them, however, in things spiritual, she herself did the servile work of the house, and waited on them in the humblest and most submissive manner. She never affected any other position than that o£ a simple peasant girl; but every one who came within her influence felt its power over them, and owned her as their mistress and mother.

It was whilst living in this way that God revealed to her that she was no longer to remain concealed and retired from the world; but that He was about to make her the spiritual mother of many daughters, and to do great things for His own glory through her means. Now Dominica was naturally of a very timid and bashful disposition; and when she heard of being brought before the eyes of the world, and called on to teach and guide others, she knew not what to think. Her diffidence, and what we should call shyness, was naturally so great, that she would turn pale if she had to speak to any one she did not know familiarly, and always at such times suffered from violent beatings of the heart. Therefore, when she considered the great things laid before her, she felt sad and a little frightened, and spoke to God with her usual simple frankness, saying, “O my Lord, how can this be? I am nothing but a vile peasant; the heart in my breast is a poor contemptible thing, that has no courage in it; my blood is peasant’s blood; I am not fit for these great things unless you change it.” Then God answered, saying, “And I will change it, and will give you a noble and magnanimous heart; wherefore prepare for keen and terrible sufferings; for it is by them that your heart and blood is to be purged and renovated, and fitted for My service in the eyes of men.”

Scarcely had the vision ended, when Dominica felt the approach of the sufferings which had been promised; pain in every part of her body, a continual hemorrhage of blood, which seemed to drain every vein, and deadly faintings and weakness, reduced her almost to extremity. Then, after she had languished in this state for many weeks, a vision appeared to her of the same mysterious and significant kind as that related in the life of Saint Catherine of Sienna. Our Lord took her heart from her breast, and supplied its place with one of burning fire. She rose from her sick-bed, and felt her whole nature renewed; every sense was quickened, and the powers of her mind enlarged and ennobled; nay, her very body seemed already to share in the glory of the resurrection. It gave out a wonderful odour, which communicated itself to every thing which it touched. Her sight was so miraculously keen that she could see to embroider in the darkest night, and many new senses seemed given her; whilst those of smell and touch and hearing were also renewed in an equally extraordinary degree. But, at the same time, she lost the bodily vigour which had before enabled her to go through so many hard days’ labour; and with her new heart she seemed also to have acquired a new and delicate bodily temperament which utterly incapacitated her for work, whilst she seemed to be wholly immersed in divine and interior contemplation. A strange eloquence was now heard to flow from her lips, the infused wisdom and science of the saints was in her words; nay, she would often quote and explain sentences of the holy Fathers, or of the Scriptures, which it is certain she had never read or heard read. In short, God had bestowed on her the gift which He deemed necessary to fit her for the design He had regarding her; and still, with all the marvellous spiritual riches which she had acquired, she retained in her ways and thoughts and habits the old simplicity of the peasant child.

The first of the spiritual daughters given her by God was Giovanni’s eldest child, who at her persuasion embraced the life of religion, and placed herself under her obedience. The second soon followed her example; and soon after a third. Another daughter, Catherine, still remained; like her mother, she was of a thoughtless and indolent character, much given to the vanities of her age, and the foolish pleasures of the world about her. She was accustomed to ridicule and mock at the conversion of her three sisters, and to hinder and disturb them in their religious practices; in short, she was about as hopeless a subject for Dominica to exercise her influence upon as might well be imagined. But one Christmas-day Dominica called her into her little oratory, and first turning to the crucifix, and spending a moment in silent prayer, she laid her hand on her breast, and said, “O hard and evil heart, be softened and yield to thy God; and bend to my will, which is, that thou be the heart of a saint!” Three days after this Catherine presented herself with her sisters, and implored Dominica to take her also under her teaching to convert the brothers; but by degrees she succeeded in persuading all to devote themselves to a holy and religious life; and the eldest, taking the habit of Saint Dominic, lived and died in the order with the reputation of sanctity.

Her confessor about this time counselled her herself to take the habit of the third order; and the matter having been agreed upon, he provided a tunic and mantle of the usual kind for her clothing, and appointed a certain day for her to come to the Convent of Saint Mark and receive it with the customary ceremonies. The circumstances which followed have a very marvellous character, yet there seems no reason to doubt the accuracy and reality of what is narrated. We are told that, on the morning of the day appointed, she being in prayer, was rapt in ecstasy; and in this state she saw Saint Catherine and Saint Dominic enter her room with the white tunic in their hands. Saint Dominic himself gave it to her, pronouncing the words and prayer according to the rite of his order,—the responses being given by Saint Catherine and the angels; and her guardian- angel gave the aspersion of holy water, first to the habit, and then to her; and Saint Catherine received her as her daughter, and gave her the kiss of welcome. When she recovered from her ecstasy, she found herself really clothed in the sacred habit which had been thus wonderfully given her; and, full of joy, she appeared with it in public in the afternoon of the same day. This was a cause of great displeasure to the authorities of the order, who complained that she had assumed their habit without being regularly admitted into their society. The affair was brought before the Master-General, at that time Vio di Cajetan; and the complaint appearing just, he called on her either to lay it aside, or to explain the authority by which she wore it. The account she gave of the whole matter so satisfied the Archbishop of Florence of her sincerity and holiness, that he undertook to mediate in her behalf; and it was at length agreed that she should keep the habit, provided that she and her companions wore a red cross on the left shoulder, to denote that she had been clothed without the sanction of the ordinary authorities of the order, and was not subject to its jurisdiction; and, in fact, they did so wear it for six years, when, the Convent of the Holy Cross being established, they were afterwards fully admitted to the rights and privileges of the order.

After this point was settled, Dominica’s next step was to retire with her little band of followers (which now included several others besides the daughters of Giovanni) to a small house, where they lived a regular life, supporting themselves by the labour of their hands. In time their gains increased to so wonderful a degree, that they found themselves enabled to purchase a more convenient residence, and then to enlarge it, and finally to rebuild it in the form of a cross. In short, in the course of a few years she saw herself at the head of a large community, possessed of a regular and extensive house, with a church attached to it, without any other means having been employed in its erection than the money which she and her sisters had earned by their own needlework. The Archbishop of Florence (the celebrated Julius de Medici, afterwards Pope) was so struck with the manifest expression of God’s will in the whole matter, that he obtained permission from Leo X. for the regular foundation of the convent under the rule of Saint Dominic. They were all solemnly clothed on the 18th of November, 1515, and proceeded to the election of their prioress. Their choice of course fell on Dominica, but she absolutely refused to accept the office; and used a power given her by the papal brief to nominate another sister in her place, whilst she determined to retain for herself the rank and duties of a lay-sister.

The ceremony of the clothing and election being therefore over, she made a solemn renunciation of the house and all it contained into the hands of the Archbishop-Vicar. Then she left the sisters, and went to the kitchen; and coming there, she sent all the other lay-sisters away, saying, it belonged to her to do what had to be done for the community for the first week of their settlement. She cooked the dinner, and sent it to the refectory; and whilst the sisters were sitting at table, she entered the room with a number of broken pieces of earthenware tied round her neck, and knelt humbly in the middle of them all, as one doing penance. The feelings of her children at this sight may be imagined; there was a universal stir; three or four rose from table, and would have placed themselves by her side. The prioress endeavoured to restore order; but the meal was broken by the sobs and sighs of the whole community. When dinner was over, she tried to return to her work in the kitchen; but the feelings of the sisters could no longer be restrained; they ran after her, and threw themselves at her feet. “Mother, mother,” they cried, “it is a mother we want, not a saint; a guide, and not a servant,—this cannot be suffered.” But Dominica tried to quell them, and to persuade them to let it be even as she desired; her entreaties, however, were in vain. They left her, and with the Prioress met together to consider what should be done; and it was determined that the Vicar should be called on to use his authority with Dominica, and bring her under obedience to take the office of Superior,—which, in short, she was compelled to do, with the title of Vicaress; for she persevered in refusing to be instituted Prioress.

When the time came for the profession of the new community, Dominica obtained permission from the Pope to defer her own profession; only to bind herself by a simple vow to wear the habit of the third order, and keep the rule of Saint Dominic. Does the reader wish to know the motive she had for soliciting this singular privilege? He must go back some twenty years, and recall the time when the story of Saint Mary Magdalen’s retirement to the deserts of Marseilles had sent the little peasant child into the woods, to spend three happy days and nights in a hermit’s cave too small to contain her, but which she considered as a Paradise; and where she would have been well content to have remained all her life, if such had been the wish of God. At thirty years of age, Dominica was still the same. Her simplicity had a touch of what one might call romance about it, and she had never forgotten her great project of a hermitage. She would not be bound to the Convent of the Holy Cross therefore, because she still hoped the time might come when she might find out the desert of Marseilles, and realise the life of penance and retirement, the account of which had made so deep an impression on her imagination. When she saw herself threatened with a perpetual appointment as Vicaress, she accordingly resolved to fly at once, and did actually escape by one of the windows, and set out towards Marseilles in the habit of a pilgrim. The community again had recourse to the Vicar, who sent a peremptory order for her return under pain of excommunication; and the messenger who carried it found her laid up in a little village with a swelling of both feet, which had put a speedy stop to her pilgrimage, and which she herself acknowledged to be the declaration that it was not God’s will she should proceed in her design. She was therefore compelled to return and reassume the government of her convent, in which office she continued until she died in 1553.

With the circumstances which attended her death we must conclude. For months she had lain on a miserable pallet, unable to move or rise, and with the appearance of a living skeleton. But when Easter Day came, she felt it was the last she should spend with her Sisters, and determined to keep the festival with them all in community. She therefore caused herself to be carried to the chair, where she communicated with them. She took her dinner in the refectory, and afterwards held a chapter, where, after briefly and touchingly exhorting them to fidelity to their Spouse, she gave them her last blessing. Then, in order to assure them in the peaceable possession of their convent, she determined to make her solemn profession, which had never yet been done, in conformity, we are assured, to the express revealed permission of God. She lingered on until the following August, and on the 5th of that month fell into her agony. When the last moment came, she raised herself on the pallet, and extended her arms in the form of the cross. Her face shone with a bright and ruddy colour, and her eyes were dazzling with a supernatural light; and so, without any other death-struggle than a gentle sigh, she expired, at the age of eighty years. Her life has been written at length by F. Ignatius Nente; but the principal facts were drawn up by the Abbess of Florence very shortly after her decease, at the instance of the Grand Duchess of Lorraine, and forwarded to Rome, to form the process for her beatification.