Dominican Saints 101: St. Agnes of Montepulciano

April 21, 2012

Altar of St. Agnes
St. Agnes of Montepulciano (1268-1317, feast day – April 20) became a cloistered Dominican nun after having spent time as a nun in monasteries which followed both the Franciscan and also the Augustinian ways of life.  Thanks to a vision in which St. Dominic claimed her as his own, St. Agnes founded a Dominican monastery in Montepulciano. Yet, St. Agnes’s life teaches us something else very important – the purpose of the Dominican nuns in the life of the Order.  With Dominicans, there are both  cloistered nuns as well as active sisters (who often teach).  St. Dominic founded the cloistered nuns before he founded the friars.  For 10 years, the nuns that St. Dominic had gathered prayed for St. Dominic and the men who eventually joined him in the holy preaching. The same is true even to this day.  Dominican cloistered nuns continue to pray and do penance for the work of the friars – the salvation of souls.  One author put it this way:

The primary object of the Order of Preachers is to preach the Word of God and to save souls.  Saint Dominic also instilled into his first daughters this apostolic spirit; so much so that by common consent they came to be known as Sisters Preacheresses.  To accomplish the salvation of souls through the medium of prayer and penance has ever been regarded by the sisters [i.e. cloistered nuns] as a primary duty.  They are to stand, Moses-like, on the mountain top with arms uplifted in supplication to aid those who fare forth on the apostolate to combat heresy and vice. (Dominican Saints, 189)

St. Agnes of Montepulciano exemplified this during her life.  She lived a life of intimate prayer with the Lord.  He bestowed many gifts on her including ‘snowflakes’ shaped like crosses and flowers from heaven while she would pray.  He also gave her a crucifix which He wore around His neck.  She likewise had a great love of penance and devotion to Christ’s passion.  She begged God’s mercy upon sinners, just like St. Dominic had done before her.  In both of these ways, she was able to unite her prayers and penances to the work of the salvation of souls, particularly by being in a monastery attached to the Dominican friars whose very goal it was, and still is, to preach for the salvation of souls. St. Agnes continues to exemplify the Dominican charism, as she still intercedes for all of us from heaven.  May God open our hearts to the graces He wishes to bestow on us through her intercession. O God, you were pleased often to shed a heavenly dew over the blessed Agnes, your virgin, and to adorn with various fresh-blown flowers the places where she prayed; mercifully grant, through her intercession, that we be sprinkled with the unfailing dew of your blessing and be made fit to receive the fruits of immortality.  Through Christ our Lord.

More News & Events