FEAST OF SAINT CATHERINE OF RICCI
FEAST DAY – 13th FEBRUARY
Catherine of Ricci was born to a well-known wealthy family in Florence, Italy, on 23 April, 1522, and baptized with the name Alexandrina. She is believed to have had miraculous visions and corporeal encounters with Jesus, both the infant Jesus and the adult Jesus. She is said to have spontaneously bled with the wounds of the crucified Christ. She is venerated for her mystic visions and is honored as a saint by the Catholic Church.
When her mother died, Catherine was brought up by a loving and devoted stepmother, who immediately recognized the holiness and sanctity of her charge. Even in infancy, Catherine would spend long periods of time in solitary prayer, and her stepmother encouraged this trait in her daughter. In her youth, Catherine was determined to join a religious order, but none she encountered were serious enough for her. She found that the rules were not stringent enough to stress devotion to the Lord.
At age fourteen, when she found what she wanted, Catherine entered the Dominican convent of San Vincenzo in Tuscany. Her initial years in the convent were marked by suffering and a lot of indignity at the hands of the community. Her paranormal gifts of mysticism were not misunderstood, but gradually, her sisters came to acknowledge her faith, humility, and service to others. Shortly thereafter she was chosen as Mistress of Novices, and at age 25, her calling was embraced by the community.
Catherine was made Perpetual Prioress of the Order at this young age, and served as counsel to many, including three future popes (Marcellus II, Clement VIII, and Leo XI). She corresponded supernaturally with Saint Philip Neri (“The Apostle of Rome, feast day: May 26), and she is also reported to have miraculously appeared to him in visions during his life (they had never met).
Throughout her life, Catherine endured countless physical illnesses and sufferings, the remedies offered at the time seemed only to intensify the severity of her symptoms. Despite her suffering, she maintained extreme fasting and penance, and is said to have worn a heavy iron chain around her neck in recognition of the chains of sin that Jesus atoned for the whole of humanity.
As Father Stephen Razzi, a Dominican Friar who knew her, wrote in 1594, “Her obedience, humility, and meekness were still more admirable than her spirit of penance.” She was known for tending to the poor, sick, and ill, and for traveling the entire countryside on her knees in service and humility to others. Saint Catherine’s experience of the Passion of Our Lord transpired over twelve years, until she and the community prayed for it to stop.
The recognition and the visitors the convent was gaining due to her ecstasy was disruptive to the Rules of the Order.
During her weekly encounters, her body was tortured, allowing her sisters to follow the Passion step by step. Catherine would bleed as if being scourged, her forehead would run with blood as if she were being crowned with thorns, a large indentation on her shoulder appeared where Jesus had carried the cross. She suffered the stigmata and bled from a wound in her side where the lance had been thrust.
During these moments of bitter passion, and other periods of deeply penitential prayer, a coral ring would appear on Catherine’s finger, a sign of her marriage to the suffering of Christ. During her first ecstatic experience, she was presented with The Canticle of the Passion by Our Blessed Mother—a prayer which Mary urged her to share with others, so that they, too, may contemplate the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Saint Catherine died on 2nd February, 1589, her body having endured both the trauma of the Passion, as well as a long illness. Her remains repose in the Convent of San Vincenzo where the Dominican Order still serves the Lord and the world. She was beatified by Pope Clement XII in 1732, and canonized on 29 June 1746, Rome, Papal States, by Pope Benedict XIV in a spectacular ceremony for which a magnificent ‘apparato’ was constructed. To celebrate the saint’s canonization, Domenico Maria Sandrini wrote a biography of the new saint.
Almighty God, you brought Saint Catherine to the highest magnitude of holiness, through her contemplation of our Lord’s passion. We commemorate the death and resurrection of your Son, beseeching your help so that we may become courageous preachers and teachers of the sacred mysteries.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen
Saint Catherine of Ricci, pray for us.