197. ST. Catherine of Siena. Part two
We were discussing the conversion of Raymond of Capua.
Initially, in 1374, he was skeptic of her numerous visions and her endless torrent of words about God. Was she imagining all these visions? I quote Raymond: “…… I feel myself obliged to reveal things………so no incredulous person may say, “She was the only person…….there were no witnesses….she is simply giving her own account…..perhaps her account is not true….she could have been mistaken or be telling lies.”
I quote Raymond:
“It occurred to me that if I could be certain that Catherine’s prayer had brought me a great and unaccustomed contrition for my sins it should be perfect proof that all her actions were guided by the Holy Spirit….because only Holy Spirit can do that.”. He went to Catherine and begged her to pray for him and ask God specially to forgive his sins.”She said she would be delighted to do so. He called it a ‘Bull’
Next morning he became sick and was confined to bed. She, with a companion came to see him, and as usual started talking about God. Raymond writes, “As she was talking….there came before my mind an unusual vision of my sins. I saw myself naked before the judgment seat of God…….Under the effect of these reflections , or rather utterly clear visions, ……I burst into tears so violently that I almost felt my heart would break….she stopped talking and let me cry and sob…… “ is this the Bull I asked yesterday?” I said”
“It is” She replied. Tapping me on the shoulder, she said, “Never forget the graces of God”
“This I say in the presence of God, knowing I do not lie”.
One morning he was called to her bedside. She was too sick to rise. She continued her several hours long previous night conversation about God. Let me quote Raymond: “What I heard was so extraordinary __ nothing of a like kind ever happens to anyone else. That I ungratefully forgot the first grace I had received through her (the Bull)…..I felt doubtful as to whether what she said was true. As I looked at her lying in bed, her face changed to that of a strange man who , fixing grave eyes upon me inspired me with great fear…………..I raised my hand and cried out “ Who are you, looking at me?” The virgin replied, “He who is.” Virgin’s face reappeared.
“I vow this is true As God is my witness”.
Raymond was not the only confessor and companion of Catherine. She had dozens of close disciples; men and women. They all considered her their fearless leader and sought her holy company. Apart from Raymond and Thomas, the other confessors and confidants were Tomasso Caffarini and Bartholomew Dominic; the later wrote valuable incidents of her life. Critics should pay particular attention to the word confessor, because confession is a sacrosanct religious ritual; Saint Catherine won’t be telling lies in confession, and confessors won’t be lying about her private conversations in the books.
Alessia, Lisa, and Cecca were her true female friends. They are always mentioned by the male writers. They stayed with her for most of her life till the day of her death, and took care of her body needs. Alessia arranged her whole life that she could be with her holy friend.
The extraordinary journey towards God of this saint started when she was approximately six years old. She was with her brother Stefano travelling over the lane of Valle Piatta when she happened to look up. She saw a beautiful bridal chamber hanging in the air. There was an imperial throne in it. Jesus Christ was sitting on it, dressed in monarchial papal attire. With him were the Apostles Peter and Paul and the holy evangelist John. The little girl gazed unblinkingly, uprooted to the ground. He looked directly in her eyes. Jesus came towards her and blessed her with making the sign of the Cross over her. She was taken out of her and entirely into Him. She became oblivious of herself and her surroundings and stood in the middle of the street. Meanwhile, Stefano had gone ahead, thinking that his sister was with him. When he realized that she was standing way behind, he shouted at her. But she did not move. He came back and shook her. She woke up, as if from a deep sleep, and said, “If you could see what I saw, you would not have been so cruel to disturb me.” She raised her eyes again but the vision had vanished. She burst into tears.
Let me analyze this vision with the additional knowledge of six centuries. It is clear that Jesus did not actually appear in the sky in a physical body because if that had been the case, everybody in the street would have seen Him sitting on the throne. This was an imaginary scene which only Catherine could see. Why? There are three possibilities:
To be continued
1. ‘The life of ST. Catherine of Siena’ by Blessed Raymond of Capua, Confessor to the saint. Translated by George Lamb.
2. ‘Catherine of Siena , a biography’ by Anne Baldwin