199. ST. Catherine of Siena. Part four
Catherine’s fame spread. She became known, as a saint, in the provinces of Tuscany and Lombardy. She was invited to preach in various villages and towns. She preached for six months in Pisa. Her fame spread to Florence, the second largest city in Italy. It reached the ears of Pope, who lived in Avignon. She visited the Pope in Avignon. She died in Rome, the largest city in Italy.
She changed from a girl who lived in her parent’s home and was not allowed to go out without escort, as was the custom in 14th century Italy for unmarried girls, to a fearless leader of men. In a society ruled by men, she commanded men. How did that happen? The clue to this riddle is provided succinctly by her biographer. The clue was her one important talk with Jesus. He invited her to open the door to other souls (so that Jesus could enter in them). Jesus said, “Do you remember that you wanted to dress as a man so that you could become a male friar? Now I want you to live out”. She was stunned with the idea of leaving the security of her cell and to enter public life
She replied, “But I am a woman and ignorant”
“In my eyes, there is neither male nor female…” He made a long speech which readers can find in the book (1). Thus, she was told to leave the sheltered life of her home, and work with others. She told Raymond, in confession, that when the Lord ordered her she felt such a sharp pain in her heart that it seemed as though it was going to burst. He said, “I wish to bind you more closely to myself, by means of love of the neighbor”.
She was told to join her family at the dining room table; a practice she had not done for years.
She took charge of the household chores. She talked of God with anybody who would listen. Some persons liked her talk. Soon a band of friends and followers developed around her. They would gather in her little room. They prayed together. They sang together. They listened to her when she was intimately talking to God. They would watch in amazement when she would go in ecstasy. Her body would become rigid like a statue. Sometimes she would be lifted up towards the ceiling.
Her fame spread by word of mouth of her followers. She exhibited miracles. She helped the poor. She cured the sick. She would go to the hospital, in the night, carrying a lantern. Sometimes she would stay in the hospital for the whole night. They gave her a room in the hospital.
Now let me give some more details about the five aspects of her life which I mentioned in the beginning, in blog 196.
Miracles. She performed hundreds of miracles. It is difficult to classify them. Let us see. Here is my crude classification:
1. Curing the sick
2. Reading thoughts
3. Knowing of somebody else’s secret from the past
4. Saw people coming to visit her while still at a distance
5. Heard a person miles away calling her for help
7. Multiplication of edibles
8. Influencing the minds of persons, near and far.
9. Her face changed
10. Inanimate things obeyed her
11. Miracles after death
13. Not burnt by fire
14. Driving out evil spirits
I have not included the miracles which nobody else could see. Like her visions, her ring, a garment from Jesus, her stigmata, and her conversations with Jesus. Her ability to read (though illiterate), and her knowledge of Bible (though she did not have a teacher), if not miracles, are miraculous. How to classify ecstasy and rapture?
The story of her curing her own mother, Lapa, is most amazing. Lapa was an intensely worldly person and hated to die. She became very sick. On her mother’s urging, Catherine pleaded with the Lord to cure her. The Lord answered that it would be better for her to die now and be spared of all the miseries that she would otherwise have to endure. The virgin went to her mother and told her to resign herself to the impending death. Lapa was inconsolable. She asked her daughter to do anything she possibly could to prevent her death. Catherine implored the Lord with all her might. Finally Lord said, “tell your mother,…..that the time will come when she will beg for death, and it will not come”. Lapa did not even confess
God suddenly permitted her to die without confession. Catherine was beside herself with grief that Lapa had died without any sacraments of the Church.
She felt cheated by the Lord. She vowed not to move from that place till her mother was returned to her alive.
There were three women witnesses (whose names Raymond gives and were still alive when Raymond wrote his book) present at that time who saw the death of Lapa and heard the Virgin’s words.
The Virgin prayed and prayed at the bedside with copious tears. After a short time, suddenly, Lapa’s body began to move. She recovered completely and lived till the age of eighty-nine.
So many misfortunes fell on Lapa, that she used to say, “But why has Lord put my soul back in my body. ….so many of my dear relatives have died….Am I alone not allowed to die…..?”
To be continued