Saturday, March 26, 2016


204. ST. Catherine of Siena. Part nine


Saint Catherine’s confessor Fra Tommaso and Friar Giorgio Naddi were travelling together.  They were followed by a band of robbers. Soon the brigands waylaid them and removed them from their horses. They took all their possessions. To hide their robbery they talked between themselves of killing them and burying their bodies in the jungle. Friars promised that they won’t disclose this deed to a soul, but it had no effect on the miscreants. No human help was available. In desperation, Fra Tomasso called, “O sweetest daughter …..Come to our aid in this tremendous danger”.

He had not finished his call for help when one of the robbers suddenly burst out with the words, “why should we kill these good friar, they won’t breathe to a soul”. They talked some more. Then they not only spared their lives but returned all their possessions and horses. As I have already mentioned Catherine was twenty-four miles away with a companion. At the very moment Father Tommaso called, Catherine said, “My father is calling me, and I know he is in great distress”. She got up and went to a place where she prayed.

Prophecies. In 1375, most of the cities and lands that belonged to the Roman Church rebelled against Pope Gregory X1. One day the news of insurrection of Perugia came while Raymond and Catherine were sitting together in Pisa. They were both saddened by the news.  Then Catherine said, “But this is nothing as compared to what is going to come”.

“You mean something worse than this is going to happen”

“Yes! A time is going to come when there will be a schism in the Roman Church. It will break into two”

Father Raymond was horrified by the thought of breakup of Christendom.

Catherine said, “Those will be terrible times. You will be alive when this happens, so you will be a witness to the events”

When the schism occurred in the reign of the next Pope, I reminded Catherine of her prophecy years ago in Pisa. Catherine said that even worse things are going to happen in the border areas.

Raymond asked her that what will happen to the Holy Church.

She replied, “After all these disasters, God will purify the Church. It will rise and shine to greater glories”

Things happened as she had predicted.

Multiplication of edibles. There was a great famine in Siena. A time came when fresh wheat became unavailable. People were obliged to eat old wheat/flour which had become moldy. Catherine was staying with her inseparable companion Alessia. They were eating bad wheat like everybody else. When the fresh crop came new wheat became available. Alessia decided to throw the small amount of moldy wheat away as the Lord had mercy on them. Catherine advised her not to throw the old one away, because Lord had made it. She advised her to give it to the poor, who did not even have that available to them. Alessia said that she did not want to do it because it will be on her conscience that she gave sour bread to the poor, she would rather give good wheat to the poor. Catherine said, “Bring me the moldy flour you want to throw and some water, I will make bread myself for the poor of Jesus”

She started making loaves from the moldy flour. Her speed of making was so fast that in a small amount of time she made large amount of loaves. As a matter of fact she made 4-5 times more loaves than would have been possible from the small amount of flour that was available. Everybody was amazed. They were sent to the bakehouse for cooking. Then they were eaten at the dinner table by everybody. There was nothing wrong with them. People remarked that they had never eaten such sweet bread.

That was not the end of the miracle.

Bread was distributed to the poor and the friars. The bin in which loaves were stored, kept on producing loaves for several weeks!

Thus God performed a miracle with three parts; Moldy bread was transformed to sweet bread, the amount of dough was increased, and numbers of loaves in the bin were multiplied.

When Raymond heard of this miracle he thought of investigating all the facts of this case. He asked holy virgin herself. She told him the following: “I was seized with the desire to help the poor and not to waste any food which Lord had made. I suddenly saw Blessed Mary and many holy spirits and angels in front of me. She asked me to proceed with the task and with her own most holy hands started making bread with me. The loaves increased in number due to her holiness.”

She was ordered to go to Rome by Pope Urban VI. Many persons accompanied her on this journey to Rome. They had gathered around her from all over the province of Tuscany. She was instructing these sons and daughters in the way of holiness.
To be continued

Saturday, March 19, 2016

203. ST. Catherine of Siena. Part eight

Andrea de’Bellanti was a young man notorious for his wild and blasphemous ways. He was a compulsive gambler and often lost money. After losing money he would curse God and blame Him. One time he went to a church and stomped on a crucifix and burned a picture of Blessed Mary. He became afflicted with a mortal sickness as a young man. That made him even bitterer. Father Tommaso used to plead with him but it was of no use. One time, discouraged, Tomasso stopped at Catherine’s house and asked her to pray for him with God. She started praying. Part of the prayer was ‘Did You not come to take away man’s sins,…..O Lord grant that my brother’s heart may be softened and made to yield to the working of Your Holy Spirit’

She prayed for the whole night.

She heard Lord’s promise.

“ I shall put away my sword of justice. This sinful man shall find the grace and favor you asked”

In the morning Andrea asked his wife to see a priest. She could not believe his words.

He told her the reason. He saw Jesus standing in the corner of his room along with Catherine. She asked him to go for confession. Father Tomasso rushed to Catherine to tell her the story but she already knew the details and could describe the inside of Andrea’s house. This story spread all over Siena. . People started asking the holy woman for intercession in their feuds

Nanni di Ser Vanni was an influential and evil man. His specialty was starting private feuds. He was like an agent of devil, causing malice and strife while outwardly pretending peace. There was a party who had killed a man of the opposite party. The guilty party wanted to make peace but Nanni was the obstacle. A holy man, Friar Williams, extracted a promise out of Nanni that he would go and listen to Catherine. He went to see Catherine but she was not at home. However, Father Raymond happened to be there. Father Raymond escorted him to the private room of the holy virgin, so that he should not go away. Nanni said that he had come to this place only because he had given a promise to Friar Williams to see Catherine, but he had no intention of generating peace in this fight, although he could cause peace if he wanted to, and he had not before told this secret that he did not want peace to any living soul. As he was about to leave Catherine came home. She made him sit and asked him why he had come. Nanni told the whole story which he had told to Raymond, again, stressing, that he did not want to make peace. Catherine told him that he was putting his soul in mortal danger. She cajoled and argued. Soon it was evident that his mind was closed and words were having no effect.

At that point she started silently praying, which Raymond could discern. Suddenly Nanni said, “I don’t want to be completely obstinate. I will make a concession. I have four feuds to settle. You can do whatever you want about one of them”. He gave details of that strife. “But now I must go.” But Instead of leaving he lingered. He said, “I already feel so peaceful” Then he said,” Lord God a power holds me. I cannot go and I cannot say no.” And he burst into tears.

He fell on his knees in front of Catherine. He said, “Holy virgin I will do as you say. Not only in this matter but in all matters.”

Meanwhile Catherine had gone into ecstasy.  She came to her senses and thanked the Lord. She said, “I could see that I was not succeeding. I prayed to the Lord. He at once heard my prayer. Now do the penance, if you do not want to run into anymore troubles”

Nanni completely turned his life around. He confessed his sins to Raymond.

For some reason he was arrested and was rumored to be beheaded. Father Raymond was very upset. He rushed to Catherine and said “Mother, as long as Nanni was with the devil he had marvelous life. Now that he has turned to God, his life has become very difficult”. Catherine consoled Raymond that may be he is being cleansed in this world instead of receiving punishment in the next world. But she assured him that Lord who had mercy on him in the first place will release him from prison also. Soon he was freed from prison as she had predicted, but he suffered monetarily. Then he became very sick. However, his devotion increased. He donated a castle to Catherine, which was converted to a convent called, “Holy Mary, Queen of the Angels”

Now an episode of what happened when someone in mortal danger called her for help twenty-four miles away.
To be continued.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

202. ST. Catherine of Siena. Part seven

Jesus Christ had given her a special power by which she could recognize the nature of a person. I quote: “…. I( Jesus ) give your soul a special illumination which will enable you to see the beauty or ugliness of all the souls that come to you……..and not only of the souls present before your eyes, but all whose salvation you ardently long for….even though you have never seen them.”

Raymond acted as an interpreter during the first meeting between Catherine and the Supreme Pontiff Gregory, because she could not speak Latin and he could not speak Italian. Catherine said that she could smell the stench of all the vices of hell in the Roman Court. The Pope on hearing this asked her that how long she had been at the Roman Court? I told him that she has been at the court only for few days. “How have you managed to learn so much?” The Pope asked.

Catherine attitude and demeanor suddenly changed. I saw it with my own eyes. She suddenly stood up. A majesty came in her posture. These words came forth from her mouth, “ To the honor of the Almighty God I dare to say that I could smell the sins being committed in the Roman Court better when I was in Siena where I was born than the people who committed the and are still committing them.”The Pope was speechless…..

She could sometimes see people coming to visit her from a distance. Two great scholars, Brother Gabriel, master of sacred theology, and Father John Tantucci, also a master of sacred theology, were discussing the miraculous stories circulating about Catherine. Brother Gabriel lived in fancy quarters and slept under silk sheets

“It is a scandal!” Brother Gabriel said. “She presumes to teach others. Can she read? Does she know scriptures? Who taught her? This ignorant woman can lead thousands astray. Perhaps Dominicans don’t know how to stop her, but we do. We should stop her for the good of the Holy Church.”. The two masters of sacred theology decided to pay Catherine a visit. Their aim was to reveal her lack of knowledge. They were going to ask her questions. They thought she won’t know the answers. Her ignorance will shame her in front of her followers

Catherine was talking with some friends. Suddenly she stopped talking and said, “Soon you will see two big fish caught in the net.” She started praying fervently. Soon a servant announced the arrival of the masters. She made them sit on a bench and herself sat at their feet. The two theologians were ready. First Brother Gabriel and then Father John fired questions. Catherine listened intently. When her turn came, she responded by lashing out at them. “How dare both of you live in such luxury”. She looked at Brother Gabriel directly and said, “How can you, a son of Saint Francis, live in such comfort and extravagance. How can you know kingdom of God. For the sake of Jesus Christ crucified abandon this mode of life”. She said many other similar things. The effect on the two scholars was nothing short of miraculous.

Brother Gabriel fell on his knees in front of her. He offered her the keys to his house and asked her to give everything in the house to the poor. He only wanted to keep the clothes on his back and the breviary. He was going to follow the example of Saint Francis from now onwards. He became a changed man. Soon he left his post as master-provincial and went to Florence where he waited on his fellow-friars and served them meals. Father Tantucci did not own much but he also sold what he had. He became a faithful disciple of Catherine and kept her company.

The conversion of the two scholars was not a unique event. Saint Catherine had the power to overwhelm one’s defenses and turn one’s life upside down. Father Lazzarino was a Franciscian who taught philosophy at the University of Siena. He was not impressed by the stories about Catherine. He came to meet her. Father Dominic recorded the conversation. There was awkwardness. They exchanged pleasantries. When the time for leave came, Catherine knelt before Lazzarino and asked for his blessing, which he graciously gave. She asked him to pray for her soul. As a courtesy he asked her to do the same for him. As he left his impression was that she was a good woman but nothing extraordinary.

Next evening he started weeping, uncontrollably, and without any reason.  He could not control his weeping during the night and the next day. As the day proceeded he became exhausted and confused. He could not think of the reason for his weeping. He begged God for help. A silent voice arose from the depth of his brain, “Did you treat my servant Catherine appropriately? Were you not mere condescending when you asked her to pray for your soul?” As the day broke, he went to Catherine’s house, and prostrated himself humbly in front of her. She did likewise. She already knew about his weeping. She advised him to become poor and humble. To abandon his vanities and live like his model Saint Francis.

He sold all his belongings, even his books and lived a life of strict poverty like Saint Francis. People started saying that he has been be-Catherined.

To be continued with two more stories of conversion of hardened souls

Saturday, March 5, 2016

201. ST. Catherine of Siena. Part six


As Brother Neri got better, Brother Stefano got ill. He developed fever. His sickness made all the members of his party very sad. Even holy virgin was affected. He was liked by everybody. She touched him and realized that he had high fever. She was overcome with spirit and said,” I command you by the power of holy obedience not to suffer from this fever any longer.” A miracle happened. Before she left his bed, fever went away and Stefano became healthy.

Another miracle was not directly observed by Raymond, but he researched it. It happened to a Sister of Penance of St Dominic called Giovanna of Capo. She was still alive when Raymond wrote his book. Catherine was in Florence by the order of Pope and was negotiating peace between the rebellious Florentines and the Pope. For tactical reasons Catherine was obliged to go out of the city with her party. Unexpectedly, the feet of Giovanna swelled and she developed fever. She could not accompany the party. Catherine did not want to leave her behind, alone and unprotected. She could come to harm at the hands of the ruffians. She started praying for her recovery. Lord interceded. Giovanna fell asleep as Catherine was praying. When she woke up she was perfectly healthy. She accompanied the party. People, who had seen her sick, were astonished at this miracle.

Once, in Toulon, holy virgin was staying in an inn with her party. A woman brought a little boy on her back, which was all swollen and looked an absolute monster. Catherine was filled with compassion and took the boy in her arms. As soon as the boy came in her arms he began to expel wind. His body gradually returned to normal size and the boy completely recovered. This miracle was so widely talked that the bishop of the city approached Raymond and asked his help to get an interview with Catherine, which he did.

Reading thoughts. Raymond wrote that she could read her companion’s most intimate thoughts. This used to happen often. But let me furnish an objective example:

There was in Siena an old soldier by the name of Messers Niccolo dei Sarcini. He took part in many wars. His wife wanted him to go to confession but he always refused. His wife knew St Catherine and wanted him to go to St Catherine. He would reply, “What can that little woman do for me.” Finally the wife mentioned the matter to holy virgin and asked her to pray for him. She agreed.

One night the soldier had a dream in which Catherine appeared. She advised the soldier that to avoid eternal damnation he must listen to his wife and confess his sins. When the soldier woke up he told his wife his dream and said that he must meet Catherine and see if she is the person who came in his dream. When the soldier met Catherine he was reassured of the veracity of his dream. She directed him to meet her confessor, Fra Tommaso. He confessed his sins. One day he came to Raymond and told him that he wanted to see Catherine regarding some matter.

He found the holy virgin and told her about his meeting with Fra Tommaso. She said, “Are you sure that you told him all your sins?” the soldier replied in affirmative. She said, “Think again. Did you tell him all your wrong actions?”The soldier said, “Yes”. Catherine said, “Think the matter over and make sure you have not left anything out”. Then the soldier left, Catherine called him back. “Are you sure you did not leave any wrong action out?” The old soldier insisted that he did not leave anything out. Holy virgin took him aside and narrated certain incident from his past which he had committed in Apuleia. Old soldier was astonished. Nobody in the whole world knew about it and he had forgotten it. Afterwards he told this incident to everybody who would listen. He considered it a miracle and thought of her a saint and a prophet. He died the same year.

This miracle consisted of several parts. Her appearance in the dream, revealing the incident from his past, and become an instrument of the Lord in his confession, conversion and salvation.

Knowing of somebody else’s secret from the past. I have described the miracle of the soldier. Here is another episode. French Pope Gregory lived in Avignon. It was best for the Christianity if Pope lived in Rome, instead of with French Cardinals in Avignon. Pope himself was pious but his courtiers were corrupt. They lived in luxury and sin with sisters, nieces and mistresses. The cardinals tried their best to prevent the Pope from leaving for Rome. Catherine tried her best to persuade him to go to Rome. One day Gregory will decide to go to Rome, the next day he would change his mind. What was the right course of action?. Finally he asked God for a sign.

One day Gregory and Catherine were talking to each other on the subject of moving to Rome. Pope asked her what she would do if she was in his place. Catherine looked at his face, long and hard, and said, “You know what to do more than anybody else. Your Holiness has long kept a vow to return to Rome” Pope had never told his vow to anybody else.  He was wonderstruck. How could Catherine know about his vow? Nobody except him and God knew about it. God must have told her. That was the sign he had asked from God