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

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