205. ST. Catherine of Siena. Part ten
I was describing the miracles of multiplication of edibles.
She stayed in Rome in a house with her followers and a group of followers of God whom the Pope had summoned to Rome on Catherine’s suggestion. She had also extended her hospitality to them. There was not a cache of staples of food. All food had to be begged. Sometimes holy virgin also went for begging. At that time there were sixteen men and eight women living with her in that house. She had such trust in Lord that it did not worry her that from where will the foods for everybody come? Catherine had passed the order that each woman should for one week be responsible for household affairs so that the rest could pursue the things related to God or go for pilgrimage of sites in Rome. If there was a shortage of foodstuff this woman was supposed to tell Catherine one day in advance so that she should send somebody for begging or go herself. There came a week when this responsibility fell on Giovanna’s shoulders. Giovanna was a sister of Penance who was from Siena and had accompanied St Catherine on this journey. As it happened, Giovanna forgot this instruction. One evening, there was not enough bread in the bin for four people. When Giovanna realized the enormity of the problem she went to holy virgin. She was very embarrassed and ashamed. Catherine scolded her mildly. Then she told her to ask everybody to sit at the dinner table and serve whatever bread they had. Giovanna said there was not enough bread for 4-5 people. Nevertheless she followed the holy virgin’s instructions. Meanwhile Catherine went to a secluded place and started praying fervently.
All these hungry persons started eating with the one small loaf they had. To everybody’s amazement each person’s loaf never finished! Even when everybody had eaten their full, bread remained. At Catherine’s orders it was distributed to the poor. They burst out singing the praises of the Lord.
Another similar miracle was described to Raymond by Giovanna and Lisa (sister in law of Catherine, who was also a Dominican nun). This happened in the week of Lent, in the same year, and in the same house.
In 1375, in Pisa, Catherine became extremely weak. Raymond thought she was going to die. Catherine would not take anything internally such as milk, eggs, meat, sugar water, etc. Raymond recollected that a certain wine called vernaccia, if rubbed on wrists and temples is helpful in such a situation. A friend, Gherado’s, knew of a person who had a bottle of vernaccia. The person said he would willingly have given a barrel of vernaccia, but the barrel had been empty for three months. They went to the barrel and one could readily see that it had been empty for some time. To make sure, the owner pulled the spigot out. As the bung was pulled out, a generous amount of vernaccia gushed out and gathered on the floor. The owner gathered everybody who lived in the house and asked them if anybody amongst them had put wine in the barrel. All of them denied it and stated that nobody could put wine in the barrel without their knowledge. The news spread in the neighborhood like wild fire. Everybody acknowledged that it was a miracle of God.
A strange twist occurred due to Catherine’s prayer.
A few days after the incident Catherine recovered and went into the city to see somebody. As soon as the news of her arrival spread people gathered. Shopkeepers closed their shops to see this woman who could fill an empty flask with wine. When holy virgin learnt the cause of this hubbub, she became quite upset. She implored the Lord, “All your other servants can live amongst people but not I. ……..By your infinite mercy I beg you to have pity on me and dry up all the wine.”
A second miracle, even greater than the first happened, wine went as sour as vinegar!
There has been lot of discussion about these miracles amongst people living at that time and between scholars over the centuries. Some even thought that these were Satan’s doing; an optical illusion, that is why wine could not stay as wine. Raymond had the following interpretation: Both miracles were the work of Lord. Catherine was not involved in the first. She even did not know about the first miracle. Lord wanted to show by the filling of the barrel that He cared for the holy virgin, because with that miracle people will praise her and realize her worth with the Lord. Lord produced the wine to cure her. By the second miracle He showed how much He cared for her wishes and desires. He accepted her profound humility.
To be continued.