206. ST. Catherine of Siena. Part eleven
Saint Catherine’s face changed. In blog 197 I have narrated the episode of Raymond observing the change of Catherine’s face into that of a strange man who, fixing grave eyes upon Raymond inspired great fear in him. I have also narrated in blog 201 the dream of the soldier in which Catherine appeared. 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. The soldier verified after meeting her that it was she. In blog 203, readers might have read the incident of Andrea, the notorious young man, who saw Jesus and Catherine in the corner of his room. 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.
One time Catherine had a great longing for the consecrated host. The desire was so great that Father Raymond relented. The host is consecrated in a special ceremony, and represents the body and blood of Jesus Christ (*). Father Raymond put on the vestments, said the holy prayer, and thus prepared the consecrated host. As he turned as usual to give the general absolution he saw that her face had become like an angel’s and was sending bright rays of light. He could no longer recognize her and said to himself, “That is not Catherine’s face”.
He saw the host rise to a height of three fingers on its own accord and rest on the paten he was holding in his hand. He was stunned with astonishment. He states:
“God, the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, is my witness that I am not romancing. This was not an illusion created by the Devil because Devil cannot interfere in such an adorable, awesome Sacrosanct”
Another similar incident is recorded by Raymond.
Raymond had come to know Catherine’s frequent need for the Host, as if it was a requisite for her sustenance to live. One day the mass time was approaching, but she had aches and pains in her body. She needed a little more time for pains to go away. She sent a companion to Raymond to delay the conventual Mass, if possible, so that she be able to come and receive the Eucharist. Raymond gladly agreed and went to the choir instead. He said his office and waited.
At the same time, Catherine could not resist her longing and came to the church and sat in the pew. Raymond did not know that she had come and was sitting in the audience. The companion knew that after receiving the Eucharist, Catherine will go in ecstasy (**) for three to four hours, and thus it will be impossible to move her from whatever position she was in. Thus church could not be closed. And this will cause grumbling among the friars, who had to close the church. So, the companion advised her not to take the Eucharist. Catherine meekly agreed. But she started praying fervently. She was a whole length of the church away from Raymond
Lord heard her burning wish for the Host. A companion came to Raymond with the message from Catherine that Raymond can start the mass anytime he wished as she was not going to attend the Communion that day.
Raymond consecrated the bread. As he began to break the bread first into two parts and then into four, the sacred Host broke into three parts, two large and one small. The small one was as big as a kidney bean. He saw the little part jump out of the chalice, and as far as he could tell, it seemed to fall on to the corporal. He did not see where it went after that. He searched every bit of corporal with great care but did not find the lost piece. He was almost in tears. After a while he resumed his search and extended it to the altar but did not find it. He thought of asking the advice of the Prior of the monastery. But then a Prior of another monastery accosted him. He wanted to talk to Catherine urgently about some matter. He could not wait. Therefore Raymond went to Catherine’s house. He was surprised to learn that she was in the church. He did find her in the pews, in ecstasy. Due to the urgency of the lost Host she was gently roused. Raymond started telling her about the lost Host.
To be continued
(*) Host is a piece of consecrated bread. Holy Communion or Eucharist or Sacrament, are synonymous terms used for the rite of putting the Host in the mouth of the receiver. Jesus Christ gave the bread and wine to his disciples during the Last Supper and said 'This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.' In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me'. Non-Christian should understand that Christians consider it the body of Christ.
(**)During ecstasy a person is rigid like a statue and oblivious to his/her surroundings