Sunday, May 22, 2016


212. ST. Catherine of Siena. Part seventeen


We were discussing the vision in which Jesus asked her to choose between the crown of gold and crown of thorns.

 Jesus said “All things are in my power. In the end you will get complete victory over the Devil” The vision ended. She told Raymond that her head hurt where it had been pricked by the thorns of the crown.                                                                                                                                                                                        The response of Catherine to evil of Andrea with good eventually had an effect on Andrea. She felt guilty and remorseful. One day she had the vision with open eyes in which Catherine face transformed into that of angelic beauty. I have already described it in blog 207. That vision had a profound effect on Andrea. She wept bitterly. She asked Catherine for forgiveness. Catherine said, there is nothing to forgive. Catherine threw herself in the arms of the person who had damaged her reputation. Andrea told everybody that she had spread lies and that Catherine was a pure and pious virgin. She told them of the transfiguration of Catherine and the holy light.                                                                                                            There is a final extraordinary story to report in the interaction between Andrea and the holy virgin. One day the stench from the wound was so great that it overwhelmed Catherine. She was nauseated and wanted to vomit. But she still cleaned the ulcer. Then she collected all that putrid fluid and pus in a cup and drank it! She also put her mouth to the sore. This was her act of rebellion against her revulsion to the smell and pus. She wanted to conquer her body. And she did. She confided to Raymond, “Never in my life have I tasted any food and drink sweeter or more exquisite.”That night Jesus appeared in her vision. He praised her lavishly. Part of what He said was, “….not only did you show indifference to what people said about you, but……you cheerfully drank that abhorrent drink….I will give you a drink that transcends every human nature and expectation.” He whispered to her, “Drink daughter from my side…”She put her lips to the most holy wound and drank abundantly the indescribable and holy liquid. The effect of that liquid was that her soul and body was permeated with graces.

From that time onwards she never wanted food or was able to tolerate it.

Raymond writes in the end,” I  must insist that all that I write was either confessed to me by Catherine herself or I found it amongst the writing of Fra Tommaso , her first confessor, or else I was told by Friars of my own order or reliable women whom I have already named, who were companions of Catherine.

Pious life. Catherine lived in God. God showed in her. Her whole appearance scintillated with purity. Her friends described that men trembled in her presence. Her face glowed. Being with her was a spiritual experience.

Ecstasy. Ecstasy has been experienced by all great saints, belonging to all religions. When in ecstasy, Saint Catherine would become rigid, and unaware of time, space and surroundings. She did not respond to sight or sound or touch. Raymond and the other Friars watched it a thousand times. After receiving the Eucharist she would often fall down in ecstasy, lasting for 3-4 hours. Her clenched fingers would tightly press into the palms. Her eyes would be tightly shut. On the feast day of the Apostle’s conversion it lasted for 3 days and nights. There was not the slightest sign of life. People thought that either she has died or was near death. One day a woman kicked her while she was in ecstasy. She suddenly died the same day.  Another wretch dragged her unconscious body out of the church in the street. He was punished so severely that Raymond chose not to describe it. Friar Pietro di Lando pricked all over her body with a needle. Even that did not awaken her. This Friar had a miserable end. In the court of Avignon, the women of the court treated her ecstasies as spectacles and stuck pins in her feet to see if that would awaken her.

What did Catherine say about the rapt state?

She gave different accounts at different times. One time she described heaven and what was going on. Sometimes she would come back with instruction for her companions. Sometimes she won’t say anything, because the experience would be beyond words. Once while she was in rapt state, she started repeating the phrase, “I have seen the secret things of God.”                                                                                                     Once she said that she felt as if her soul entered in God and God entered in her soul, like the fish is in water and water is in the fish.

Holy Anorexia. Living without food or very little food is not uncommon. Dr Bell has collected two hundred and sixty-one possible cases of holy anorexia. Stomach shrinks due to not eating. A stage reaches when eating causes pain due to inability of stomach to expand. Pain may cause pleasure, because one is suffering for God. The disease when it occurs in modern women who wants to stay thin and attractive is called Anorexia nervosa. It has high mortality and very difficult to treat. Catherine did not eat or drink after she drank pus of Andrea and liquid from the wound of Jesus, as described above.

Stigmata. The stigmata on her hand and feet were not visible. Mother Theodosia Drane wrote, “…in the center of the palm there was an appearance as if the flesh under the skin was missing, so that if lighted candle was placed behind it, a distinct light would become visible on the other side.”

                           End of book five with “Oh God! Oh Rabboni*”
*In an ancient language, Rabboni means “my beloved”

Saturday, May 14, 2016

211. ST. Catherine of Siena. Part sixteen

The beggar had received a sleeveless tunic from Catherine. He said that he would rather also have sleeves. Catherine searched the house again to find some sleeves. she found the new dress of the serving woman hanging from a pole. She took it down and unstitched the sleeves from the dress and gave them to the beggar. The beggar said, “You have given me all these nice clothes. Lord bless you for this. However I have a friend in the hospital who is in great need of clothing. If you have any clothes for him, I will take them.” Catherine was thrown on the horns of a dilemma: should she give him the only tunic she was wearing, or she be modest and not give her only garment covering her body? Modesty won. She explained her quandary to the beggar. The beggar smiled and left.

Jesus Christ appeared in a vision that night. He showed him her tunic which she had given to the beggar. It was adorned with pearls and gems. Jesus praised her. He offered her a red tunic with rays of light coming out of it, and put it on her body with His own holy hands. That vision left her with a strange result. From then onwards she was never in need of winter clothes, even when it was icy cold outside.

Once a beggar approached her as she was coming from the church of Preaching Friars. He said he needed help. She had nothing of value to give it to him. Then she remembered that she had a small silver cross at the end of her beads called Paternoster. She tore the cross from the thread and gave it to the beggar. The beggar went away.

That night she saw Jesus Christ in a vision. He had the same cross in His hands, but now it was adorned with gems. He said, “Do you recognize this cross? “She said, “Yes, I do, but it did not have diamonds on it before.”He said, “I will give it to you on Judgment Day when I will be with My Father, and announce your good deed of helping Me.”

A poor woman named Cecca had advanced leprosy and was in a hospital. People avoided going near her due to the fear of catching the disease, but not Catherine. She embraced her and started nursing her every morning and evening. The disease made the woman miserable. She relieved her anger and frustration by lashing at Catherine. She became more and more demanding. Her ingratitude became difficult to bear. If virgin was ever late in the morning because of longer prayer in the church, Cecca will taunt her. For example, she would say, “Oh! At last here comes the lady queen of Fontebranda. Did you have enough of those friars? And so on.”Catherine would ignore her and start the fire and cook the food. Then she would feed her and do other chores. Her mother Lapa was very worried that Catherine would catch leprosy. But leprosy was of no concern to Catherine; the task of taking care of the sick woman was her sole concern. Soon infection attacked her hands. It was obvious to everybody that this was leprosy. The infection lasted a long time. Finally the end came for Cecca and one day she died. Catherine washed her body and clothed her. As soon as Cecca was buried a miracle happened: all traces of leprosy disappeared from the virgin’s body.

Andrea was a Sister of Penance. She developed cancer of breast. It gave such a horrible stench that one had to pinch one’s nose near her. Catherine took care of all her needs with affection and diligence. One day the bad smell became worse. Catherine was overcome by the stench and became sick. Waves of nausea came. She put her mouth and nose to the wound and kept it there till the nausea subsided. This was her way to conquer her body.  Even Andrea was horrified by her act.     For some reason the woman developed intense hatred towards Catherine. She spread rumors that Catherine was a wicked woman and was leading a secret, wicked life, and that she had lost her virginity. Other nuns heard these lies. They believed Andrea and insulted Catherine with vile words. Catherine replied to them by saying, “Indeed I am a virgin”. However she did not stop her good work of taking care of Andrea.

One night she was overcome with grief. She came to her cell and wept and prayed.  She asked Jesus to help her. And then the Savior appeared in a vision. He held a gold crown studded with jewels in one hand and a crown of thorns in the other. He said, “Choose one crown. Whatever crown you choose, you will get it in this life, but you will get the other crown in the next life.”Without any reluctance, Catherine chose the crown of thorns and put it on her head.

To be continued

Saturday, May 7, 2016

210. ST. Catherine of Siena. Part fifteen

Jesus explained that she had to fight this battle without any visible aid from Him, but He was in her heart that is why these scenes repelled her.

Unlike St Teresa of Avilla, who was very close to Jesus, but never saw Him with physical eyes, she saw Him, on occasions, with worldly eyes (blog77). How Jesus taught her, Raymond quotes her, “…either in the form of inspiration, or through His speaking to as I am speaking to you now, before your very eyes.”

“No matter whether she was praying, meditating, reading, watching or sleeping, she was comforted one way or another by vision of Jesus; at times, even when she was talking to other people…”

Church Reform. One of her missions was to purify the church of corruption. She also tried to bring peace between various factions and regions of the country. She wrote more than three hundred letters. At times, she would be dictating to five men; praying and dictating. She wrote letters to Popes, kings, queens, city officials, and ordinary people. She wrote to king of France to make peace with England. She would write to bishops and priests. Here is a sample letter to Gerard du Puy, the man responsible for appointments of pastors and bishops in Tuscany :

“Our Lord holds in aversion three detestable vices above all others___they are impurity, avarice and pride. And they all reign in the spouse of Christ ___ at least among her prelates, who seek after nothing but pleasures, honors and riches……. And when the time comes for choosing pastors and cardinals, let not flattery and money and simony have any part in their election; regard nothing but good qualities of the persons proposed, and give no heed to whether they are peasants or nobles. Virtue is the only thing which really makes a man noble, or pleasing to God.”

I have already narrated the story of, Brother Gabriel, master of sacred theology, and Father JohnTantucci, also a master of sacred theology. Brother Gabriel lived in fancy quarters and slept under silk sheets. Catherine converted both scholars to lives of simplicity, poverty and service.

In a letter to the Pope she wrote that his first job as Pope was to reform the church.

She wrote in a letter to Raymond that according to a revelation by Jesus on the night of April 1, 1376,

she had been  chosen to reform and purify  the church. “God revealed His mysteries to me and showed me His wonderful counsels …, and I was filled with such abundant joy that my tongue has no power to express it.”


Love of neighbor. In Christianity, the term ‘love of neighbor’ means love of fellow human beings, or simply love for others. One day, when she was a young girl, Jesus told her that God wants two things from human beings; love of God and love of neighbor. She will have to fulfill both. She had nothing of her own. She asked her father his permission to give alms, which he did. Soon she was giving clothes of his brothers and servants to poor.

There were a number of needy families in the neighborhood who were too ashamed to beg but needed help. One day she gathered grain, and wine and went to their house. Door was open and she deposited her load. 

One time she became sick. Her body swelled up.  There was a poor widow with sons and daughters, all dying from hunger, who lived nearby. She prayed to Lord at night to help her in the morning. She found a small sack of grain, a large bottle of wine, a small bottle of oil, some edibles. She did not think she could carry all that material in one trip. But she tried. She asked Lord for help. The weight felt light like straw and she was able to lift the entire load. As she came nearer to her destination, her strength started giving away. The door of the house was open. As she entered, her strength was completely gone. She fell in the entry. It made quite a noise.  Initially she did not have the strength to move, but eventually she was able to crawl out. The widow had come to investigate. She recognized her benefactor by her habit.

It is pertinent to narrate her encounter with two needy beggars and two infirm women

One day Lord appeared to her as beggar and asked for some clothing. She was coming out of nun’s chapel. She went back to the chapel and took out her sleeveless tunic which she was wearing under her outer tunic as protection against cold, and gave it to the beggar. The beggar asked her if she could also give him some linen. She took him home. She searched the house and found a shirt and a pair of pants from her father and brothers clothes and gave it cheerfully to the beggar. Was the beggar satisfied?


To be continued