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”