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