Today, the universal church honors St. Catherine dei Ricci, an incredible mystic and a very holy lady.
She was born in 1522 into a well-established and noble Florentine family, being baptized as, “Alexandria.” She took the name, “Catherine,” at the age of 13, when she went into the Dominican convent of St. Vincent at Prato. Her uncle, Father Timothy dei Ricci, was the director of the convent.
For two years, Catherine suffered terrible and horrible pain from various diseases and health problems. She offered her suffering to Our Lord, thus sanctifying it. People noticed her incredible patience under such adversity. However, Catherine was able to bear her suffering because of her consistent meditation and thinking upon the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
At a young age, Catherine was chosen as the novice-mistress, then sub-prioress and in her thirtieth year, she was appointed prioress in perpetuity. Many people, lay people, clergy, and cardinals (one of whom became pope), would visit her and speak to her. She was an extremely effective administrator, and served as an advisor on a variety of topics, to cardinals, bishops and princes. Indeed and in fact, she communicated with three men, Pope Marcellus II, Pope Clement VIII and Pope Leo XI. Catherine was an expert on religion, management and administration and her opinions were widely acclaimed and sought.
The famous St. Philip Neri and Catherine exchanged correspondence, and although they never actually physically met, she appeared to him and talked with him in Rome, never leaving her convent in Prato. St. Philip Neri, known for his caution and prudence, confirmed that this happened, along with the testimony of five percipient witnesses. This was one of the miracles documented for her canonization.
Catherine, during her ecstasies, saw scenes which preceded Jesus’ crucifixion. This began when she was 20 years of age, and happened every week for 12 years. In 1554, her visions ceased. Her thoughts on the Passion were so deep, that she bled, as if she was scourged. She also bore the Stigmata. Sometimes during her prayer, like her patron saint, Catherine of Siena, a coral ring representing her marriage to Jesus, appeared on her finger.
Catherine wore an iron chain around her neck, engaging in fasting and other forms of penance and sacrifice, offering this for the holy souls in Purgatory.
On February 2, 1590, Catherine died after suffering from a long illness at the age of 68. In 1732, Pope Clement XII beatified her, and in 1746, she was canonized by Pope Benedict XIV.
Let us remember Catherine’s example of offering her suffering to Our Lord, wherein such an act becomes a powerful prayer and an important action, telling Jesus that she trusted in Him completely. Everyone suffers, physically, emotionally, mentally or spiritually. Remember not to become bitter, for the only way this will not happen, is through offering your suffering to Christ. Look at a cross or a crucifix, and remember how He suffered, and that He was tortured for our salvation.
St. Catherine dei Ricci, pray for us!
Sources: Butler’s Lives of the Saints, edited by Michael Walsh; Vatican website