Feast of St. Catherine of Siena

Source: FSSPX News

The spiritual marriage of St. Catherine.

St. Catherine of Siena, virgin of the Dominican Third Order, occupies a very special place in sanctity: through the rigorous ascetic aspects of her life, through the communications that the Son of God deigned to offer her, through the stigmata that He wished to imprint upon her flesh, and finally through the very special mission which she accomplished with the Vicar of Christ.

“Her flight toward God is irresistible,” writes Dom Guéranger, “and gives the idea of this impetus which sweeps glorified souls toward the sovereign Good. In vain the weight of mortal flesh threatens to weigh down the flight of the earthly Seraph: the energy of penance subdues it, softens it, and lightens it. The soul seems to live alone in this transformed body.”

The breviary tells us that “her abstinence was great, and the austerity of her life was admirable. It once happened that she fasted the entire time from Ash Wednesday until the Ascension of the Lord, without having taken anything but Eucharistic Communion. She was often grappled with demons. Burning fevers and various other illnesses also served as trials for her.

Dom Guéranger adds that “the divine food of the Eucharist suffices to sustain her; and the union with Christ becomes so complete, that His sacred wounds imprinted themselves on the virgin’s limbs, and give her a taste of the bitter and ineffable pains of the Passion.” It is the impression of the stigmata that the breviary describes in this way:

“Finding herself in Pisa one Sunday, after having received the celestial food, she was rapt in ecstasy, and saw the crucified Lord who came to her surrounded by a great light. Five rays parted from the scars of his wounds: they were directed into five places on Catherine’s body. She understood the mystery; but she prayed to the Lord that the stigmata would not be visible.

“Immediately, the rays changed their color of blood into another very brilliant one, and, in the form of a very pure light, they reached her hands, her feet, and her heart. The pain she felt from the wounds they left upon her was so poignant, that she thought that if God had not sustained her, she would have quickly succumbed.

“The Lord, full of love for his spouse, granted her this new graced, that while she felt the pain of the wounds, the bloody marks were not visible. The servant of God reported this phenomenon to Raymond, her confessor. The piety of the faithful portrayed in images of the saint the luminous rays coming from the five stigmatized parts of her body.”

Dom Guéranger adds that “the divine communications began in her early years. Her eyes often saw our divine Risen Lord. A knowledge like nothing on earth illuminated her intelligence. This uneducated girl would dictate sublime writings, in which the most profound views of celestial doctrine are exposed with superhuman precision and eloquence.”

A Mission to Pope Gregory XI

Let us again follow Dom Guéranger: “It was a matter, at the end of the 14th century, of returning to the holy city the presence of the Vicar of Christ, sadly absent from his seat for more than sixty years. In the Name of her divine Spouse, who is also that of the Church, Catherine crosses the Alps, and presents herself to the Pontiff who has never seen Rome and whose features Rome does not know.

“The Prophetess respectfully notifies him of the duty he must fulfill; to guarantee the mission that she carries out, she reveals to him a secret of which he alone knows. Gregory XI is won over, and the Eternal City finally sees again its Pastor and its Father. But, at the Pontiff’s death, a dreadful schism, portent of greater misfortunes, comes to tear the heart the Church.

“Catherine fights against the tempest until her last hour; but the thirty-third year of her life is accomplished; the divine Spouse does not wish for her to surpass the age that He had consecrated in His person; it is time for the virgin to continue in heaven her ministry of intercession for the Church that she had so loved, for the souls redeemed in the blood of  her Spouse.”