Saint Catherine of Ricci

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Saint Catherine of Ricci

Virgin
(1522-1590)

Alexandrina of Ricci was the daughter of a noble Florentine. At the age of thirteen she entered the Third Order of Saint Dominic in the monastery of Prato, taking in religion the name of Catherine, in honor of her patron and predecessor of Siena. Her special attraction was to the Passion of Christ, in which she was permitted miraculously to participate. During the Lent of 1541, being then twenty-one years of age, she had a vision of the crucifixion so heartrending that she was prostrated and confined to bed for three weeks, and was only restored on Holy Saturday, by an apparition of Saint Mary Magdalene and the risen Jesus.

During twelve years Saint Catherine passed every Friday in ecstasy. She received the sacred stigmata, the wound in the left side, and the crown of thorns. All these favors gave her continual and intense suffering, and inspired her with a loving sympathy for the yet more bitter tortures of the Holy Souls. In their behalf she offered all her prayers and penances; and her charity toward them became so famous throughout Tuscany that after every death the friends of the deceased hastened to Catherine to secure her prayers.

Saint Catherine offered many prayers, fasts, and penances for a certain great man, and thereby obtained his salvation. It was revealed to her that he was nonetheless in purgatory; and such was her love of Jesus crucified that she offered to suffer all the pains which would be inflicted on that soul. Her prayer was granted. The soul entered heaven, and for forty days Catherine suffered indescribable agonies. Her body was covered with blisters, emitting heat so great that her cell seemed on fire. Her flesh appeared as if roasted, and her tongue like red-hot iron. She remained calm and joyful, saying, I long to suffer all imaginable pains, that souls may quickly see and praise their Redeemer. She conversed with the Saints in glory, and frequently with Saint Philip Neri at Rome without ever leaving her convent at Prato. She died, amid angels’ songs, in 1590.

Reflection: If we truly love Jesus crucified, we must like Saint Catherine, long to release the Holy Souls whom He has redeemed but has left to our charity to set free.

Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894). 

The Seven Holy Servite Founders

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The Seven Holy Servite Founders

(Mid 13th century)

Can you imagine seven prominent men of any large modern city banding together, leaving their homes and profession, and going into solitude for a life directly given to God? That is what happened in the cultured and prosperous city of Florence in the middle of the 13th century. At this time, the city was torn with political strife as well as by the heresy of the Cathari; morals were low and religion neglected.

On the feast of the Assumption in 1233, seven of the members of a Florentine Confraternity devoted to the Holy Mother of God were gathered in prayer under the presidency of Alessio Falconieri. The Blessed Virgin appeared to the young men and exhorted them to devote themselves to Her service, in retirement from the world. It was in 1240 that they decided to withdraw together from the city to a solitary place for prayer and the service of God. The eldest was Buonfiglio Monaldo, who became their leader. The others were Alexis Falconieri, Benedict dell’Antella, Bartholomew Amidei, Ricovero Uguccione, Gerardino Sostegni, and John Buonagiunta. Their aim was to lead a life of penance and prayer, but they soon found themselves disturbed by increasing numbers of visitors. They next retired to the deserted slopes of Monte Senario near Florence, where the Blessed Virgin appeared to them again. There the nucleus of a new Order was formed, called Servants of Mary, or Servites, in recognition of their special manner of venerating the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady.

In 1244, under the direction of Saint Peter of Verona, O.P., this small group adopted a religious habit similar to the Dominican habit, choosing to live under the rule of Saint Augustine. The new Order took a form resembling more the mendicant friars than the older monastic Orders. One of the most remarkable features of the new foundation was its wonderful growth. Even in the fourteenth century, the Order had more than one hundred convents in several nations of Europe, as well as in India and on the Island of Crete. The Rosary of the Seven Sorrows is one of their regular devotions, as is also the Via Matris, or Way of the Cross of Mary.

Saint of the Day: The 173 Saints of the new Missal. Edited by Leonard Foley, O.F.M., Vol. I (Saint Anthony Messenger Press: Cincinnati, 1974); The Catholic Encyclopedia, edited by C. G. Herbermann with numerous collaborators (Appleton Company: New York, 1908).