Saturday, April 30, 2016


 

209. ST. Catherine of Siena. Part fourteen

We were discussing the miracles after death of St. Catherine.

10    A woman on a pilgrimage from Germany could hardly see from her eyes due to some eye disease. She prayed to the holy virgin for improvement of her vision and vowed. After a short interval her vision got much better. She visited the tomb of St Catherine.

11.   A Roman lady by the name of Maria lost the vision of one eye and had pain. She went into seclusion from shame. She devoutly prayed to Catherine. One night Catherine appeared in her dream and told her to throw away her medicines and attend Mass every morning and she will be cured. The pain stopped at once. Vision also improved. As she continued attending the Mass she was completely cured.

12.   A youth named Giacomo and a Roman woman Cilia de Petruccio, both, were near their end by diseases. Both were cured by praying to Catherine.

13.   A servant woman, Bona di Giovanni, was washing a quilt. The heavy water-soaked quilt could not be managed by Bona and started being taken away by the water current along with the helpless woman. She called out, “O’ holy virgin, Catherine of Siena, save me from this great danger”. Suddenly, the quilt, along with Bona, started moving towards the bank, and landed there. The woman, in all honesty, thought that it was a miracle.

14.   Raymond was told of the above mentioned miracles, but here is one miracle part of which he personally witnessed:

15.   A young Roman, Nicolo, was suffering from a throat disease called quinsy. The air passage was close to complete blockage, which would have lead to his death. Alexia, the great companion of Late Catherine, was a friend of Nicolo family. She had a tooth of Catherine in her possession. She rushed to the patient, put the tooth close to  his face  and begged Catherine to cure him. Immediately there was a noise as if something had burst. Foul matter came out and he was cured.

     On one occasion Raymond was preaching and he told the story of this miracle. As it                  happened Nicolo was in the audience. He stood up and corroborated the episode.

16.   In 1384, head of St Catherine was brought to Siena from Rome. A solemn reception was held. Raymond arranged a lunch for the friars and the guests to celebrate the occasion. Due to some mistake bread was found to be inadequate; it was enough for five persons whereas there were about fifty people to feed. The Prior immediately sent two friars to friendly houses to collect more bread.  They did not return for some time. Prior ordered for loaves to be served to the guests. I quote Raymond, “…either in the bin, or on the table, or somewhere or other, those loaves by Catherine’s merits multiplied miraculously to such an extent that ……everybody was able to eat as much as they liked …..”. “ …I turned to the guests, and said, ‘Our mother did not want this day to go without a miracle for us, …she wanted to show that our ceremony pleased her…”’

Levitation. I have already mentioned it in blog 196

Not burnt by fire. Once Catherine was sitting by the fire and rotating the spit. She fell in an ecstasy. Her sister-in-law, Lisa, saw it and removed her hand from the spit. Lisa got busy in other chores in the house and did not return to Catherine for several hours. As it happened, Catherine had fallen over the burning embers. Lisa shrieked and dragged her out of the fire. She found out that Catherine’s clothes and body were unaffected by the fire. There was no smell of burning. There was not the slightest trace of ash on her dress.

One day, in church, a lighted candle fell on the veil covering Catherine’s head, while she knelt. The candle kept on burning till all the wax was consumed and then the flame went out. It did not burn the veil and did no harm to Catherine.

This miracle was watched by many of her companions, including Lisa, Alexia, and Francesca.

Driving out evil spirit. A modern man like me does not know what to do with this section, because in modern time we do not see evil spirits possessing human beings. Modern science calls it Hysteria. Jesus Christ drove out demons and Saint Catherine drove out demons, as mentioned in detail by Raymond. I cannot describe them as they were not miracles, but recovery from sicknesses by the grace of Jesus

Close proximity to Jesus. She was extremely close to Jesus. This closeness was acquired after she won an epic battle with the forces of evil for several days. She was a young woman at that time. It started with carnal temptations. She fought them with great fortitude. It progressed to men and women performing vile sexual acts. Foul acts and obscene words were presented to her mind. Throngs of shameless crowds invited her to join them. She would retreat to church, where she would get some help, but not complete protection.

One night a great light appeared and lit the room. Bleeding Jesus Christ, nailed to the cross, was in that vision and her battle ended . She bitterly complained for not helping her.

To be continued

Saturday, April 23, 2016


 

208. ST. Catherine of Siena. Part thirteen

 

We were discussing the extraordinary vision that Semia was made to see just at the time of Saint Catherine’s death. A beautiful small girl with facial features of Catherine emerged from a silver tabernacle and joined Jesus, Blessed Virgin and other virgins. Semia had said to herself that if the dream was a creation of the Devil she would miss the Mass and face the anger of her sons for dinner being late. All for oversleeping on account of the dream.

She did not miss the Mass, her sons were very pleased by the delicious food, and she was confronted by a genuinely supernatural event of cooked dinner!

She found the door of Catherine’s house closed. She was told by somebody that Catherine had gone to church.  As a matter of fact the body of Catherine had been secretly removed from the house and kept in the chapel behind iron railing in the church of Santa Maria. This was done to avoid the swarm of crowds who would want to touch the dead person’s clothes and feet. They were afraid that the clothes and body may be torn to pieces. Although they tried to keep the secret but soon the news spread in Rome that Saint Catherine had died.

Semia was going home. She happened to pass that church and seeing the crowd asked the reason. She was told that Catherine had died and her body was inside. She shrieked in grief and cursed the women who had misled her. The women apologized and told the reason. Semia was mollified. She then told the crowd that she witnessed the passing of Catherine and her emergence from the silver tabernacle, in a dream. They realized that she was shown this vision to witness the events that transpired as her soul left her body and how Catherine was exalted. So, Semia was the agent chosen to tell it to the world and thus enhance her glory.

 

There are dozens of miracles of cure of sick, after her death. Here are some that have been narrated by Raymond in his book. Raymond was not in Rome at the time of her death. People told him these events when he tried to collect them for posterity. Catherine could not be buried for three days due to the swarm of people around her dead body.

1.       A nun by the name of Domenica could not use her one arm for six months due to some disease. She could not reach her corpse.  She, therefore, gave her veil to somebody to touch the virgin’s body. When she got it back she put it on her arm. Her arm was immediately cured.

2.       A four year old boy had sinews of his neck contracted due to some disease. Catherine’s arm was made to touch his neck and her veil was wrapped around his neck. After an interval his neck was completely cured.

3.       Lucio di Cannarola’s one leg was affected by weakness. With great difficulty he could drag himself with a crutch. He placed virgin’s hand on her leg. He felt an immediate improvement and his leg got cured before he left the church.

4.       A girl named Ratozola had terrible leprosy of the face. There was a stinking mass of tissue at her nose and upper lip. She forced herself to the proximity of Catherine’s body against the resistance of people. She touched her diseased parts to virgin’s hands, feet and even her face.  She got rid of the horrible disease after sometime and her face became absolutely normal.

5.       Ciprio and his wife Lella had a daughter who suffered from consumption.  No treatment had worked. The parents brought the girl to Catherine. The girl touched her veil and some beads which had been in contact with the virgin’s body. She got cured.

6.       A Roman citizen by the name of Antonio de Lello was passing by the church. When he heard of the miracles he prayed to the virgin to help him get better. He promised a votive offering if he got better. He got better. He fulfilled his promise and told of the miracle to others.

7.       A pious woman by the name of Paola was Catherine’s friend and hostess. She was sick and bedridden for four months. She asked people to bring her something which had been in touch with Catherine. An object was found. She touched it in the evening and next morning got out of the bed without assistance. Soon she was free of her sickness.

                   She told the story to Raymond herself after his return to Rome. The power of God did not decrease as her body was put in the tomb.

8.       Giovanni di Neri had a little son who never learned to walk because he could not stand up. The boy was carried to her tomb and put over it. His feet and legs became strong and he could stand up and walk.

9.       Giovanni di Tozzo had a bad eye disease. He made a vow to the holy virgin Catherine of Siena. He was immediately cured. He went to her tomb and described the gift he had received.

 

 

To be continued

Saturday, April 16, 2016


 

207. ST. Catherine of Siena. Part twelve

We were discussing the story of the lost piece of Host (consecrated bread used in the ceremony of Holy Communion). Greatly worried Raymond told Catherine that a piece of the Host cannot be found anywhere. To his mild surprise she did not seem perturbed. A faint smile appeared on her face. “Did you look everywhere?” she asked. Raymond said “yes”. “Then why are you perturbed”, she said and smiled again. By this time Raymond became suspicious. He said, “Mother, I truly believe that it was you who took the Host.” “It was somebody else!”, she said. Raymond said, “Please tell me all you know of this matter.”This is what she said:

“…As my  confessor I will tell you. It was brought to me. It was offered to me by Jesus Christ! I took it. My companions did not want me to take it today. To avoid upsetting them I agreed. But then I turned to my most kind Savior. He appeared to me, and offered me the fragment by His most holy hands”.

On other occasions, some very trustworthy persons have told Raymond that they have seen the Host flying out of the priest’s hand as he was offering it to the holy virgin.

I have one more episode of change of Catherine’s face to narrate. Catherine used to nurse a woman in the hospital who was dying from cancer of breast. One day as Catherine came into the room, a pleasing light appeared in the room. She looked around for the source of the light, and saw a mantle of light around Catherine, and there was light around her face. Her face had an angelic quality. It did not look like the face of Lapa’s daughter, Catherine.

Miracles after death. The story of Semia, though long, is so fascinating that it deserves to be told with all its details. She was a virtuous woman. When Catherine arrived in Rome, Semia heard of her holiness and tried to spend as much time as possible in her company. She became her close companion. On the day of Catherine’s death (29th April,1380, Sunday, at hour of Terce)she was supposed to get up early, cook food for her demanding five sons, go for High Mass of Sunday, and then rush to the house where Catherine was staying. She overslept in the morning and saw an amazing dream. She saw a most beautiful little girl emerging from a silver tabernacle. Her face looked like that of Catherine. The girl was adorned in shining white dress, necklaces, and on her head were three crowns, one on top of another.  Semia was trying to guess who that girl was.  Her features resembled Catherine’s but Catherine was a much older person. The girl said to the two boys who were there, “See, she does not recognize me.”Four more graceful boys appeared. They put the crowned girl on a couch. The girl floated to Semia and said “I am Catherine of Siena.”The bridal bed rose in the air. A throne appeared, on which a bejeweled king was seated. He was holding a book in his right hand. The boys laid the bed in front of the throne. The girl got up, and bowed at the king’s feet and worshipped him. The king welcomed Catherine, by name. Further ceremonies followed. They awaited the queen. The queen held Catherine by hand and said, “Welcome to you, my most beloved daughter, Catherine.”Semia also saw many virgins, such as St Agnes, and St Margret.

When Semia woke it was already hour of Terce (9AM). She was late. She thought she was going to miss the Mass. That made her suspect that the vision she had seen was the work of the Devil, to make her miss the Mass. She said to herself, “if I miss the mass, it must have been the work of the Devil, if I find a Mass, it must have been a favor from mother Catherine”. As it happened the Mass was over by the time she reached the church. But then she went to another church and could attend the Mass. Before going to the church she washed and cut the vegetables and meat for the dinner. She locked the front door before she went to the church.

During the Mass, she asked Jesus, that if the vision was truly from Him, she be saved from grumbling of her sons, for food being late. Her sons were arriving at the door by the time she was reaching home. The door was locked. To her intense surprise food had been cooked and dinner was ready. She realized that the Savior had heard her prayer and answered it. She decided to go to Catherine, as soon as possible, and tell her about the miracles. She kept on saying, “Oh dear mother! You are truly a saint. You came in my house with locked door and cooked food for me.”

 

To be continued

Saturday, April 9, 2016


 

206. ST. Catherine of Siena. Part eleven

 

Saint Catherine’s face changed. In blog 197 I have narrated the episode of Raymond observing the change of Catherine’s face into that of a strange man who, fixing grave eyes upon Raymond inspired great fear in him. I have also narrated in blog 201 the dream of the soldier in which Catherine appeared. When the soldier woke up he told his wife his dream and said that he must meet Catherine and see if she is the person who came in his dream. The soldier verified after meeting her that it was she. In blog 203, readers might have read the incident of Andrea, the notorious young man, who saw Jesus and Catherine in the corner of his room. Father Tomasso rushed to Catherine to tell her the story but she already knew the details and could describe the inside of Andrea’s house.

One time Catherine had a great longing for the consecrated host. The desire was so great that Father Raymond relented. The host is consecrated in a special ceremony, and represents the body and blood of Jesus Christ (*). Father Raymond put on the vestments, said the holy prayer, and thus prepared the consecrated host. As he turned as usual to give the general absolution he saw that her face had become like an angel’s and was sending bright rays of light. He could no longer recognize her and said to himself, “That is not Catherine’s face”.

He saw the host rise to a height of three fingers on its own accord and rest on the paten he was holding in his hand. He was stunned with astonishment. He states:

“God, the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, is my witness that I am not romancing. This was not an illusion created by the Devil because Devil cannot interfere in such an adorable, awesome Sacrosanct”

Another similar incident is recorded by Raymond.

Raymond had come to know Catherine’s   frequent need for the Host, as if it was a requisite for her sustenance to live. One day the mass time was approaching, but she had aches and pains in her body. She needed a little more time for pains to go away. She sent a companion to Raymond to delay the conventual Mass, if possible, so that she be able to come and receive the Eucharist. Raymond gladly agreed and went to the choir instead. He said his office and waited.

At the same time, Catherine could not resist her longing and came to the church and sat in the pew. Raymond did not know that she had come and was sitting in the audience. The companion knew that after receiving the Eucharist, Catherine will go in ecstasy (**) for three to four hours, and thus it will be impossible to move her from whatever position she was in. Thus church could not be closed. And this will cause grumbling among the friars, who had to close the church. So, the companion advised her not to take the Eucharist. Catherine meekly agreed. But she started praying fervently. She was a whole length of the church away from Raymond

Lord heard her burning wish for the Host. A companion came to Raymond with the message from Catherine that Raymond can start the mass anytime he wished as she was not going to attend the Communion that day.

Raymond consecrated the bread. As he began to break the bread first into two parts and then into four, the sacred Host broke into three parts, two large and one small. The small one was as big as a kidney bean. He saw the little part jump out of the chalice, and as far as he could tell, it seemed to fall on to the corporal. He did not see where it went after that. He searched every bit of corporal with great care but did not find the lost piece. He was almost in tears. After a while he resumed his search and extended it to the altar but did not find it. He thought of asking the advice of the Prior of the monastery. But then a Prior of another monastery accosted him. He wanted to talk to Catherine urgently about some matter. He could not wait. Therefore Raymond went to Catherine’s house. He was surprised to learn that she was in the church. He did find her in the pews, in ecstasy. Due to the urgency of the lost Host she was gently roused. Raymond started telling her about the lost Host.

 

To be continued

 

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

(*) Host is a piece of consecrated bread. Holy Communion or Eucharist or Sacrament, are synonymous terms used for the rite of putting the Host in the mouth of the receiver. Jesus Christ gave the bread and wine to his disciples during the Last Supper and said 'This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.' In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me'. Non-Christian should understand that Christians consider it the body of Christ.

(**)During ecstasy a person is rigid like a statue and oblivious to his/her surroundings

Saturday, April 2, 2016


205. ST. Catherine of Siena. Part ten

I was describing the miracles of multiplication of edibles.

 She stayed in Rome in a house with her followers and a group of followers of God whom the Pope had summoned to Rome on Catherine’s suggestion. She had also extended her hospitality to them. There was not a cache of staples of food. All food had to be begged. Sometimes holy virgin also went for begging. At that time there were sixteen men and eight women living with her in that house. She had such trust in Lord that it did not worry her that from where will the foods for everybody come? Catherine had passed the order that each woman should for one week be responsible for household affairs so that the rest could pursue the things related to God or go for pilgrimage of sites in Rome. If there was a shortage of foodstuff this woman was supposed to tell Catherine one day in advance so that she should send somebody for begging or go herself.  There came a week when this responsibility fell on Giovanna’s shoulders. Giovanna was a sister of Penance who was from Siena and had accompanied St Catherine on this journey. As it happened, Giovanna forgot this instruction. One evening, there was not enough bread in the bin for four people. When Giovanna realized the enormity of the problem she went to holy virgin. She was very embarrassed and ashamed.  Catherine scolded her mildly. Then she told her to ask everybody to sit at the dinner table and serve whatever bread they had. Giovanna said there was not enough bread for 4-5 people. Nevertheless she followed the holy virgin’s instructions. Meanwhile Catherine went to a secluded place and started praying fervently.

All these hungry persons started eating with the one small loaf they had. To everybody’s amazement each person’s loaf never finished! Even when everybody had eaten their full, bread remained. At Catherine’s orders it was distributed to the poor. They burst out singing the praises of the Lord.

Another similar miracle was described to Raymond by Giovanna and Lisa (sister in law of Catherine, who was also a Dominican nun). This happened in the week of Lent, in the same year, and in the same house.

In 1375, in Pisa, Catherine became extremely weak. Raymond thought she was going to die. Catherine would not take anything internally such as milk, eggs, meat, sugar water, etc. Raymond recollected that a certain wine called vernaccia, if rubbed on wrists and temples is helpful in such a situation. A friend, Gherado’s, knew of a person who had a bottle of vernaccia. The person said he would willingly have given a barrel of vernaccia, but the barrel had been empty for three months. They went to the barrel and one could readily see that it had been empty for some time. To make sure, the owner pulled the spigot out.  As the bung was pulled out, a generous amount of vernaccia gushed out and gathered on the floor. The owner gathered everybody who lived in the house and asked them if anybody amongst them had put wine in the barrel.  All of them denied it and stated that nobody could put wine in the barrel without their knowledge. The news spread in the neighborhood like wild fire. Everybody acknowledged that it was a miracle of God.

A strange twist occurred due to Catherine’s prayer.

A few days after the incident Catherine recovered and went into the city to see somebody. As soon as the news of her arrival spread people gathered. Shopkeepers closed their shops to see this woman who could fill an empty flask with wine. When holy virgin learnt the cause of this hubbub, she became quite upset. She implored the Lord, “All your other servants can live amongst people but not I. ……..By your infinite mercy I beg you to have pity on me and dry up all the wine.”

A second miracle, even greater than the first happened, wine went as sour as vinegar!

There has been lot of discussion about these miracles amongst people living at that time and between scholars over the centuries. Some even thought that these were Satan’s doing; an optical illusion, that is why wine could not stay as wine. Raymond had the following interpretation: Both miracles were the work of Lord. Catherine was not involved in the first. She even did not know about the first miracle. Lord wanted to show by the filling of the barrel that He cared for the holy virgin, because with that miracle people will praise her and realize her worth with the Lord. Lord produced the wine to cure her. By the second miracle He showed how much He cared for her wishes and desires. He accepted her profound humility.

To be continued.

Saturday, March 26, 2016


 

204. ST. Catherine of Siena. Part nine

 

Saint Catherine’s confessor Fra Tommaso and Friar Giorgio Naddi were travelling together.  They were followed by a band of robbers. Soon the brigands waylaid them and removed them from their horses. They took all their possessions. To hide their robbery they talked between themselves of killing them and burying their bodies in the jungle. Friars promised that they won’t disclose this deed to a soul, but it had no effect on the miscreants. No human help was available. In desperation, Fra Tomasso called, “O sweetest daughter …..Come to our aid in this tremendous danger”.

He had not finished his call for help when one of the robbers suddenly burst out with the words, “why should we kill these good friar, they won’t breathe to a soul”. They talked some more. Then they not only spared their lives but returned all their possessions and horses. As I have already mentioned Catherine was twenty-four miles away with a companion. At the very moment Father Tommaso called, Catherine said, “My father is calling me, and I know he is in great distress”. She got up and went to a place where she prayed.

Prophecies. In 1375, most of the cities and lands that belonged to the Roman Church rebelled against Pope Gregory X1. One day the news of insurrection of Perugia came while Raymond and Catherine were sitting together in Pisa. They were both saddened by the news.  Then Catherine said, “But this is nothing as compared to what is going to come”.

“You mean something worse than this is going to happen”

“Yes! A time is going to come when there will be a schism in the Roman Church. It will break into two”

Father Raymond was horrified by the thought of breakup of Christendom.

Catherine said, “Those will be terrible times. You will be alive when this happens, so you will be a witness to the events”

When the schism occurred in the reign of the next Pope, I reminded Catherine of her prophecy years ago in Pisa. Catherine said that even worse things are going to happen in the border areas.

Raymond asked her that what will happen to the Holy Church.

She replied, “After all these disasters, God will purify the Church. It will rise and shine to greater glories”

Things happened as she had predicted.

Multiplication of edibles. There was a great famine in Siena. A time came when fresh wheat became unavailable. People were obliged to eat old wheat/flour which had become moldy. Catherine was staying with her inseparable companion Alessia. They were eating bad wheat like everybody else. When the fresh crop came new wheat became available. Alessia decided to throw the small amount of moldy wheat away as the Lord had mercy on them. Catherine advised her not to throw the old one away, because Lord had made it. She advised her to give it to the poor, who did not even have that available to them. Alessia said that she did not want to do it because it will be on her conscience that she gave sour bread to the poor, she would rather give good wheat to the poor. Catherine said, “Bring me the moldy flour you want to throw and some water, I will make bread myself for the poor of Jesus”

She started making loaves from the moldy flour. Her speed of making was so fast that in a small amount of time she made large amount of loaves. As a matter of fact she made 4-5 times more loaves than would have been possible from the small amount of flour that was available. Everybody was amazed. They were sent to the bakehouse for cooking. Then they were eaten at the dinner table by everybody. There was nothing wrong with them. People remarked that they had never eaten such sweet bread.

That was not the end of the miracle.

Bread was distributed to the poor and the friars. The bin in which loaves were stored, kept on producing loaves for several weeks!

Thus God performed a miracle with three parts; Moldy bread was transformed to sweet bread, the amount of dough was increased, and numbers of loaves in the bin were multiplied.

When Raymond heard of this miracle he thought of investigating all the facts of this case. He asked holy virgin herself. She told him the following: “I was seized with the desire to help the poor and not to waste any food which Lord had made. I suddenly saw Blessed Mary and many holy spirits and angels in front of me. She asked me to proceed with the task and with her own most holy hands started making bread with me. The loaves increased in number due to her holiness.”

She was ordered to go to Rome by Pope Urban VI. Many persons accompanied her on this journey to Rome. They had gathered around her from all over the province of Tuscany. She was instructing these sons and daughters in the way of holiness.
To be continued

Saturday, March 19, 2016


203. ST. Catherine of Siena. Part eight

Andrea de’Bellanti was a young man notorious for his wild and blasphemous ways. He was a compulsive gambler and often lost money. After losing money he would curse God and blame Him. One time he went to a church and stomped on a crucifix and burned a picture of Blessed Mary. He became afflicted with a mortal sickness as a young man. That made him even bitterer. Father Tommaso used to plead with him but it was of no use. One time, discouraged, Tomasso stopped at Catherine’s house and asked her to pray for him with God. She started praying. Part of the prayer was ‘Did You not come to take away man’s sins,…..O Lord grant that my brother’s heart may be softened and made to yield to the working of Your Holy Spirit’

She prayed for the whole night.

She heard Lord’s promise.

“ I shall put away my sword of justice. This sinful man shall find the grace and favor you asked”

In the morning Andrea asked his wife to see a priest. She could not believe his words.

He told her the reason. He saw Jesus standing in the corner of his room along with Catherine. She asked him to go for confession. Father Tomasso rushed to Catherine to tell her the story but she already knew the details and could describe the inside of Andrea’s house. This story spread all over Siena. . People started asking the holy woman for intercession in their feuds

Nanni di Ser Vanni was an influential and evil man. His specialty was starting private feuds. He was like an agent of devil, causing malice and strife while outwardly pretending peace. There was a party who had killed a man of the opposite party. The guilty party wanted to make peace but Nanni was the obstacle. A holy man, Friar Williams, extracted a promise out of Nanni that he would go and listen to Catherine. He went to see Catherine but she was not at home. However, Father Raymond happened to be there. Father Raymond escorted him to the private room of the holy virgin, so that he should not go away. Nanni said that he had come to this place only because he had given a promise to Friar Williams to see Catherine, but he had no intention of generating peace in this fight, although he could cause peace if he wanted to, and he had not before told this secret that he did not want peace to any living soul. As he was about to leave Catherine came home. She made him sit and asked him why he had come. Nanni told the whole story which he had told to Raymond, again, stressing, that he did not want to make peace. Catherine told him that he was putting his soul in mortal danger. She cajoled and argued. Soon it was evident that his mind was closed and words were having no effect.

At that point she started silently praying, which Raymond could discern. Suddenly Nanni said, “I don’t want to be completely obstinate. I will make a concession. I have four feuds to settle. You can do whatever you want about one of them”. He gave details of that strife. “But now I must go.” But Instead of leaving he lingered. He said, “I already feel so peaceful” Then he said,” Lord God a power holds me. I cannot go and I cannot say no.” And he burst into tears.

He fell on his knees in front of Catherine. He said, “Holy virgin I will do as you say. Not only in this matter but in all matters.”

Meanwhile Catherine had gone into ecstasy.  She came to her senses and thanked the Lord. She said, “I could see that I was not succeeding. I prayed to the Lord. He at once heard my prayer. Now do the penance, if you do not want to run into anymore troubles”

Nanni completely turned his life around. He confessed his sins to Raymond.

For some reason he was arrested and was rumored to be beheaded. Father Raymond was very upset. He rushed to Catherine and said “Mother, as long as Nanni was with the devil he had marvelous life. Now that he has turned to God, his life has become very difficult”. Catherine consoled Raymond that may be he is being cleansed in this world instead of receiving punishment in the next world. But she assured him that Lord who had mercy on him in the first place will release him from prison also. Soon he was freed from prison as she had predicted, but he suffered monetarily. Then he became very sick. However, his devotion increased. He donated a castle to Catherine, which was converted to a convent called, “Holy Mary, Queen of the Angels”

Now an episode of what happened when someone in mortal danger called her for help twenty-four miles away.
To be continued.

Saturday, March 12, 2016





 
202. ST. Catherine of Siena. Part seven
 
 

Jesus Christ had given her a special power by which she could recognize the nature of a person. I quote: “…. I( Jesus ) give your soul a special illumination which will enable you to see the beauty or ugliness of all the souls that come to you……..and not only of the souls present before your eyes, but all whose salvation you ardently long for….even though you have never seen them.”

Raymond acted as an interpreter during the first meeting between Catherine and the Supreme Pontiff Gregory, because she could not speak Latin and he could not speak Italian. Catherine said that she could smell the stench of all the vices of hell in the Roman Court. The Pope on hearing this asked her that how long she had been at the Roman Court? I told him that she has been at the court only for few days. “How have you managed to learn so much?” The Pope asked.

Catherine attitude and demeanor suddenly changed. I saw it with my own eyes. She suddenly stood up. A majesty came in her posture. These words came forth from her mouth, “ To the honor of the Almighty God I dare to say that I could smell the sins being committed in the Roman Court better when I was in Siena where I was born than the people who committed the and are still committing them.”The Pope was speechless…..

She could sometimes see people coming to visit her from a distance. Two great scholars, Brother Gabriel, master of sacred theology, and Father John Tantucci, also a master of sacred theology, were discussing the miraculous stories circulating about Catherine. Brother Gabriel lived in fancy quarters and slept under silk sheets

“It is a scandal!” Brother Gabriel said. “She presumes to teach others. Can she read? Does she know scriptures? Who taught her? This ignorant woman can lead thousands astray. Perhaps Dominicans don’t know how to stop her, but we do. We should stop her for the good of the Holy Church.”. The two masters of sacred theology decided to pay Catherine a visit. Their aim was to reveal her lack of knowledge. They were going to ask her questions. They thought she won’t know the answers. Her ignorance will shame her in front of her followers

Catherine was talking with some friends. Suddenly she stopped talking and said, “Soon you will see two big fish caught in the net.” She started praying fervently. Soon a servant announced the arrival of the masters. She made them sit on a bench and herself sat at their feet. The two theologians were ready. First Brother Gabriel and then Father John fired questions. Catherine listened intently. When her turn came, she responded by lashing out at them. “How dare both of you live in such luxury”. She looked at Brother Gabriel directly and said, “How can you, a son of Saint Francis, live in such comfort and extravagance. How can you know kingdom of God. For the sake of Jesus Christ crucified abandon this mode of life”. She said many other similar things. The effect on the two scholars was nothing short of miraculous.

Brother Gabriel fell on his knees in front of her. He offered her the keys to his house and asked her to give everything in the house to the poor. He only wanted to keep the clothes on his back and the breviary. He was going to follow the example of Saint Francis from now onwards. He became a changed man. Soon he left his post as master-provincial and went to Florence where he waited on his fellow-friars and served them meals. Father Tantucci did not own much but he also sold what he had. He became a faithful disciple of Catherine and kept her company.

The conversion of the two scholars was not a unique event. Saint Catherine had the power to overwhelm one’s defenses and turn one’s life upside down. Father Lazzarino was a Franciscian who taught philosophy at the University of Siena. He was not impressed by the stories about Catherine. He came to meet her. Father Dominic recorded the conversation. There was awkwardness. They exchanged pleasantries. When the time for leave came, Catherine knelt before Lazzarino and asked for his blessing, which he graciously gave. She asked him to pray for her soul. As a courtesy he asked her to do the same for him. As he left his impression was that she was a good woman but nothing extraordinary.

Next evening he started weeping, uncontrollably, and without any reason.  He could not control his weeping during the night and the next day. As the day proceeded he became exhausted and confused. He could not think of the reason for his weeping. He begged God for help. A silent voice arose from the depth of his brain, “Did you treat my servant Catherine appropriately? Were you not mere condescending when you asked her to pray for your soul?” As the day broke, he went to Catherine’s house, and prostrated himself humbly in front of her. She did likewise. She already knew about his weeping. She advised him to become poor and humble. To abandon his vanities and live like his model Saint Francis.

He sold all his belongings, even his books and lived a life of strict poverty like Saint Francis. People started saying that he has been be-Catherined.

To be continued with two more stories of conversion of hardened souls

Saturday, March 5, 2016


201. ST. Catherine of Siena. Part six

 

As Brother Neri got better, Brother Stefano got ill. He developed fever. His sickness made all the members of his party very sad. Even holy virgin was affected. He was liked by everybody. She touched him and realized that he had high fever. She was overcome with spirit and said,” I command you by the power of holy obedience not to suffer from this fever any longer.” A miracle happened. Before she left his bed, fever went away and Stefano became healthy.

Another miracle was not directly observed by Raymond, but he researched it. It happened to a Sister of Penance of St Dominic called Giovanna of Capo. She was still alive when Raymond wrote his book. Catherine was in Florence by the order of Pope and was negotiating peace between the rebellious Florentines and the Pope. For tactical reasons Catherine was obliged to go out of the city with her party. Unexpectedly, the feet of Giovanna swelled and she developed fever. She could not accompany the party. Catherine did not want to leave her behind, alone and unprotected. She could come to harm at the hands of the ruffians. She started praying for her recovery. Lord interceded. Giovanna fell asleep as Catherine was praying. When she woke up she was perfectly healthy. She accompanied the party. People, who had seen her sick, were astonished at this miracle.

Once, in Toulon, holy virgin was staying in an inn with her party. A woman brought a little boy on her back, which was all swollen and looked an absolute monster. Catherine was filled with compassion and took the boy in her arms. As soon as the boy came in her arms he began to expel wind. His body gradually returned to normal size and the boy completely recovered. This miracle was so widely talked that the bishop of the city approached Raymond and asked his help to get an interview with Catherine, which he did.

Reading thoughts. Raymond wrote that she could read her companion’s most intimate thoughts. This used to happen often. But let me furnish an objective example:

There was in Siena an old soldier by the name of Messers Niccolo dei Sarcini. He took part in many wars. His wife wanted him to go to confession but he always refused. His wife knew St Catherine and wanted him to go to St Catherine. He would reply, “What can that little woman do for me.” Finally the wife mentioned the matter to holy virgin and asked her to pray for him. She agreed.

One night the soldier had a dream in which Catherine appeared. She advised the soldier that to avoid eternal damnation he must listen to his wife and confess his sins. When the soldier woke up he told his wife his dream and said that he must meet Catherine and see if she is the person who came in his dream. When the soldier met Catherine he was reassured of the veracity of his dream. She directed him to meet her confessor, Fra Tommaso. He confessed his sins. One day he came to Raymond and told him that he wanted to see Catherine regarding some matter.

He found the holy virgin and told her about his meeting with Fra Tommaso. She said, “Are you sure that you told him all your sins?” the soldier replied in affirmative. She said, “Think again. Did you tell him all your wrong actions?”The soldier said, “Yes”. Catherine said, “Think the matter over and make sure you have not left anything out”. Then the soldier left, Catherine called him back. “Are you sure you did not leave any wrong action out?” The old soldier insisted that he did not leave anything out. Holy virgin took him aside and narrated certain incident from his past which he had committed in Apuleia. Old soldier was astonished. Nobody in the whole world knew about it and he had forgotten it. Afterwards he told this incident to everybody who would listen. He considered it a miracle and thought of her a saint and a prophet. He died the same year.

This miracle consisted of several parts. Her appearance in the dream, revealing the incident from his past, and become an instrument of the Lord in his confession, conversion and salvation.

Knowing of somebody else’s secret from the past. I have described the miracle of the soldier. Here is another episode. French Pope Gregory lived in Avignon. It was best for the Christianity if Pope lived in Rome, instead of with French Cardinals in Avignon. Pope himself was pious but his courtiers were corrupt. They lived in luxury and sin with sisters, nieces and mistresses. The cardinals tried their best to prevent the Pope from leaving for Rome. Catherine tried her best to persuade him to go to Rome. One day Gregory will decide to go to Rome, the next day he would change his mind. What was the right course of action?. Finally he asked God for a sign.

One day Gregory and Catherine were talking to each other on the subject of moving to Rome. Pope asked her what she would do if she was in his place. Catherine looked at his face, long and hard, and said, “You know what to do more than anybody else. Your Holiness has long kept a vow to return to Rome” Pope had never told his vow to anybody else.  He was wonderstruck. How could Catherine know about his vow? Nobody except him and God knew about it. God must have told her. That was the sign he had asked from God

Saturday, February 27, 2016


200. ST. Catherine of Siena. Part five

 

We were talking of her miracles regarding the curing of the sick

Messer Matteo was the Rector of Misericordia hospital. He contracted plague and became a patient in his own hospital. He gave his dying confession to Raymond and described his symptoms. A doctor said that his symptoms were far advanced.  Meanwhile Catherine heard about his illness.  She came to see him. She started shouting before she reached him, “Get up, Messer Matteo, this is no time to rest in a soft bed!”At these words Matteo smiled. He got up, completely cured!. The fever, and painful swelling  in the groin, vanished. As she was leaving the hospital, she met Raymond, who was unaware that his friend had been cured. He begged her to cure him. She humbly said, “…Do you think I am God…?” Raymond said, a little harshly, “You can say that to anyone else, but not to me, for I know your secrets….”. She smiled and said, “ Cheer up, he won’t die this time.” The other witness to this miracle was Nicolo di Andrea, who was present throughout the event . Besides, hospital  staff and other priests were also present.

There was a certain saint and hermit Fra Santi__a true saint. Holy virgin found him dying in his hermitage. She whispered in his ear, “Have no fear. You are not going to die this time.”She had him moved to Misericordia hospital. He got worse by the hour. Death seemed to be very near.

When Catherine returned to the hospital she saw the advanced state of his disease. She again whispered in his ear, “Don’t be afraid, because you won’t die.”

Santi remained very sick for several days, much longer than the usual time for such patients to live. Catherine visited him in the end. This time she shouted in his ear, “I command you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ not to die.”At that point Santi revived. He sat up and asked for something to eat. He lived for many years afterwards and was present at St Catherine’s death.

Santi told Raymond and others later what holy virgin had said in his ear. He considered it a real miracle, genuine resuscitation. The power that had cured him was Divine Power. He was believed due to his sanctity. For nearly thirty-six years he had been living an absolutely blameless life as a hermit and was held in the deepest respect.

She cured many others during the epidemic of plague, including Raymond, which I have already described (blog 196). When she visited Pisa she cured a youth of about 20 years who had been suffering from quotidian fever (a type of malaria) for eighteen months. He had lost all his strength.  When holy virgin saw his pale face she was filled with compassion. She said to him, “Go, son, with the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ, for I do not want you to suffer from the fever anymore.”He was completely cured. I (Raymond) was myself a witness to this event. I also saw him quite healthy several years later.

A woman named Gema suffered from quinsy. Inside of her throat was completely blocked and she was near suffocation. She came to Catherine and said to her, “Mother if you do not help me I am going to die.” Catherine had compassion on the woman. She put her hand on her throat and made the sign of cross over her. She got cured at once.

There were two devout young men who used to take down her letters. They are both still alive( writes Raymond). One of them was called Neri and the other Stefano. Neri became sick while they were all visiting Genoa. He developed pain in his bowels. The attacks of pain were so severe that he would howl with pain. He would crawl on the floor to find some position to alleviate the pain. Everybody was filled with mercy but nobody could do anything. Catherine was approached by Raymond and others. For some reason she did not immediately come to his rescue but advised standard medical treatment. Maybe, Lord wanted her not to intervene at that time. Two doctors started treatment, but Neri got worse. Raymond described his condition to the other Friars at supper. Stefano got up, and with tears in his eyes, went to the virgin’s room and threw himself at her feet. He asked her, humbly, to help his brother and companion who had come on this journey for love of God and herself, and not to let her corpse remain on foreign land.

Catherine replied that if God wanted to reward him for his good deeds, Stefano should not be upset, one should learn to submit oneself to the will of God. But Stefano was unmoved by these arguments. He kept on begging. Finally holy virgin said, that if Neri did not get better by morning, Stefano should remind her when she goes to church to receive Communion, and she would pray to the Lord. Next morning after she had received Communion, as usual, she went into ecstasy. After she had recovered she turned to Stefano and said “You have received the grace you wanted”. “Will he get better?” Stefano asked. “Off course he will get better” she replied. Neri indeed recovered. But Stefano got sick.

To be continued

 

Saturday, February 20, 2016


 

 

199. ST. Catherine of Siena. Part four

 

Catherine’s fame spread. She became known, as a saint, in the provinces of Tuscany and Lombardy. She was invited to preach in various villages and towns. She preached for six months in Pisa. Her fame spread to Florence, the second largest city in Italy. It reached the ears of Pope, who lived in Avignon. She visited the Pope in Avignon. She died in Rome, the largest city in Italy.

She changed from a girl who lived in her parent’s home and was not allowed to go out without escort, as was the custom in 14th century Italy for unmarried girls, to a fearless leader of men.  In a society ruled by men, she commanded men. How did that happen? The clue to this riddle is provided succinctly by her biographer. The clue was her one important talk with Jesus. He invited her to open the door to other souls (so that Jesus could enter in them). Jesus said, “Do you remember that you wanted to dress as a man so that you could become a male friar? Now I want you to live out”.  She was stunned with the idea of leaving the security of her cell and to enter public life

She replied, “But I am a woman and ignorant”

“In my eyes, there is neither male nor female…” He made a long speech which readers can find in the book (1). Thus, she was told to leave the sheltered life of her home, and work with others. She told Raymond, in confession, that when the Lord ordered her she felt such a sharp pain in her heart that it seemed as though it was going to burst. He said, “I wish to bind you more closely to myself, by means of love of the neighbor”.

She was told to join her family at the dining room table; a practice she had not done for years.

She took charge of the household chores. She talked of God with anybody who would listen. Some persons liked her talk. Soon a band of friends and followers developed around her. They would gather in her little room. They prayed together. They sang together. They listened to her when she was intimately talking to God. They would watch in amazement when she would go in ecstasy. Her body would become rigid like a statue. Sometimes she would be lifted up towards the ceiling.

Her fame spread by word of mouth of her followers. She exhibited miracles. She helped the poor. She cured the sick. She would go to the hospital, in the night, carrying a lantern. Sometimes she would stay in the hospital for the whole night. They gave her a room in the hospital.

Now let me give some more details about the five aspects of her life which I mentioned in the beginning, in blog 196.

Miracles. She performed hundreds of miracles. It is difficult to classify them. Let us see. Here is my crude classification:

1.       Curing the sick

2.       Reading thoughts

3.       Knowing of somebody  else’s secret from the past

4.        Saw people coming to visit her while still at a distance

5.       Heard a person miles away calling her for help

6.       Prophecies

7.       Multiplication of edibles

8.       Influencing the minds of persons, near and far.

9.       Her face changed

10.   Inanimate things obeyed her

11.   Miracles after death

12.   Levitation

13.   Not burnt by fire

14.   Driving out evil spirits

I have not included the miracles which nobody else could see. Like her visions, her ring, a garment from Jesus, her stigmata, and her conversations with Jesus. Her ability to read (though illiterate), and her knowledge of Bible (though she did not have a teacher), if not miracles, are miraculous. How to classify ecstasy and rapture?

 

The story of her curing her own mother, Lapa, is most amazing. Lapa was an intensely worldly person and hated to die. She became very sick. On her mother’s urging, Catherine pleaded with the Lord to cure her. The Lord answered that it would be better for her to die now and be spared of all the miseries that she would otherwise have to endure. The virgin went to her mother and told her to resign herself to the impending death. Lapa was inconsolable. She asked her daughter to do anything she possibly could to prevent her death. Catherine implored the Lord with all her might. Finally Lord said, “tell your mother,…..that the time will come when she will beg for death, and it will not come”. Lapa did not even confess

God suddenly permitted her to die without confession. Catherine was beside herself with grief that Lapa had died without any sacraments of the Church.

She felt cheated by the Lord. She vowed not to move from that place till her mother was returned to her alive.

There were three women witnesses (whose names Raymond gives and were still alive when Raymond wrote his book) present at that time who saw the death of Lapa and heard the Virgin’s words.

The Virgin prayed and prayed at the bedside with copious tears. After a short time, suddenly, Lapa’s body began to move. She recovered completely and lived till the age of eighty-nine.

So many misfortunes fell on Lapa, that she used to say, “But why has Lord put my soul back in my body. ….so many of my dear relatives have died….Am I alone not allowed to die…..?”

To be continued