04 February 2010

Saint Catherine de' Ricci

4 FEBRUARY 2010. Today we celebrate the Memorial of Saint Catherine de' Ricci, a sixteenth century Dominican sister, mystic, and virgin.

Saint Catherine--by birth, Alessandra Lurcezia Romola de' Ricci--was born in Florence on 23 April 1522. Saint Catherine's mother died when she was a child, but she was raised by a devoted stepmother who encourage the young child's evident holiness and devotion to solitary prayer. At the age of 6, Saint Catherine's father placed her in the Monticelli convent, near the family home, where Saint Catherine received an education.  After a brief return home. Saint Catherine entered the Dominican convent of San Vincenzo in Prato, Tuscany. It was as a Dominican sister (professed, 1536) that Alessandra took the name of Catherine.

By the age of 25, Saint Catherine had risen to the post of perpetual prioress of the convent, where she lived until in her death.

Saint Catherine is mostly known to us today for her highly mystical and miraculous life. In February 1542, for the first time, Saint Catherine experience the great "Ecstasy of the Passion" which consumed her every week from Noon on Thursday until 4:00 p.m. on Friday. In this state, Saint Catherine experience the entire Passion of our Lord, actually realizing and showing forth to others all that our Blessed Mother suffered while witnessing the Passion.  The great Ecstasy of the Passion lasted  for 12 years until, at the prayers of Saint Catherine, herself, and her community, the ecstasies ended. At the time, the well known ecstasies of Saint Catherine were drawing so many people to Prato, that the prayerfulness and peace of the convent were being jeopardized.

As prioress of San Vincenzo, Saint Catherine was an effective and greatly admired administrator. She was an advisor to princes, bishops, and cardinals. And, she corresponded regularly with many well known people of her time, including three men that would later become pope: Pope Marcellus II, Pope Clement VIII, and Pope Leo XI. An expert on religion, management and administration, her advice was often eagerly sought. She gave counsel both in person and through writing letters.

Saint Catherine's mediation on the Passion of Christ was so deep that she spontaneously bled as though having been scourged. She bore the stigmata. And one of the miracles that was documented in her canonization was her miraculous appearance to Saint Philip Neri, appearing to him in Rome without having left her convent in Prato.

Following a lengthy illness, Saint Catherine died on 1 February 1590. She was canonized by Pope Benedict XIV in 1746.


Almighty God,
you brought our sister Catherine to holiness
through her contemplation of you Son's passion.
As we remember the dying and rising of your Son,
help us to become courageous preachers
and teachers of these mysteries.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, you Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.


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