Today is the feast day of Saint Catherine de Ricci. Ora pro nobis.
Alexandrina of Ricci was the daughter of a noble Florentine. (2) Her father, Pier Francesco de’ Ricci, was one of an old and respected family of bankers and merchants. Her mother of the Ricasoli family — died when she was a small child, and she was brought up by a devoted stepmother, Fiammetta da Diacceto. (3)
When she was between six and seven years old, her father placed her in the Convent of Monticelli, near the gates of Florence, where her aunt, Louisa de Ricci, was a nun. This place was to her a paradise: at a distance from the noise and tumult of the world, she served God without impediment or distraction. After some years her father took her home. She continued her usual exercises in the world as much as she was able; but the interruptions and dissipation, inseparable from her station, gave her so much uneasiness that, with the in consent of her father, which she obtained, though with great difficulty, in the year 1535, the fourteenth of her age, she received the religious veil in the convent of Dominicans at Prat, in Tuscany, to which her uncle, F. Timothy de Ricci, was director. (4)
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. (2)
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. (2)
Both during her novitiate and for four or five years after profession, she was subjected to humiliating trials from the community, owing to their misunderstanding of some of the high supernatural favours she received; but her holiness and humility eventually triumphed. She was then appointed to one important office after another, finally remaining prioress or sub prioress till her death. During all these years, whilst conscientiously fulfilling every religious duty, she was feeling and showing keen interest in all her relations — especially her brothers — and in numerous friends and “spiritual children”.
The great “Ecstasy of the Passion”, above referred to, happened for the first time in February, 1542, and was renewed every week afterwards for twelve years, when it ceased in answer to the prayers of Catherine herself and the community. The fame of it was bringing so many people of every rank and calling to Prato that the peace and strict observance of the convent were suffering. Catherine de’ Ricci lived in an age of great saints; among her contemporaries were St. Charles Borromeo, St. Philip Neri, and St. M. Magdalen de Pazzi. With the two last named she is said to have held in different ways, miraculous intercourse, never having met them in a natural way. She was beatified in 1732 by Clement XII, after many delays in the process, and canonized by Benedict XIV in 1746 on both occasions amid great rejoicings at Prato, where her memory is always kept fresh. The lineal descendants of her community still inhabit the convent of San Vincenzio (now commonly called Santa Caterina), and there her body still reposes. Her feast is kept on the 13th of February. (3)
Image: The Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine of Ricci, artist: Pierre Subleyras (5)
Research by REGINA Staff