(Feast Day: Dominican calendar, Feb 4. General Roman Calendar, Feb, 13.)
The Ricci are an ancient family, which still subsists in a flourishing condition in Tuscany. Peter de Ricci, the father of our saint, was married to Catherine Bonza, a lady of suitable birth. The saint was born at Florence in 1522, and called at her baptism Alexandrina, but she took the name of Catherine at her religious profession, in honor of St Catherine of Siena, OP.
Having lost her mother in her infancy, she was formed to virtue by a very pious godmother, and whenever she was missing she was always to be found on her knees in some secret part of the house. 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 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 Dominican sisters at Prat, in Tuscany, to which her uncle, Fr Timothy de Ricci, OP, was director.
For two years she suffered inexpressible pains under a complication of violent distempers, which remedies only seemed to increase. These sufferings she sanctified by the interior disposition with which she bore them, and which she nourished by assiduous meditation on the passion of Christ. The victory over herself, and purgation of her affections was completed by a perfect spirit of prayer; for by the union of her soul with God, and the establishment of the absolute reign of His love in her heart, she was dead to and disengaged from all earthly things.
The saint was chosen, when very young, first as mistress of the novices, then sub-prioress, and, in the twenty-fifth year of her age, was appointed as perpetual prioress. The reputation of her extraordinary sanctity and prudence drew her many visits from a great number of bishops, princes, and cardinals-among them, the Cardinals Cervini, Alexander of Medicis, and Aldobrandini, who all three were afterwards raised to St. Peter’s chair, under the names of Marcellus II, Clement VIII, and Leo XI. They were among the thousands who sought her prayers while she lived, and even more after her passing.
Most wonderful were the raptures of St. Catherine in meditating on the passion of Christ. She received visions and had ecstasies, but these caused some problems and doubts among her sisters – outwardly she seemed asleep during community prayer, or dropping plates, or food, or dully stupid when the visions were upon her. Her sisters feared for her competence, even her sanity. Catherine thought everyone received these visions as part of their lives with God. She was stricken with a series of painful ailments that permanently damaged her health. Catherine met Philip Neri in a vision while he was alive in Rome; they had corresponded, so they knew each other. She could bi-locate. Neri confirmed during her beatification he spoke with her in person, when she was known to be in prayer in the convent and could not have physically made the trip to Rome to speak with him, a distance of nearly 200 miles. Said to have received a ring from the Lord as a sign of her espousal to Him; to her it appeared as gold set with a diamond; everyone else saw a red lozenge and a circlet around her finger.
At age 20 she began a 12-year cycle of weekly ecstasies of the Passion from noon Thursday until 4:00pm Friday, often accompanied by serious wounds. Her sisters could follow the course of the Passion, as the wounds appeared in order from the scourging and crowning with thorns. At the end she was covered with wounds and her shoulder was indented from the Cross. The first time, during Lent 1542, she meditated so completely on the crucifixion of Jesus that she became ill, and was healed by a vision of the Risen Lord talking with Mary Magdalene. Crowds came to see her, skeptics and sinners being converted by the sight. The crowds became too numerous and constant that the sisters prayed that the wounds become less visible; He made them so in 1554.
After a long illness she passed from this mortal life to everlasting bliss and possession of the object of all her desires on the feast of the Purification of our Lady, on the 2nd of February, in 1589, the sixty-seventh year of her age.
-St Catherine de Ricci receiving the wounded Christ from the Cross in a mystical vision.