NOTICE: I am a practicing Catholic, active and in good-standing with my local parish, who professes faith and loyalty to the Church. This ministry - my "little work" - is strictly a personal expression of that faith and loyalty, and not an officially recognized ministry in the Diocese of Honolulu. ~ Peter

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Saint of the Month - September 2016: Saint Catherine of Genoa

St. Catherine Fieschi Adorno of Genoa
Apostle of the Poor Souls ~ Feast: September 15th

Our September Saint is remembered for her works of mercy, as well as acclaimed, as the Apostle of the Poor Souls, whose private revelations, recorded in her classic spiritual writing - "A Treatise on Purgatory" - is filled with solid mystical insight into the Church's doctrine of Purgatory.

An accurate portrait of St. Catherine of Genoa
She was born Catherine Fieschi in the city of Genoa, Italy, in the year 1447. The Fieschi family was of noble lineage, and they were privileged to count among their own, two Popes: Pope Innocent IV (d. 1254) and Pope Adrian V (d. 1276).  

According to biographies of this Saint, Catherine was described as an attractive woman, tall and well-proportioned, with long features and dark eyes. As a child she was remarkably pious and, at age 13, attempted to follow an older sister into a local Augustinian Convent, but was refused admittance due to her young age. Disappointed, the child set aside her aspirations to consecrated life and even reluctantly acceded to a marriage, politically arranged by her brother and mother, to a member of another prominent family in Genoa. Unfortunately, the match was a poor one.

Catherine was 16-years-old at the time of her marriage to Giuliano Adorno. The man soon proved to be irresponsible, ill-tempered, and unfaithful, leaving his young bride lonely and depressed for the first five years into their married life. The sad state of their relationship also had the effect of leaving Catherine lukewarm in the practice of her spiritual life. In an effort to relieve her misery, she immersed herself in the worldly distractions offered by her social status; dressing in fine clothing and attending lavish events. This mode of life transpired for another five years until depression and a deep sense of emptiness caught up with her again. This time around, she turned to the right person for consolation - God.

Desperate for inner peace, the young aristocrat visited her sister, Limbania, the Augustinian nun, and through her prompting decided to make a general confession with the convent's chaplain. No sooner did Catherine kneel to confess when was suddenly struck by a sense of God's unconditional Love and Mercy for her. She also "saw" the state of her soul in light of the Lord's immeasurable goodness. This experience of Divine Love was so profound, it knocked the penitent unconscious, and when she recovered her senses, Catherine hurriedly left the convent without finishing her confession. It was the very first mystical experience of hers of which many would eventually follow.

St. Catherine nursed the sick-poor in her effort to be more like Christ.

When she reached home, for several days Catherine remained secluded, overwhelmed by the personal revelation in the confessional and deeply lamenting her life of spiritual carelessness. Christ intervened by appearing to her, wounded and burdened by the weight of his cross, and with this second mystical experience, Catherine cried out, "O Lord, I will never sin again; if need be, I will make public confession of my sins."... and with these words the Saint immediately set about making changes to her life.

Now inflamed with a renewed love for God, Catherine put aside her fine wardrobe and the luxuries of her social life, and began living a strict spiritual regimen consisting of Holy Communion (daily, which was rare in her time) and voluntary penances and fasting. Being childless, she persuaded her husband to allow her to live chastely with him and to serve the sick-poor of Genoa in active service, to which he readily agreed. Thus, unhindered by marital obligations, Catherine began to speedily ascend the ladder of holiness, via prayer and good works.

The plight of the Poor Souls was a particular
concern to St. Catherine of Genoa.
As she grew in virtue and deeper love for God, the Saint's mystical experiences also increased in frequency. For the rest of her life she had ecstasies during which she had visions of Jesus; encounters with the Poor Souls in Purgatory; and also received the hidden Stigmata. Despite the intensity of her spiritual life, it did not disrupt her busy schedule of being the administrator of the large hospital of Genoa where she had spent a considerable amount of time as a volunteer nurse. On top of it all, she also found the time to fulfill obligations as a Third Order Franciscan.

Perhaps one of the biggest triumphs in the life of St. Catherine was the conversion of her wayward husband. As already mentioned, Giuliano gave his wife free reign to exercise her spirituality, and was eventually changed for the better by her holy example. After having squandered their assets in bad living, he reformed his ways, joined the Franciscan Third Order (along with Catherine)... and nursed the sick side-by-side with his wife at the Genoa hospital. The couple lived modestly in a small rented home near the hospital and, when Giuliano, himself, was struck by a serious illness, Catherine lovingly nursed him until he passed worthily into eternity.

In the last 10 years of her life, Catherine was subjected to a mysterious condition that incapacitated her before she died on September 15, 1510, at the age of 63. During this period, in particular, the "fire" of Divine Love grew so great within her soul, its effects were physically manifested on her body. When prescribed blood-letting treatments were performed on her, the Saint's blood was so scalding hot it even heated the basins they were collected in! Interestingly, Catherine, in her writings compared the fiery sensation within her spirit and body to the delightful, yet painful purgation, that the Poor Souls endured... and of which she was granted a mystical participation in order to assist them.

The incorrupt body of St. Catherine Fieschi Adorno, as venerated in Genoa, Italy.

Pope Clement XII canonized St. Catherine of Genoa in 1737. Her body, discovered miraculously preserved 18 months after her burial, is now enshrined in a Church dedicated to her name in her home-city. May her faith-example not only inspire us to perform works of mercy for the sick-poor, but also for the Poor Souls!

A Reflection
"God so transforms the soul in Him that it knows nothing other than God; and He continues to draw it up into His fiery love until He restores it to that pure state from which it first issued."

~ Words from the writings of St. Catherine of Genoa

A Short Prayer
Lord, through the fire of your Divine Love, purify and renew us so that we, too - like St. Catherine of Genoa - may merit the joy of your blessed embrace in Heaven. Amen.

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