Cloistered Dominican Nuns Corpus Christi Monastery

The Valiant Lover of the Crucified

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“Beloved Spouse, I come to seek in thy heart and in those of my daughters a refuge against the crimes of sinners which overwhelm me.” -Our Lord to St. Catharine de Ricci

Today the Dominican Order celebrates one of the female giants of the Order, our saintly sister Catharine de Ricci.  She was born of a noble family in Florence in 1522. As with our Holy Father Saint Dominic, St. Catharine was gifted with a great love and devotion for the Passion of Christ.  We often think saints who had ecstasies and visions are exempted from the trials and sufferings; but in Catharine’s case, our Lord prepared a path of holiness for her through the way of humility and humiliation.

At an early age, Catharine was taught by her aunt to recite five Paters and Aves in honor of each of the seven principle stages of the Passion and the saint performed this pious exercise with much zeal.  By the time she entered the Order, St. Catharine had reached the stage of continual interior conversation with her Divine spouse.  However, because of this interior conversation, to her sisters, she appeared to be sleeping through the day and seemed ‘stupid’ and useless.  On learning that she would soon be sent away by the community, the Saint threw herself at the feet of each of her sisters with great humility and begged them to allow her to remain in the service of the Lord.  Moved by her humility, the community allowed her to stay and she made her vows on June 24, 1536.

In 1542, Catharine began to have ecstasies every week from noon on Thursday until Friday afternoon.  She was with our Lord at the various stages of the Sacred Passion and the words fell from her lips at these moments of ecstasies betrayed her love for her suffering Divine Lover and for poor sinners.  Her body bore the  wounds of her heavenly Spouse and these caused her great and continual pains until the day she went to heaven to join her Bridegroom.  It was recorded that “from her right shoulder down to her waist was a wide, deep, livid furrow,” impressed upon her by the Cross which she bore during her visions.

Immediately after Catharine’s first ecstasy of the Passion, our Mother of Sorrows appeared to her and revealed to her a canticle in honor of the sufferings of her Divine Son, consisted mainly of prophetic verses from the Psalms.  Our Blessed Mother ordered the Saint to promulgate the devotion, which is still chanted in many Dominican houses, especially on the Fridays in Lent.

As with all Dominican monasteries, St. Catharine had in her cell a large wooden crucifix and the Lord often talked to her from this crucifix.  We learned that her community witnessed an occasion when St. Catharine was praying before this crucifix, the figure detached itself from the cross and came to her, “Beloved Spouse, our Lord said to her, I come to seek in thy heart and in those of my daughters a refuge against the crimes of sinners which overwhelm me.”

God of light and truth, by your grace St. Catharine shone forth in her contemplation of the Passion of your son.  By the help of her prayers may we meditate with reverence upon these same mysteries, and so come to enjoy their fruits.  We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen. (Prayer from the Office of Reading on the Feast of St. Catharine de Ricci)

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