St. Catherine de’ Ricci: Dominican Mystic
On February 13, we commemorate the great Dominican mystic and stigmatist, St. Catherine de’ Ricci (1522-1590), who was a Dominican nun, of the Third Order, enclosed in a convent at that time. She is the patron of sick people.
Alessandrina Lucrezia Romola de’ Ricci was born in Florence, Italy on April 23, 1522 to a pious and well-respected family. Her mother died when she was an infant and she was raised by her devoted stepmother, who encouraged her to live a holy life. When she has about 71/2 years old, her father placed her in the Convent of Monticelli, in Florence, where her aunt, Louisa de Ricci, was a nun. Her aunt and the other sisters watched over her and taught her catechism there.
Alessandrina was fourteen years old when she entered the Dominican Community of Prat, taking the religious name Catherine. Initially and for the first four-fve years after her profession, Catherine experienced many trials and humiliations within the order. She received visions and had ecstasies, which caused some concern among her peers, who didn’t understand her mystical experiences.
Eight years after joining the order, Catherine had her first spiritual ecstasy of the Passion of Christ. In addition to receiving the stigmata of the wound in the side and of the crown of thorns on the brow, for the next twelve years, she experienced all the stages of Christ’s suffering. This happened every Thursday at noon and lasted until 4:00 pm on Friday. She offered up all this suffering for the release of the poor souls in purgatory.
Along with her rich mystical life, Catherine lived out her faith in a practical way, caring for the sick, especially the poor of the countryside. Having become the prioress of her convent at the age of twenty-five, Catherine gave spiritual counsel to three future popes.
As Catherine’s reputation for holiness spread, lay people and religious alike came to see her for prayers and spiritual guidance. As a result of her prayers, penance, and counsel, many grew in personal holiness, discovering great hope, comfort, and peace in their faith and in the power of prayer.
Catherine died on February 2, 1590 at the age of 68, was beatified in 1732 by Clement XII, and was canonized by Benedict XIV in 1746.