Uncle Eddy's E-mail -- February 13
Saint Catherine dei Ricci,
(entered heaven in 1590)
You seem to be juggling your many responsibilities as a senior with admirable dexterity. It is an indication that the healthy prayer life and the habits of self-discipline and Christian virtue that you have been working so hard on for the past three years have begun to bear fruit. What a pity that more of your classmates didn't follow your example! Well, as your college career winds down and you prepare yourself for the much-overrated "next step," I hope you don't forget to make plenty of time to spend with your beloved Jesus, preferably in that beautiful chapel where the Eucharist is reserved – the one you have often told me about. After all, that personal, passionate, intimate relationship with the Lord is what gives meaning to everything else. It alone will keep your soul free from ennui, keep your egoism in check, and give you light and strength for your sure-to-be-wonderful journey through life. And, what's even more important, Christ himself eagerly desires to keep on entwining his heart with yours, more and more tightly.
That reminds me of the amazing life of today's saint, the daughter of an illustrious Florentine family (Florence is in Tuscany, more or less central Italy – you know, where they make Chianti wine) who entered the Dominican convent when she was only 13 and became prioress-for-life when she was only 30, an office she held for the next 38 years. She suffered an awful lot from an alarming array of diseases and sicknesses that proved resistant to all normal treatments, but took advantage of these struggles to aid her prayerful contemplation of Christ's passion and death. So lovingly did she contemplate these events, in fact, that God granted her an extraordinary grace.
Starting in Lent when she was 20, Catherine began to experience a weekly ecstasy that lasted exactly 28 hours. It started every Thursday at noon, and ended on Friday at 4pm. During this period, she was entirely unaware of what was going on around her (except when Holy Communion was brought to her in the morning, at which point she became just conscious enough to receive it with intense devotion), but she would act out, in order, the sufferings that Christ endured before his crucifixion (for example, when he was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, she would hold her hands out as if to be bound, and later she would bow her head to receive the crown of thorns, etc.). Sometimes in the course of this mystical transport, she would address eloquent and learned exhortations to the sisters who had gathered around her (which was odd, seeing as she was ineloquent and uneducated). These weekly ecstasies occurred for twelve years, and attracted a huge amount of attention (as you can imagine). They ceased after the sisters' earnest request to be freed from the disruption and inconveniences that the special privilege was causing.
Such special graces never impeded Mother Catherine from carrying out her duties in the community, however, and paying special attention to caring for the sick. She was always a model of humility, simplicity, and joy – which is probably one of the reasons she was elected prioress. She received many other special attentions from the Lord, as when he appeared to her at Easter, in 1590, and, taking off a ring from his own finger and putting it on hers, said, "My daughter, receive this ring as pledge and proof that you do now, and ever shall, belong to me." She was able to see the gold ring – with a diamond – until the day she died, although her sisters only saw a reddish circlet around her finger, or sometimes a brilliant light shining from the spot.
I have often wondered why our Lord makes such dramatic appearances to some of his beloved children. I believe he does so for the same reason that he cured some of the sick who were in Palestine during his earthly life: in order to give us a vivid, tangible parable, as it were, about how intensely and personally he loves each one of us. If we can always keep that in mind, I'll think we'll be just fine.
Your loving uncle, Eddy
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