Catholic World – Saint Catharine at Florence

detail of the oil on canvas painting 'Saint Catherine of Siena', 17th century by Baldassare Franceschini; Dulwich Picture Gallery, Dulwich, London, England; swiped from Wikimedia Commons

The history of every race, every institution, every community, and even every family, has facts, phenomena, and characteristics of its own, which are the necessary results of the operation of certain elements or influences that belong to the subject of the history, or bear upon it with a peculiar force. It is the province of the philosophical historian to seize upon these characteristic features in each ease, and to give them their due prominence; and an intimate acquaintance with them and a due estimate of them are essentially necessary to any one who understands the work of such a historian. To be deficient in this point is enough to ruin the attempt. Thus, we might have a rationalistic writer on church history free from every prejudice, and endowed with literary powers of the highest kind – candid, impartial, industrious, judicious, full of generous sympathies, and large-minded and clear-sighted enough to take rank by the side of Thucydides or Tacitus – and yet he would fail even ludicrously as a Christian historian, because he did not recognize the ever living supernatural agency which the fortunes of the church are ordinarily guided – the force of prayer, the power of sanctity, the softening and restraining influences of faith, charity, and conscience, even on men or masses of men but imperfectly masters of their own passions, and by no means unstained by vice.

It is our object in these papers to give prominence to some of what may be conceded to be the more characteristic features of Christian history, which may nevertheless be left in the shade by those to whom it is little more than the history of Greece or Rome. Thus, a philosophical historian might see in the return of the Holy See from its long sojourn at Avignon a stroke of profound policy, by which it’s emancipation from the straitening influences of nationalism was cheaply purchased, even at the cost of the great scandals which followed, and which a calculating politician might have foreseen. But to such a writer the manner in which the step was brought about would seem to be a riddle; for nothing is clearer than that it was consciously no stroke of policy at all. The wisest heads and the most powerful influences at the pontifical court were united against it; it was the work of an irresistible impulse on the conscience of a gentle and peace-loving Pope, the subject of a secret vow, a design conceived under the personal influence of one saintly woman – of princely race indeed, and reverend age, and large experience – but carried out under that of another in whom these last qualities were wanting; young, poor, the daughter of an artisan, yet who was able to succeed in her mission when success seemed hopeless, and to become the instrument of strengthening the successor of Saint Peter in an emergency that might have taxed the courage of the great apostle himself.

Catholic art has sometimes represented Saint Catharine of Siena as taking a part in the triumphal procession with which Gregory XI. entered Rome, and so terminated the long exile of the Holy See at Avignon. These representations, although true in idea, are false as to the historical fact; for Saint Catharine never entered Rome in the lifetime of Gregory. After having seen him embark from Genoa on his voyage toward the Holy City, she betook herself, with her company of disciples, to her own home at Siena, where she seems to have remained, with occasional excursions into the neighboring country, for nearly a year. She then reappears in public, having been sent once more by the Pope to Florence, in the hope that her presence there might strengthen the hands of the better party in the Republic, and bring it round again to peace with the church. In the interval she resumed her usual occupations, exerting herself in every possible way for the good of souls. Her letters at this time show great anxiety for the peace, which had not yet been obtained in Italy; for the crusade, which was always in her heart; and, perhaps more than all, for the most difficult, yet most necessary of the objects that were so dear to her – the reform of the clergy, and especially of the prelacy. It would be a thankless task to inquire into the many causes which had foster worldliness among churchmen at that time, and so prepared all the elements for the great scandal that was so soon to follow in the “schism” of the West. The best interests of the church had, in reality, more deadly enemies than Barnabo Visconti or the “Eight Saints” at Florence, in men who wore the robes of priests and even the mitre of bishops.

There is every reason to suppose that the corruption was not widely spread; but it had infected many in high station and authority, and even a few bad and ambitious prelates can at any time do incalculable mischief. The illuminated eye of Catharine had become familiar with the evil that was thus gnawing at the very heart of the church, manifesting its presence already by the pride, ambition, and luxury of ecclesiastics, and ready, when the moment came to give it full play, to break out into excesses still more deplorable than these. She saw passion and vice enough to produce the worst of the evils by which the providence of God permits the church to be afflicted, if only the provocation came that would fan into full blaze the fire that was already kindled. The B. Raymond tells us that, so far back as the beginning of the troubles in the Pontifical States, when the news came of the revolt of Perugia, he went to her in the deepest affliction to tell her what had happened. She grieved with him over the loss of souls and the scandal given in the church; but, seeing him almost overwhelmed with sorrow, she bade him not begin his mourning so soon. “You have far too much to weep for: what you see now is as milk and honey to that which is to follow.”

“How can any evil be greater than this,” he replied, “when we see Christians cast away all devotion and respect to Holy Church, show no fear of her censures, and by their actions publicly deny their validity? Nothing remains for them now to do but to renounce entirely the faith of Christ.”

“Father,” said Catharine, “all this the laity do: soon you will see how much worse that is which the clergy will do.”

Then she told him that there would be rebellion among them also, when the Pope began to reform their bad manners, and that the consequences would be a widespread scandal in the church; “not exactly a heresy, but which would divide it and afflict it much in the same way as if it were.” This prophecy was made about two years before the time of which we are now speaking. It is no wonder that, with this clear view of the existing elements of evil before her, Catharine should have urged upon Gregory XI. the apparently impossible project of a reform of the clergy. It was apparently impossible, partly from the circumstances of the time, partly from the character of the pontiff himself. The troubles of Italy still continued: all attempts at pacification failed, and the fortune of the war was by no means favorable to the cause of the church, Moreover, at Rome, the banderesi or bannerets, who had for some time had possession of the chief power in the city, had laid, indeed, their rods of office at the feet of Gregory at his entrance, but they still exercised their authority without regard to his orders for his wishes, and he found himself, therefore, not even master in his own capital. This was not the time to undertake that most difficult of all tasks, which was yet imperatively required for the welfare of the church. Nor was Gregory, with his feeble health, with the hand of death already upon him, and with his gentle and patient disposition, fitted rather for suffering than for action, the natural instrument for a work that called for sternness severity. Nevertheless, Catharine urged it upon him with a firmness that shows fact once the influence she had required, and her burning sense of the necessity of the measure. In one of the three letters to him that belong to this time, she tells him that the supreme truth demands this of him: that he should punish the multitude of iniquities committed by those who feed themselves in the garden of the Holy Church: “Beasts ought not to feed themselves on the food of men. Since this authority has been given to you, and you have accepted it, you ought to use your power: if you will not use it, it were better to renounce it, for the honor of God and the salvation of souls.” She insists also upon the necessity of granting peace to the revolting cities on any terms that were consistent with the honor of God and the rights of the church. “If I were in your place, I should fear that the judgment of God might fall on me; and therefore I pray you most tenderly, on the part of Jesus Christ crucified, that you obey the will of God – though I know that you have no other desire than to do his will; so that that hard rebuke may never be made to you, ‘Woe to thee, for that thou hast not used the time and the power that were committed to thee'” (Lett. xiii.) These were strong words. Catharine sent Father Raymond about the same time to Rome with a number of practical proposals for the good of the church. It appears from a letter to Raymond himself that Gregory XI. was displeased with her, either for her great liberty of speech, or, as is more probable, for the ill-success that seemed to have followed the step that he had taken at her advice. Nothing can be more beautiful or more touching than her humble apology for herself – she is ready to believe that all the calamities of the church were occasioned by her own sins.

Gregory had in fact continually occupied himself with endeavors for peace with Florence and the other confederated cities; but there had been the usual insincerity on the other side, and besides, the barbarities committed by the Breton troops at Cesena had produced their natural effect of alienating still more his revolted subjects. Negotiations had been recommenced even before the departure of the Pope from Avignon, at least so far that the Florentines had been desired to send ambassadors to meet him at Rome. He did not arrive there by the time appointed, and wrote again from Corneto to fix a later time. The negotiation failed, as we have said, not from any lack of a desire for peace on the part of Gregory, but on account of the bad faith of the rulers of Florence, who really wished the war to continue. Their cause seemed to gain strength with time; for Visconti now took their side, regardless of the treaty that had been made with him, and the English company under Sir John Hawkwood entered their service. A gleam of hope came when one of the revolted leaders, the Lord of Viterbo, made his peace with the church. Gregory immediately despatched two envoys to Florence, but their efforts were in vain; and in the autumn of 1377 the Eight, who still held the supreme power, ventured on a step which gave still greater scandal than any of their former excesses, and seemed to widen still further the breach between the Republic and the Holy See.

Florence had now been for nearly a year and a half under an interdict, The churches were closed – the sacred offices could not be performed, nor the sacraments administered, except in private. This weighed heavily on the mass of the population. There were probably but few, besides the Eight and their immediate followers, who regarded it with indifference. The Italian character is in many respects unintelligible to those who have not studied it in Italy itself. We can hardly understand how nine-tenths of the population of a city or a duchy can submit quietly to be governed by a handful of usurpers, who proclaim themselves the representatives of the people – the great majority of whom have abstained from the nominal voting that had conferred that character upon them – and let things take their course under the tyranny of their new masters, though that course lead to financial ruin, burdensome taxation, and the spoliation of the best institutions of the country, as well as to open persecution of religion and deliberate attacks on morality. An Anglo-Saxon population would either have brought public opinion and general feeling to bear irresistibly upon the magistrates, or would have taken the matter into its own hands, and sent the “Eight Saints” floating down the Arno if they had not conformed their policy to the all but universal desire for peace. But the Florentines waited and suffered, showing their attachment to the church and to the services from which they were debarred in many touching ways, some of which have been specially recorded by the historians of the time. It was forbidden, for instance, that the divine office – at which, at that time, it was the custom of the laity to assist – should be sung publicly in the churches; but pious persons could not be forbidden from practising such devotions as might occur to them in place of the regular services; and we find that in consequence they organized themselves into confraternities, and went about in processions singing hymns in praise of God. Many of these seem to have been composed by followers or disciples of Saint Catharine. There was a movement of popular devotion to make up for the solemn ecclesiastical worship which was suspended. No doubt it was a symptom of an irrepressible feeling in the public mind which frightened the “Eight Saints.” At length the feast-day of Saint Reparata approached – Oct. 8th. She was the titular saint of the cathedral, and her feast was usually celebrated with splendor and popular devotion. Were the people to be shut out of the church again on the day of their patron saint? The Eight had, as we have seen, just concluded their league with the lord of Milan, and strengthen their arms by the accession of Hawkwood, and their envoys had have returned from Rome without terms of peace. They determined to brave the Pope still further, and to plunge the city into still more flagrant rebellion against his authority, by ordering the violation of the interdict. They would indulge the religious wishes of the people, making them, at the same time, partners in a gross insults to religion. They would force the clergy themselves to the alternative of taking part against the church, or of suffering civil penalties and persecution if they refused to do so.

Saint Catharine, in one of her letters about this time, blames certain members of the clergy, and some of the mendicant friars, as having either counselled this outrage, or as having been induced by worldly motives to justify and defend it in pulpit. In a numerous clergy, connected by countless ties with every party and every class, it is far more surprising that so few should ordinarily be found to help on tyranny and persecution such as that of the Eight, then that some should be weak enough to yield to its threats or its bribes. But the scandal was very great, and it would seem that the great body of the clergy, notwithstanding heavy fines levied on those who did not obey the order of the government, stood firm. The bishop – a Ricasoli – had already left the city rather than expose himself to the danger of coercion. But there was the greatest danger for the better party both among the people and among the ecclesiastics; and the state of things called for the most vigorous exertions on the part of Pope to provide a remedy before matters screw still worse. It may seem very strange to the ideas of our century to say that the remedy adopted by Gregory was the most fitting that could have been found, and the same of which the Florentines had bethought themselves when they had wished to make their own peace at Avignon. It had failed indeed, then, on account of their bad faith; but it had produced another great result for which Providence had destined it. The odious government that had plagued the Florentine republic into so many excesses was to be overthrown by the better and sounder part among the citizens themselves, who still might have been too timid to exert themselves on the side of peace and order if they had not had a saint among them to encourage and direct them. We should all think ourselves foolish if we were to deny that such results are the natural and lawful consequence of the exertion of personal influence: it is only that we cannot bring ourselves to conceive that the personal influence of great and recognized sanctity may be more powerful than any other.

Father Raymond, the friend and biographer of Saint Catharine, tells us that he was then in Rome, governing the great convent of the Minerva. He had had some conversation, before leaving Siena, with Niccolo Soderini, a noble Florentine, who had told him that the great majority of the citizens wished for peace with the Holy See, and that it might easily be brought about if some of the present magistrates were deprived of their offices. He even pointed out the way in which it might be done. One morning the Pope sent for Father Raymond, and told him he had received letters suggesting that peace might be made if Catharine were sent to Florence to use her influence there; and he bade him, accordingly, prepare a paper stating with what powers it would be expedient to invest her. The bulls were at once drawn up, and Catharine received orders to go to Florence as legate of the Holy See. She was joyfully received, and at once set to work to confer with the most influential persons in the state. The first fruit of her exhortations was, that the interdict was again observed, and the first great scandal thus removed. The next step was a more difficult one. How were the obnoxious magistrates to be removed without a revolution? The friends of peace were obliged to have recourse to a curious institution, belonging to that long-established party organization which had been the fruit of the division of the Italian cities, and of each city, more or less, within itself, into the hostile factions of Guelphs and Ghibellines. Florence had always been Guelphs, and it appears that certain elected leaders of the dominant party had obtained a recognized right, in order to maintain the government of the city on their own side, to object to persons of the opposite party, and remove them from any post that they might chance to hold. A power like this was of course liable to great abuse: it has reappeared now and then in history in some of the worst times, and been the instrument of the greatest injustice and wrong. In Florence it seems to have been exercised with more moderation than in many modern instances; still it had sometimes been used unscrupulously, and made the means of satisfying private malice and personal revenge or ambition. It was therefore very unpopular, and seems to have been practically disused at the time of which we speak. Catharine, however, thought that it might now be put in use with advantage, to take the reins of government out of the hands of the Eight, and break down their pernicious influence; and it is certain that a fairer use of such a power could never have been made. The plan seems to have been suggested by her friend Niccolo Soderini, whom we lately mentioned. It was urged on the Guelph officials by Catherine; and one of the Eight was accordingly “admonished,” as the phrase was, that he was not to occupy himself with public affairs for the future. He was a man of much influence, but he does not seem to have resisted the admonition.

Unfortunately, the leaders of the Guelph party were willing to make peace with the Holy See, but their dominant idea was to restore themselves to power and ruin their enemies. They began to “admonish”‘ on all sides, and to use the name and authority of Catharine as vouchers for the purity of their motives and the wisdom of their policy. It is said that in the space of eight months they either removed as many as ninety citizens from posts of authority, or prevented them from acquiring them. It may easily be imagined that this could not be done without exciting furious passions; a storm soon began to gather, which did not wait long to burst. Catharine protested and entreated, and, to some extent, checked the evil. She had already prevailed on the government to entertain seriously the project of peace. It was agreed that a congress should assemble at Sarzano for the settlement of the troubles that agitated Italy. The Pope sent a cardinal and the Bishop of Narbonne as his representatives; France, Naples, Florence, Genoa, and Venice were to send others; and Barnabo Visconti was to be present in person to arbitrate between the Pope and Florence. A strange position for that inveterate plotter against the church; but one which shows, at all events, that Gregory XI. was willing to do a great deal for the sake of peace. Everything seemed to promise well; but while the congress was deliberating, Gregory died, and nothing could therefore be concluded. His death took place in March, 1378. Catharine was still at Florence, and seems to have had good hopes of bringing matters to a favorable issue, notwithstanding the failure of the congress. The new “gonfaloniere” seems to have been elected on the first of May. He bore a name afterward destined to become connected with the later splendors of his country – Salvestro dei Medici – and he was a man of firmness and standing sufficient to enable him to defy and check the extravagances of the Guelph officials. It was agreed between them that there should be no more “admonitions,” except in the case of persons really tainted with Ghibelline principles; and that in no case should the “admonition” be valid after the third time. He was, moreover, bent on carrying out the peace with the Pope, and, as it seems at the entreaty of Saint Catharine, sent fresh ambassadors to Urban VI., who had now succeeded Gregory on the pontifical throne.

These fair prospects were soon clouded over by the mischievous obstinacy of the Guelph party. The time came on, very soon after the installment of the new “gonfaloniere,” for the selection of new “chiefs,” into whose hands would pass the obnoxious power of “admonishing.” The new men did not consider themselves bound by the promises made by their predecessors; they were not friends of Catherine, as some of the others had been, and they began to use their power in the former reckless manner. They especially threw down the gauntlet to Salvestro and to the other magistrates, by their exclusion of two men of distinction, which showed their determination to carry things to extremities. Here, again, we meet with the historic name of Ricasoli. One of that family was among the captains of the Guelphs, and is said to have forced this exclusion on his less willing colleagues. The strain became at length too great, and Salvestro himself sanctioned a popular outbreak against the Guelph officials; a movement over which he soon lost all control, and which led in a few months to a still more terrible outbreak, known as the affair of the Ciompi. The fury of the people, led by the Ammoniti – those who had been excluded from office by the exercise of the power lately mentioned – and unchecked by any attempt on the part of the legitimate authorities to restraint it, was irresistible. Many lives were sacrificed; the leaders of the Guelphs saved themselves by flight, leaving their houses to be sacked and burnt. Niccolo Soderini and other friends of Catharine were among the fugitives, though they had not taken part in the excesses that provoked the rising. As the tumult gathered strength, and the people became blinder in their fury, ominous voices were heard calling for the death of Catherine herself. Her name had been freely used by the Guelph officials, though she had protested publicly against their violent acts, and had entreated them repeatedly to be guided by justice and prudence. The scene that followed, a kind of turning-point in her life, shall be told in the words of her simple biographer. When the rumor of the intended attack on Catherine spread, “the people of the house in which she dwelt with her companions bade them depart, for they did not wish to have the house burnt down on their account. She meanwhile, conscious of her own innocence, and willingly suffering anything for the cause of the Holy Church, did not lose a jot of her wonted constancy, but smiling and encouraging her followers to emulate her Spouse, she went out to a certain place where there was a garden, and first gave them a short exhortation, and then set herself to pray. At last, while she was thus praying in the garden, after the example of Christ, those satellites of the devil came to the place, a tumultuous mob armed with swords and staves, crying out, ‘Where is this cursed woman? Where is she?’ Catharine, when she heard this, as if she had been called to to a delightful banquet, made herself ready at once for the martyrdom which for a long time she had desired, and placing herself in the way of one who had his sword drawn, and was crying louder than the rest, ‘Where is Catharine?’ she cast herself with a joyous countenance on her knees, and said, ‘I am Catharine; do therefore with me all that which our Lord permits you to do; but I command you, on the part of Almighty God, not to hurt any of my companions.’ When she said these words, the wretch was so terrified and deprived of all strength, that he did not dare either to strike her or to remain in in her presence. Though he had so boldly and eagerly sought for her, when he found her he drove her away, saying, ‘Depart from me.’ But Catharine, wishing for martyrdom, answered, ‘I am well here, and where should I go? I am ready to suffer for Christ and for his church, because this it is that I have long desired and sought with all my prayers. Ought I to fly now that I have found what I have longed for? I offer myself a living victim to my dearest Spouse. If thou art destined to be my sacrificer, do at once whatever thou wiliest, for I will never fly from this spot; only do no harm to any of mine.’ What more? God did not permit the man to carry his cruelty any further against her, but he went away in confusion with all his companions.” And then Fr. Raymond goes on to tell us how, when all her spiritual children gathered round her full of joy at her escape, she alone was overwhelmed with sorrow, and lamented that she had lost through her sins the crown of martyrdom.

She was reserved for further labors, and for a martyrdom of another kind in the same cause; and she had soon the consolation of seeing that her mission to Florence had not been fruitless. The death of Gregory XI. dispersed the congress of Sarzona; but the Florentines remained, amid all their intestine troubles, firm in their resolution to make peace with the Holy See. Before the outbreak of which we have just spoken, they had arranged terms with Catharine, and ambassadors had been chosen to go to Rome to treat with the new Pope. Catharine, who had known Urban VI. when she was at Avignon, now wrote to him earnestly entreating him to accept the terms; she was afraid lest the scenes of violence and bloodshed that had lately taken place might make him less inclined to peace. Her entreaties were successful. The terms of peace were honorable to the Holy See. Everything was to return to the state in which it had been before the war; the Florentines were to pay 150,000 florins – a very moderate indemnity for the mischief they had caused in the Papal States; and two legates were to be sent to absolve the city from the censures it had incurred. Catherine, full of joy, returned to Siena. She had refused to leave the Florentine territory after the outbreak in which her life was threatened, saying that she was there by order of the Pope; but she had withdrawn for a while to the monastery of Vallombrosa.

The peace with Florence was of immense importance to the church at that moment. The great storm which Catharine had predicted was already gathering; she herself was to be called on for still greater exertions in the cause of the papacy, and within a year and a half to be in a true sense the victim of the struggle. After leaving Florence, she spent a few months in repose at Siena, during which she dictated to her disciples her only formal work, known by the name of the Dialogue. It has always been a great treasure of spiritual doctrine, though never so widely popular as the collection of her marvellous Letters. It is in the course of these few months that an author as fitted as any other to decide the question of time places a remarkable anecdote of the saint, to which we have already alluded, and which shall form the subject of the conclusion of this paper.

As is so frequently the case in times of political instability, the various governments that so rapidly succeeded one another in the rule of the small Italian republics, seem to have been in the habit of attempting to secure themselves in power by measures of the most extravagant severity against any one who might seem to be disaffected to them. We have already seen the issue of the odious powers of “admonishing” possessed by the Guelph party in Florence; and at the very time of which we are speaking, that republic was suffering under a fresh tyranny of the lowest orders of her populace, who proscribed and excluded from all civil authority anyone more worthy of power than themselves. In Siena also the democratic party, so to call it, held sway; the chief power was in the hands of a set of magistrates called “Riformatori,” who governed by fear, and by the exercise of the most jealous watchfulness over the rest of the citizens, particularly the nobles. We are told by the historians of Siena that it was made a capital crime to strike, however lightly, one of these officials, and that a certain citizen was severely punished because he had given a banquet to which none of them had been invited. In such a state of things, the anecdote of Saint Catharine of which we are speaking finds a very natural place. A stranger in the town, a young noble of Perugia, by name Niccolo Tuldo, had allowed himself to speak disrespectfully and slightingly of the government. His words were carried to the magistrates; he was seized, tried, and condemned to death. We do not know what sort of life he had led before; but he was young, careless, and had never, at all events, been to communion in his life. He was not a subject of Siena, yet he found himself of a sudden doomed to be legally murdered for a few light words. No wonder that his spirit revolted against the injustice, and that he was tempted to spend his last few hours of life in a fury of indignation and despair. Here was a case for Catharine – a soul to be won to penance, peace, and resignation, with the burning sense of flagrant injustice fresh upon it, from which it could not hope to escape. Word was brought to her, and she hastened to the prison. No one had been able to induce the poor youth to think of preparing for death; he turned away at once, either from comfort or from exhortation.

Catharine went to the prison, and he soon fell under the spell of that heavenly fascination which is rarely imparted save to souls of the highest sanctity. She won him to peace, and forgiveness of the injury he had received. She led him to make his confession with care and contrition, and to resign his will entirely into the hands of God. He made her promise that she would be with him at the place of execution, or, as it is still called in Italy, the place of justice. In the morning she went to him early, led him to mass and communion, which he had never before received, and found him afterward in a state of perfect resignation, only with some fear left lest his courage might fail him at the last moment. He turned to her as his support, bowed his head on her breast, and implored her not to leave him, and then all would be well. She bade him be of good courage, he would soon be admitted to the marriage-feast in heaven, the blood of his Redeemer would wash him, and the name of Jesus, which he was to keep always in his heart, would strengthen him – she herself would await him at the place of justice. All his fears and sadness gave place to a transport of joy; he said he should now go with courage and delight, looking forward to meeting her at that holy place. “See,” says she, in her letter to Fr. Raymond, “how great a light had been given to him, that he spoke of the place of justice as a holy spot!” She went there before the time, and set herself to pray for him; in her ardor, she laid her head on the block, and begged Our Lady earnestly to obtain for him a great peace and light of conscience, and for her the grace to see him gain the happy end for which God had made him. Then she had an assurance that her prayer was granted, and so great a joy spread over her soul that she could take no notice of the crowd of people gathering round to witness the execution. The young Perugian came at last, gentle as a lamb, welcoming the sight of her with smiles, and begging her to bless him. She made the sign of the cross over him. “Sweet brother, go to the heavenly nuptials; soon wilt thou be in the life that never ends!” He laid himself down, and she prepared his neck for the stake, leaning down last of all, and reminding him of the precious blood of the Lamb that had been shed for him. He murmured her name, and called on Jesus. The blow was given, and his head fell into her bands.

Catharine tells her confessor, in the letter from which our account is drawn, that she had the greatest reward granted to her that charity such as hers could receive. At the moment of execution, she raised her heart to heaven in one intense act of prayer; and then she became conscious that she was allowed to see how the soul that had just fled was received in the other world. The Incarnate Son, who had died to save it, took it into the arms of his love, and placed it in the wound of his side. “It was shown to me,” she says, “by the Very Truth of Truths, that out of mercy and grace alone he so received it and for nothing else.” She saw it blessed by each person of the Divine Trinity. The Son of God, moreover, gave it a share of that crucified love with which he had borne his own painful and shameful death, out of obedience to his Father, for the salvation of mankind. And then, that all might be complete, the blessed soul itself seemed to turn and look upon her. “It made a gesture,” she says, “sweet enough to win a thousand parts: what wonder? for it already tasted the divine sweetness. It turned as the bride turns when she has come to the door of the home of her bridegroom; looks round on the friends that have accompanied her to her new home, and bows her head to them, as a sign that she thanks them for their kindness.”

– text taken from Catholic World magazine, October 1866