Purgatory Explained, Part 2, Chapter 4

Saint Catherine del RicciArticle

Consolations of Souls – Saint Catherine de Ricci and the Soul of a Prince

Let us relate another example of the interior consolations and mysterious contentment which the souls experience in the midst of the most excruciating sufferings: we find it in the Life of Saint Catherine de Ricci, a Religious of the Order of Saint Dominic, who died in the convent of Prato, February 2, 1590. This servant of God cherished so great a devotion towards the souls in Purgatory that she suffered in their place on earth that which they had to endure in the other world. Among others, she delivered from the expiatory flames the soul of a prince, and suffered the most frightful torments in his place for forty days.

This prince, whose name is not mentioned in history, in consideration, no doubt, of his family, had led a worldly life, and the saint offered many prayers, fasts, and penances that God would enlighten him as to the condition of his soul, and that he might not be condemned. God vouchsafed to hear her, and the unfortunate prince before his death gave evident proofs of a sincere conversion. He died in good sentiments and went to Purgatory. Catherine learned this by Divine revelation in prayer, and offered herself to satisfy Divine Justice for that soul. Our Lord accepted the charitable exchange, received the soul of the prince into glory, and subjected Catherine to pains entirely strange to her for the space of forty days. She was seized with a malady which, according to the judgment of the physicians, was not natural, and could neither be cured nor relieved. According to the testimony of eyewitnesses, the body of the saint was covered with blisters filled with humor and inflammation, like water boiling upon the fire. This occasioned such heat that her cell was like an oven, and seemed filled with fire; it was impossible to remain there for a few moments without going outside to breathe.

It was evident that the flesh of the patient was boiling, and her tongue resembled a piece of red hot metal. At intervals the inflammation ceased, then the flesh appeared roasted; but soon the blisters arose again and sent forth the same heat.

Nevertheless, in the midst of this torture the saint did not lose the serenity of her countenance nor the peace of her soul; she seemed to rejoice in her torments. Her sufferings sometimes in creased to such a degree that she lost her speech for ten or twelve minutes. When her sister Religious told her that she seemed to be on fire, she replied simply, “Yes,” without adding anything more. When they represented to her that she carried her zeal too far, and that she ought not to ask of God such excessive suffering, “Pardon me, my dear sisters,” she said to them, “if I answer you. Jesus has so much love for souls, that all we do for their salvation is infinitely agreeable to Him; that is why I gladly endure any pain, whatsoever it may be, as well for the conversion of sinners as for the deliverance of the souls detained in Purgatory.”

The forty days having expired, Catherine returned to her ordinary state. The relations of the prince asked where his soul was. “Have no fear,” she replied; “his soul is in the enjoyment of eternal glory.” It was thus known that it was for his soul that she had suffered so much.

This example teaches us many things, but we have cited it to show that the greatest sufferings are not incompatible with interior peace. Our saint, whilst visibly enduring the pains of Purgatory, enjoyed an admirable peace and a superhuman contentment.

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