“Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light on my path.” -Psalm 119:105
Saint Catherine of Bologna was treated to a luxury virtually unknown among girls of the 15th century, an education in the arts and literature at the court of Niccolo III d’Este in Ferrara. Eventually, Catherine left the court to become a Poor Clare nun.
After a vision in her monastery chapel in Ferrara on Christmas Eve 1445 in which Our Blessed Mother Mary gave her Baby Jesus to hold, Catherine provided many verses and paintings in honor of Jesus and Mary. Through the years of her religious life and from her mystical experiences Catherine wrote the most profound poetry, rivaling that of any of the great poets of her day. Some scholars feel “her writings and paintings should be viewed as activities that parallel the rapture of her ecstasies”. After a plea from a Sister to have Catherine’s help so that she could purify her soul and turn away from worldly things, Saint Catherine wrote a treatise for religious women listing (and explaining their necessity and giving their benefits for) seven spiritual weapons for combating Satan.
Jeryldene M Wood in her book “Women, Art, and Spirituality” maintains “Saint Catherine might have remained a locally venerated but otherwise obscure abbess were it not for her writings which were used by Poor Clares throughout Italy after her death and made her a principal figure in the reform of the Second Order during the later part of the 15th century…
Saint Catherine leads both the viewers of her paintings and the readers of her texts to self-knowledge, to opening their souls to grace and to contemplation of the divine through an affective piety that feels its way, sensually and spiritually, toward God… Most importantly, the combination of visual and mental description in her recollections of ecstasy and the devotion intrinsic to her writing and painting imply that she drew on her experience without separating the objective and the subjective, and without distinguishing the active from the contemplative.”
Catherine’s Canticles will be sharing with you on this website some of these writings either by Saint Catherine or by those who knew her. And so, in the words of this Intercessory Prayer:
O, Saint Catherine, you were a woman of letters, yet you knew that no language could describe the way God loves the soul. You became the holy city arrayed in purest white, so that the one who is throned in glory could take habitation in you. Pray for us that we may also be alive with a divine ardor and discern the voice of God’s spirit guiding us from within. Amen.
-“Woman Saints, 365 Daily Readings, Madonna Sophia Compton”
MSGR. PATRICK G. PANOS
ST. CATHERINE OF BOLOGNA PARISH