Model For Living a Passionate Life: Saint Catherine de Ricci
A Christian mystic is gifted by God with a state of soul raised to higher forms of prayer – to extraordinary heights of contemplation. St. Catherine de Ricci was a true mystic. She discovered her passion early in life - Jesus - and never took her eyes off of Him. Though very few of us will be granted the extraordinary graces God deemed to give her, we can learn from her how to live a passionate life along the path of grace God has laid out for us.
If we want to scale the heights of heaven, if we want to receive the grace of complete union with God and see Him face to face, it begins as St. Catherine began – in humility. Saint Catherine was born to a prestigious family in Florence, Italy. Early in life, she was drawn to give herself to God alone, so she sought religious life among the most poor. God answered her prayer by leading her to the Dominicans. During her novitiate, the favors God granted her in prayer made her seem simple and stupid to her sisters - she was always forgetting things, having accidents and seemed slow in conversation. When Catherine learned they were about to expel from the community as unfit for religious life, she went around to each sister to beg their mercy in letting her stay. Only under direct questioning from her confessor did anyone learn the true reason for her behavior. And throughout the rest of her religious life, she was truly a humble and compassionate servant to her sisters and others.
Second, we can follow Catherine’s example in abandoning ourselves to God in times of plenty and in suffering. Catherine suffered immensely during her life, both from her ecstatic in living out the passion of Christ each week for years, and with prolonged bouts of illness. Yet she simply trusted herself to God. But she did not seek suffering in itself. Once in prayer, the Blessed Mother came and offered her three crowns - one of gold, another of silver, and a third of thorns. Catherine was already undergoing immense suffering at the time and was afraid of the crown of thorns, so she left the choice to Mary. Mary chided her for her cowardice in trying to abdicate her freewill to make the decision. Catherine gulped and pointed to the crown of thorns. She did not receive that crown at that particular time, though she did later in her life.
Which leads us to the third lesson: everything we undertake, we should do for love of God. Catherine did not love suffering in itself, yet she so loved Jesus that she wanted to be conformed to Him in every way possible, however and whenever He deemed fitting. This is true passion - to love Love rightly. Her life and example spoke Jesus - she had become the voice, speaking the Word to all those she met.
Like Catherine, our passionate life begins with humility, trusting and abandoning ourselves to Jesus and His love for us, and doing all for love of Him. Jesus showed us the way – by living the passion and death of Christ with love for our Heavenly Father and His will, we have the promise of the Resurrection.
St. Catherine de Ricci, pray for us!