Today, April 29, we celebrate the feast of Saint Catherine of Siena, Lay Dominican, Virgin, and Doctor of the Church. She died this day in Rome in the year 1380, and was canonized in 1461. The following is an account of her final hours, from the Libellus de Supplemento of Tomasso Antonio Caffarini, a disciple of Saint Catherine of Siena.
On the third Sunday of Lent the holy virgin began to succumb completely to the innumerable pains that were daily making themselves felt in her body. She continued to be troubled both interiorly and exteriorly because of the immense mental anguish she suffered on account of the offenses against God which she saw were being perpetrated daily by Christians. She suffered as well because of the dangers which she saw were springing up every day in his holy Church, for whose sake she had so expended herself.
And so she came to the Sunday which that year preceded the Lord’s ascension, April 29, 1380. For about two hours before daybreak the holy virgin took a severe turn for the worse and it was decided that she should be anointed. And so it was done.
Once she had received the anointing, the virgin continued as if she felt nothing, but after a brief period of time her condition began to change completely. She gestured with her arms and contorted her face as if she were disturbed by a great number of demons, as was in fact the case. The virgin endured this cruel conflict for more than an hour and a half.
After this, her face was suddenly and totally transformed to the degree that her dark and troubled countenance now became angelic and joyful. Then we offered her an icon covered with many relics of the saints and other lovely pictures. She at once fixed her attention on the image of the Crucified and, while gazing upon the Crucified with bodily eyes, began to pray intently, speaking loftily of the goodness of God.
In the course of her prayers she began to confess her sins in the sight of God, even though others were listening, and referred in a general way to the guilt of all her sins, while adding some particulars. As she did this she said: “It is my fault, eternal Trinity, for I have offended wretchedly through considerable negligence, ignorance, ingratitude and disobedience, as well as through numerous other defects. Woe is me in my wretchedness...” And so the most pure dove acknowledged her guilt regarding these and many other defects. Perhaps as the plan of the Most High would have it, she did this to provide an example to those standing around, rather than to confess because of her own personal need. When she kept up this prayer for some time, the virgin turned to us and spoke of the way of perfection in a few word, telling each one what he or she would be responsible for after her death. She also humbly asked forgiveness and pardon for the little concern she felt she had shown for our salvation. Oh, if one might have seen with what reverence and humility the holy virgin then received the repeated blessings from her own afflicted mother, who stood by in tears with the others!
None of this, however, interrupted the virgin’s prayer and when she neared the end she said a single longed-for prayer for the holy Church, affirming that she was offering her bodily life on its behalf. Then she prayed for Urban VI, whom she also acknowledged to be the true Supreme Pontiff, confirming for her sons as well to what degree they ought to lay down their lives for this truth if it should be necessary.
After this, she prayed with great fervor for all her sons and daughters in the Lord, especially for her sons. She used many of the same words that the Savior used when he prayed to his Father for his disciples shortly before he was to return to him. And when the prayer was finished, she blessed us all by making the sign of the cross.
Thus approaching the end which she had desired so intensely and for so long a time and still persevering in prayer, she spoke as well to the Lord himself, her Spouse: “Lord, you are calling me and I am coming to you. Behold, I am coming to you not with my own merits but only by reason of your mercy which, I beg you, may be mine through the power of your blood.” Finally, crying out several times in a loud voice: “Blood! Blood!” she said at last in the manner of our Savior: “Father, into your hands I commend my soul and spirit.” And thus sweetly and with a completely angelic countenance, she inclined her head and gave up her spirit.
Source: Supplement to the Liturgy of the Hours for the Order of Preachers (Dominican Province of the Philippines, 2012)
Young Thomasian Professionals Lay Dominican Group
Santísimo Rosario Parish, University of Santo Tomás
España Boulevard, Manila 1015 Philippines