september 15. catherine of genoa, purgatory's visitor
Patron saint of brides, childless people, difficult marriages, people ridiculed for their piety, temptations, victims of adultery or unfaithfulness, widows
Lived from 1447 to 1510
God's advice to Catherine of Genoa: NEVER EXCUSE YOURSELF, BUT ALWAYS ACCUSE YOURSELF.
Catherine of Genoa was born into noble parentage, but from her early childhood she despised luxury. At eight years old, she swapped her bed for a pile of straw and her down pillow for a tree stump. At 13, she aspired to be a nun, but the convent turned her away for being too young. At 16, she was forced to marry a rough gambler who squandered their wealth on "good times and wild women." To cope, she turned to "diversions and vanities of the world," "as women are prone to do."
At 26, she experienced a spiritual conversion. While kneeling before a priest to make a confession, Catherine "recieved [. . .] a wound in her heart from god's immense love." A vision of her personal wretchedness accompanied the wound; the vision was so strong she nearly fainted. Lost in ecstasy, she was unable to confess her sins. She returned home to seclude herself and weep. She stayed put for several days, wholly absorbed in her own vileness / God's mercy. There the Suffering Christ appeared to her, weighed down by his cross and covered in blood. According to one account, "in that moment, had she possessed a thousand worlds, she would have thrown them all away."
From then on, she lived with her husband as brother and sister. She abided by a strict set of rules: she spoke no useless words, ate only what was required for survival, slept few hours on a bed of briers and thistles, and wore a rough hair shirt. She prayed for six hours per day.
TREATISE ON PURGATORY / "POOR UNFORTUNATE SOULS"
AUTHOR'S NOTE: If you're anything like me, by the time this section is over, you'll want to watch POOR UNFORTUNATE SOULS from Disney's The Little Mermaid. Of course that particular scene is purgatorial, but I never before realized the link to Catherine of Genoa's writings (if intentional). I think Ursula is intended to be God, and Prince Eric is intended to be Paradise. Voila, a link.
[. . .]
God permitted Catherine to visit purgatory while still of this world, in order to be cleansed and ready to head straight up to Paradise when she died. Catherine recorded her observations in her Treatise on Purgatory. There she eyeballed the leagues of trapped souls in the flames, who had no recollection of their prior lives. As a result, they could not turn inward to reflect on their vileness as she had done. God muted the souls, extinguishing their powers to cry out in protest. Of their pain, she says, Puragtory's grievousness is "so extreme that no tongue can be found to tell of it;" however, "no soul can say that these pains are pains" because they are so contented to be in God's grace.
A quote: "I believe no happiness can be found worthy to be compared with that of a soul in Purgatory except that of the saints in Paradise; and day by day this happiness grows as God flows into these souls, more and more as the hindrance to His entrance is consumed. Sin's rust is the hindrance, and the fire burns the rust away so that more and more of the soul opens itself up to the divine inflowing. A thing which is covered cannot respond to the sun's rays, not because of any defect in the sun, which is shining all the time, but because the cover is an obstacle; if the cover be burnt away, this thing is open to the sun."
Catherine was permitted to receive the Eucharist daily, as she had an "unquenchable thirst" for the host. During Lent, she took to total fasting, imbibing one glass per day of water mixed with salt and vinegar in remembrance of what Christ drank on the cross.