Saint Catherine of Ricci Saves a Sinner from His Purgatory

Saint Catherine of Ricci constantly prayed for the release of the Suffering Souls in Purgatory. She performed acts of charity, offered up her Masses and Communions for them. She willingly suffered in their place, as the Lord allowed her to do so. Many of the Poor Souls were allowed to enter the Kingdom of Heaven before they had suffered for the period assigned them, as Catherine suffered unbelievable pain on their behalf.
One incident of her involvement with the Poor Souls in Purgatory, well known in the life of St. Catherine, concerned the Granduke Francesco de’ Medici. Saint Catherine was advisor and friend of the Medicis and other nobility; one could almost call her Saint of the Nobility. Francesco’s wife, the Granduchess (also Princess of Austria) was the spiritual daughter of Catherine. She was holy and virtuous, whereas her husband was cruel and totally insensitive to his wife’s suffering. He even had a mistress living in the same house with him and his wife! This hurt the Granduchess, terribly. His whole court knew! He didn’t care. But although he wounded her deeply, the Granduchess never stopped praying for his soul. She asked Catherine to pray for his conversion, that he might not be condemned to Hell. She also asked her to plead with God that when her husband died, he not suffer horribly in Purgatory. The Granduchess died before her husband, and he married the mistress. Although Catherine did not approve of her behavior, she nevertheless paid the new Granduchess the respect due her new station in life. Now as far as the Granduke was concerned, the Church, the Lord, his immortal soul were all things which were way back in the recesses of his heart and mind. Catherine prayed for his conversion for twenty years. She pleaded with him to convert. He paid no attention to her. When before the Granduke finally died and because of all of Saint Catherine of Ricci prayers, on his death bed, he asked for a priest, confessed his sins and received absolution before he died. He was spared the fires and everlasting pains of Hell; but was sent to the pits of Purgatory to suffer the temporal punishment due him for his sins. There, he would undergo the cleansing of his soul to such a state, he would be acceptable to enter into the presence of God. But St. Catherine kept her promise to the Granduchess and pleaded with the Lord, to allow her to take over the temporal punishment, due the Granduke. The Lord accepted, and the Granduke was led through the gates of Heaven. Jesus made her understand that she would have to bear forty days of unbearable, excruciating, virtually impossible to describe pain in exchange for the Granduke to enter Heaven without suffering the agony that had been prepared for him. She said Yes! Catherine’s torments began and the forty days of pain were so extraordinary, that the doctors perceiving them to be beyond the range of their art, concluded that they were sent by God, to enable her to atone for some soul in purgatory. The account given by those who witnessed them, was that her body appeared as if it were covered by a number of blisters full of serum, which boiled as though it was over a fire. They also emitted such excessive heat, that the cell seemed on fire, and no one could remain in it many moments without going out to take breath. It was easy to see that her flesh was burning, her tongue was like a red hot iron, and after the efi‘ervescence subsided, it had the appearance of having being roasted; but after a short interval the blisters rose_ again, bringing the same heat with them, yet they could not impair the joyousness of her face, or the serenity of her mind, which rejoiced in the midst of these fiery torments. Although the doctors were aware that her illness was out of the common course of things, they ordered her to take some baths and cooling remedies, more from a wish to show that they had prescribed something, than with the hope that they would do her any good. The Saint took them from motives of obedience, though she knew that they could not give her any relief, for, as she confided for their consolation to two nuns who lamented the death of the Granduke, she could not recover till she had atoned to the Divine Justice for his sins. Although her humility prevented her from disclosing her sentiments, she rejoiced at having those remedies, be~ cause they only increased her torments; sometimes to such a degree that she lost the power of speech for ten or twelve minutes. The nuns seeing her in this dreadful state, said that she seemed to be in a furnace of fire, and she simply answered that it was so, and she said to those who were in her confidence, when they begged her not to take such atrocious sufferings upon herself, “Forgive me, mothers, for replying to your reproofs; my beloved Spouse prizes our souls so much, that He has exhorted and charged me to pray for sinners, that they may repent of their faults; and I not only accept with readiness every torment for their eternal salvation, but I long to suffer all imaginable pains that they may be able quickly to see and praise their Redeemer.” She recovered her former health at the end of forty days, and {answered with freedom the questions made by various members of the Granduke’s family, respecting the state of his soul, saying, “Have no fear, for he is’in the enjoyment of eternal glory ;” whence it was evident that what she had suffered was to atone for his faults.

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