St. Catherine of Bologna
Poor Clare and mystical writer, born at Bologna, 8 September, 1413; died there, 9 March, 1463.
When she was ten years old, her father sent her to the court of the Marquis of Ferrara, Nicolò d’Este, as a companion to the Princess Margarita. Here Catherine pursued the study of literature and the fine arts; and a manuscript illuminated by her which once belonged to Pius IX is at present reckoned among the treasures of Oxford.
After the marriage of the Princess Margarita to Roberto Malatesta, Prince of Rimini, Catherine returned home, and determined to join the little company of devout maidens who were living in community and following the rule of the Third Order of St. Augustine in the neighboring town of Ferrara. Later the community, yielding to the entreaties of Catherine, adopted the Rule of St. Clare, and in 1432 they were clothed with the habit of the Second Order of St. Francis by the provincial of the Friars Minor.
The increasing number of vocations, however, made it necessary to establish other monasteries of the Poor Clares in Italy, and in pursuance of the Brief of Callistus III, “Ad ea quæ in omnipotentis Dei gloriam”, convents were founded at Bologna and Cremona. St. Catherine was chosen abbess of the community in her native town, which office she held until her death.
Painting by St. Catherine of Bologna
The grievous and persistent temptations which in the early days of her religious life had tried her patience, humility, and faith, especially the latter virtue, gave place in later years to the most abundant spiritual consolation, and enjoyment of the heights of contemplation.
A large part of St. Catherine’s counsels and instructions on the spiritual life are to be found in her “Treatise on the Seven Spiritual Weapons“, which contains, besides, an account of the saint’s own struggles in the path of perfection, and which she composed with the aid of her confessor shortly before her death.
St. Catherine of Bologna appeared in the late 1500s, to one of the nuns and requested that her incorrupt body be placed in a seated position in a special part of the chapel. Her skin has darkened over time due to the candles and votive lights.
The body of St. Catherine, which remains incorrupt, is preserved in the chapel of the Poor Clares at Bologna. St. Catherine was canonized by Pope Benedict XIII. Her feast is kept on the 9th of March throughout the Order of Friars Minor.
WADDING, Annales Minorum, X, 184; XII, 307; XIII, 324; and passim; Acta SS.; March, II, 35-89; LEO, Lives of the Saints and Blessed of the Three Orders of St. Francis (Taunton, 1885), I, 394-437; ZAMBONI, La Vita di Santa Caterina di Bologna (Bologna, 1877).
STEPHEN M. DONOVAN (1913 Catholic Encyclopedia)