In the time when Saint Catherine of Siena walked the streets of her quaint medieval town, she sometimes stayed at the house of a widow-friend, Alessia, to avoid the distractions of her noisy home.
One year, there was a famine, and most people were obliged to buy long stored wheat. The bread made from this wheat had a sour after-taste. But as the new harvest came in, and there was fresh wheat to buy, Alessia remarked to St. Catherine:
“Mother, this old wheat makes sour bread, so as the Lord has had pity on us, I will throw away the little that I still have.”
“You wish to throw away what the Lord has given us for our food?” replied Catherine, “at least give it to those who don’t even have that.”
“O, I feel guilty giving from the old wheat…I’d rather give from the new, fresh batch,” remonstrated Alessia.
Saint Catherine then asked that she give her the flour and some water, for she wished to make bread for the poor of Our Lord.
As Catherine worked, not only did she produce an astounding number of loaves from so little flour, but turned them out so fast that Alessia and her maid couldn’t believe their eyes.
Served at table, everyone was amazed how delicious and sweet these loaves were. “We haven’t tasted better!” they exclaimed.
Moreover, when taken out to the poor and to the Friars, the bin kept giving without emptying.
Sometime later, on hearing of this miracle, St. Catherine’s confessor, Blessed Raymond of Capua, sensed that there was something “more” to this story, and pressed his spiritual child to tell him all.
So Catherine explained that as she had approached the flour box, she had seen the sweet Lady Mary standing there with several angels and saints graciously offering to help her make the bread. So Mary Most Holy began to work the dough with Catherine, and by virtue of those immaculate hands not only was the wheat made sweet, but the number of loaves multiplied.
“The Madonna herself gave me the loaves as she made them,” related Catherine, “and I passed them onto Alessia and her maid.”
“No wonder,” writes Blessed Raymond in his biography of Saint Catherine, “that that bread seemed so sweet , since it was made by the perfect hands of the holy queen, in whose most sacred body, the Trinity made the Bread that came down from heaven to give life to all unbelievers.”
And the same writer asserts that years after in Siena, people still treasured pieces of this blessed bread as relics.