There was no saint who received more revelations or had more visions of the souls in purgatory than Saint Catherine of Genoa (1447-1510). Catherine was extremely devout in her youth, but a terrible marriage at sixteen, arranged by her father, caused her ten years of grief. Unable to recover her earlier taste for holiness, her husband’s infidelities and sloth occasioned her to fall for a long time into a state of lukewarmness and melancholia. Then, at the age of twenty-six, in great anxiety, she went to visit her sister who was a nun. Her sister told her to go to confession to the convent’s confessor. As she waited for the priest, kneeling alone in the confessional, she was suddenly overcome by an extraordinary grace that made manifest to her soul its actual condition in the light of God. When the priest arrived she could not speak clearly and had to mumble that she was not prepared well enough for the sacrament. This grace transformed her life. From hereon after, Catherine’s life was practically one continual mystical state in which she experienced a progressive purgation of soul as she was drawn deeper and deeper into the bosom of divine love. It appears, too, though the information is scant, that during this time her husband gradually tempered his vices and, before his death in 1497, he totally converted. After this, for the next thirteen years of her life, Catherine exhausted herself caring for the sick at the city’s Great Hospital, for which she eventually became treasurer and manager.
Saint Catherine wrote two books about her spiritual experiences: Dialogues of the Soul and Body and Treatise on Purgatory. In the second work she writes, “[The souls in purgatory] see all things, not in themselves, nor by themselves, but as they are in God, on whom they are more intent than on their own sufferings. . . . For the least vision they have of God overbalances all woes and all joys that can be conceived. Yet their joy in God does by no means abate their pain. . . . This process of purification to which I see the souls in Purgatory subjected, I feel within myself.” ( xvi, xvii)
Joe Tremblay of Catholic News Agency wrote a short, but very good column about Saint Catherine and the holy souls here. It begins:
CNA: After having received a vision of purgatory, St. Catherine of Genoa could not say enough about the happiness which is to be found there. Of course, the Saint did not mince words about the pain souls experience as well.