The Agony and the Ecstasy of the Death of Saint Catherine of Siena

I have never read the life of any saint that so affected me as that of Saint Catherine of Siena. The best biography was that of Sigrid Undset on which I based my own short life of Saint Catherine, “I Have Seen the Secrets of God”.

We have her Dialogues, dictated to secretaries, but a great book would be a collection of all the things she said that were recorded. Such things as “My nature is fire” and her last words, “Beloved, You call me, I come. Not through any service of mine, but through Your mercy and the power of Your blood.” She made the sign of the cross and cried out, “Blood, blood . . . Father, into Your hands I commend my spirit.”

And she had no fear when it came to admonishing the last few popes of the Avignon captivity. She told Gregory XI in person in Avignon (he finally did return to Rome) that she could smell the stench of his court in her cell in Italy. Nevertheless she referred to him and other popes before him to whom she wrote under divine command as, “Sweet Christ on earth.” Both Saint Catherine and her friend Saint Bridget of Sweden minced no words in condemning the luxury in which certain Avignon popes lived. Saint Bridget was the more strident of the two. Concerning Pope Clement VI, hearing of his death in 1532, she said: “Blessed be this day, but not this pope.”

The death of Saint Catherine from the editor of ChurchPOP: Attached to the end of her most famous work, Dialogues, is a letter written by Ser Barduccio di Piero Canigiani, in which he describes his eye-witness experience of the final moments of St. Catherine. Here’s what he says happened: Read on