Today’s saint was born Alessandra Lucrezia Romola de’ Ricci in Florence to patrician parents, Pier Francesco de’ Ricci, and his wife, Caterina Bonza, who died soon after.
Alessandra received her early education in a school run by a monastery of Benedictine nuns in the Monticelli quarter of the city, where her aunt, Luisa de’ Ricci, was the abbess. After a short time outside the monastery, she entered the Convent of St Vincent in Prato, Tuscany, a cloistered community of Religious Sisters of the Third Order of St. Dominic.
In May 1535 she received the religious habit from her uncle, Friar Timoteo de’ Ricci, O.P., who was confessor to the convent, and the religious name of Catherine, after the Dominican tertiary, Catherine of Siena.
De’ Ricci’s period of novitiate was a time of trial. She would experience ecstasies during her routine, which caused her to seem asleep during community prayer services, dropping plates and food, so much so that the community began to question her competence, if not her sanity. Eventually, the other sisters became aware of the spiritual basis for her behavior. By age 30, she had risen to the post of prioress.
As the prioress, De’ Ricci developed into an effective and greatly admired administrator. She was an advisor on various topics to princes, bishops, and cardinals. She corresponded with three figures who were destined to become popes: Pope Marcellus II, Pope Clement VIII and Pope Leo XI.
An expert on religion, management and administration, her advice was widely sought. She gave counsel in person and through exchanging letters. It is reported that she was extremely effective and efficient in her work, managing her priorities very well.
It is claimed that De’ Ricci’s meditation on the Passion of Christ was so deep that she spontaneously bled, as if scourged. She also bore the stigmata. During times of deep prayer, like Catherine of Siena, her patron saint, a coral ring representing her marriage to Christ, appeared on her finger.
One of the miracles that was documented for her canonization was her appearance many hundreds of miles away from where she was physically located. This involved meeting in a vision St. Philip Neri, a resident of Rome, with whom she had maintained a long-term correspondence. Neri, who was otherwise very reluctant to discuss miraculous events, confirmed the event.
De’ Ricci lived in the convent until her death in 1590 after a prolonged illness. Her remains are visible under the altar of the Minor Basilica of Santi Vincenzo e Caterina de’ Ricci, Prato, which is next to the convent associated with her life.
Adapted by A. J. Valentini from: St. Catherine of Ricci. (n.d.). Catholic.Net. Retrieved January 26, 2021, from http://catholic.net/op/articles/2082/cat/1205/st-catherine-of-ricci.html