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Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume III: March. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.

March 9

St. Catherine, of Bologna, Virgin and Abbess of the Poor Clares in That City

SHE was born of noble parentage at Bologna, in 1413. Early ardent sentiments of piety seemed to have prevented in her the use of reason. At twelve years of age she was placed in quality of a young maid of honour in the family of the princess Margaret, daughter to Nicholas of Est, marquis of Ferrara. Two years after, upon the marriage of that princess, she found means to recover her liberty, and entered herself in a community of devout ladies of the Third Order of St. Francis, at Ferrara, who soon after formed themselves into a regular monastery, and adopted the austere rule of St. Clare. A new nunnery of Poor Clares being founded at Bologna, St. Catherine was chosen first prioress, and sent thither by Leonardo, abbess of the monastery of Corpus Christi, in which she had made her religious profession at Ferrara. Catherine’s incredible zeal and solicitude for the souls of sinners made her pour forth prayers and tears, almost without intermission, for their salvation. She always spoke to God or of God, and bore the most severe interior trials with an heroic patience and cheerfulness. She looked upon it as the greatest honour to be in anything the servant of the spouses of Christ, and desired to be despised by all, and to serve all in the meanest employments. She was favoured with the gifts of miracles and prophecy: but said she had been sometimes deceived by the devil. She died on the 9th of March, 1463, in the fiftieth year of her age. Her body is still entire, and shown in the church of her convent through bars and glass, sitting richly covered, but the hands, face, and feet naked. It was seen and described by Henschenius, Lassels, and other travellers. Her name was inserted in the Roman Martyrology by Clement VIII., in 1592. The solemnity of her canonization was performed by Clement XI., though the bull was only published by Benedict XIII., in 1724. 1 A book of her revelations was printed at Bologna, in 1511. She also left notes in her prayer-book of certain singular favours which she had received from God. These revelations were published and received their dress from another hand, which circumstance is often as great a disadvantage in such works as if an illiterate and bold transcriber were to copy, from a single defective manuscript, Lycophron, or some other obscure author, which he did not understand. St. Catherine wrote some treatises in Italian, others in Latin, in which language she was well skilled. The most famous of her works is the book entitled, On the Seven Spiritual Arms. See her life in Bollandus, written by F. Paleotti, fifty years after her death.  1
Note 1. Bullar. Roman. t. 13. p. 87. [back]