One evening, when the happy little saint was six years old, she had her first vision of Our Lord. As she and her brother were on their way home from visiting a church, Catherine looked up into the sky and saw an astounding sight. Before her was the Savior of the world sitting upon a royal throne. He was magnificently clad in bishop’s robes with the papal tiara on His head. Beside Him stood three Apostles: Saint Peter, Saint Paul, and Saint John. Our Lord then smiled lovingly at His little friend below, lifted His hand, and blessed her with the Sign of the Cross, as a bishop does. Catherine stood motionless. Her brother, who did not see anything but the brightness, tugged and tugged to try to awaken her from this trance. Finally, she did and looking again up to heaven, she wept bitterly upon seeing that the vision had vanished.[..] At seven, by a Divine inspiration, Catherine vowed perpetual virginity to Jesus, her chosen Spouse, and asked her Bridegroom and His holy Mother to keep her free from every stain of sin.
One night, in a dream, there appeared to the saint many venerable patriarchs and founders of various religious Orders. These saints, among whom she recognized Saint Dominic, told her to choose an Order to which she would belong so that she could better serve her Lord. Catherine immediately turned to her favorite saint, as he came toward her carrying a robe of the Mantellata. He spoke to her:
“Beloved daughter, take courage. Be afraid of nothing, for you shall surely be clothed in this robe which you desire.”
Catherine wept for joy.
Now that she was sure of her vocation, she went to her parents and informed them of the reason for her resistance to their plans. Jacopo, in his heart, was not surprised. Kindly, he spoke:
My dearest daughter, it is far from us to set ourselves against the Will of God in any way, and it is from Him that your purpose comes. We have learned through long experience that you are not moved by the selfishness of youth but by the mercy of God. Keep your promise and live as the Holy Ghost tells you to live. We shall never disturb you again in your life of prayer and devotion, or try to tempt you from your sacred work. But pray steadfastly for us, that we may be made worthy of the Bridegroom you chose while still so young.
Satan’s test. A Heavenly date; the union:
Catherine Benincasa was accepted into the Dominican Third Order in her sixteenth year. But before she received her habit, the arch-enemy of souls tried fiendishly to prevent this lily of surpassing beauty from renouncing the world. Instead of using his usual hideous forms, Satan appeared to Catherine as a young man — not to frighten, but to persuade. He tempted her with the pleasures, legitimate ones, that the world has to offer to an attractive and intelligent young woman. The saint was undaunted and threw herself before the crucifix, begging her Bridegroom for help. Suddenly, the Queen of Heaven stood before her, clothed in radiance. She held a cloak covered with pearls that shone like the sun. Catherine bent forward, and Our Lady slipped the garment over her head. A few days later the pure victor received her longed-for habit of the Sisters of Penitence. The white robe stood for purity, the black cape for humility and death.
It was the last day of the carnival in Siena, a time of festivity which often led even the more virtuous townspeople to fling themselves headlong into sin. The mystic, alone in her cell, prayed and scourged herself vigorously for the revelers. It was at this time that Our Lord rewarded His Spouse with a most unusual favor- a mystical marriage feast.
There appeared to her, with Jesus, His Blessed Mother, Saint John the Evangelist, Saint Paul, and David — the poet-king, bearing his harp. Our Lady took Catherine’s right hand and held it up to her Son. Jesus put a ring on her finger. It was adorned with a brilliant diamond and studded with four pearls. Then He spoke to His bride:
I here betroth you as My bride in perfect faith, which for all time shall keep you pure and virgin, until our marriage is celebrated in heaven with great rejoicing. My daughter, from now on you must undertake without protest all the works which I come to demand of you, for armed with the power of faith you shall triumphantly overcome all your opponents.
The vision disappeared, but the ring remained always on Catherine’s finger, though it was invisible to everyone but her.
Shortly after this espousal, Our Lord revealed the work He had in mind for the youngest child of Jacopo and Lapa Benincasa. She must labor in the world for the good of the Church and the salvation of souls. Her assignment, difficult enough for a holy man, was deliberately given by Christ to a frail woman. Our Savior explained:
Today I have chosen unschooled women, fearful and weak by nature, but trained by Me in the knowledge of the divine, so that they may put vanity and pride to shame. If men will humbly receive the teachings I send them through the weaker sex I will show them great mercy; but if they despise these women, they shall fall into even worse confusion and even greater agony. Therefore, My daughter, you shall humbly do My will; for I will never fail you; on the contrary, I will come to you as often as before, and I will guide and help you in all things.
Catherine wept when Jesus told her these things.
She led a life of complete resignation to God’s will, a life of prayer and charity. Like her Bridegroom, she died at the age of 33 on 29 April 1380 in Rome.