Some Franciscan saints led fairly public lives; Catharine represents the saints who served the Lord in obscurity.
Born in Bologna, Catharine was related to the nobility in Ferrara, and was educated at court there. She received a liberal education at the court and developed some interest and talent in painting. In later years as a Poor Clare, Catharine sometimes did manuscript illumination and also painted miniatures.
At the age of 17, she joined a group of religious women in Ferrara. Four years later the whole group joined the Poor Clares in that city. Jobs as convent baker and portress preceded her selection as novice mistress.
In 1456, she and 15 other sisters were sent to establish a Poor Clare monastery in Florence. As abbess, Catharine worked to preserve the peace of the new community. Her reputation for holiness drew many young women to the Poor Clare life. She was canonized in 1712.
Appreciating Catharine’s life in a Poor Clare monastery may be hard for us. “It seems like such a waste,” we may be tempted to say. Through prayer, penance, and charity to her sisters, Catharine drew close to God. Our goal is the same as hers, even if our paths are different.
The Liturgical Feast of Saint Catharine of Bologna is May 9.
Saint Catharine of Bologna is the Patron Saint of: