Catherine de Pazzi (1566-1607) was born of a noble family in the Italian city of Florence during its golden age; instead of taking her expected role in society as a matron and mother, she chose to devote herself to meditation and the service of God. Catherine learned to meditate at the age of 9, and received her First Communion the following year (which was much earlier than normal at that time); soon afterward she made a vow of perpetual virginity.
At the age of sixteen Catherine entered a Carmelite convent, choosing the name Mary Magdalene. One year later she became seriously ill. Because death seemed imminent, her superiors allowed her to make her final profession of vows. She was carried on a cot to the chapel for the ceremony, after which she experienced an ecstasy lasting two hours. This spiritual event was repeated each morning after Communion for the next forty days.
Mary Magdalene’s mystical experiences gave her great insight into the ways of God. At the request of her confessor, five volumes were dictated by her to other sisters describing the nature of her experiences and visions. All who came into contact with her were impressed by her faith and holiness, and it was said she had the gifts of bilocation (being in two different places at once) and reading minds. Mary Magdalene’s special gifts were given her by God to prepare her for a five-year period of profound spiritual anguish and isolation, during which she had violent temptations and great physical suffering. She remained faithful to God through all this, and died peacefully at the age of forty-one.
1. Visions and mystical experiences are not necessary for holiness, but sometimes God grants these gifts to certain persons, such as St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi, as a reminder of the new life awaiting us.
2. Saints are not immune to periods of dryness or aridity; as Mary Magdalene de Pazzi discovered, remaining faithful in spite of these experiences can be a source of great spiritual growth.
Other Saints We Remember Today
St. Maximinus of Trier (4th Century), Bishop