It was towards the latter end of the 15th century that Lucia Broccoletti was horn in the ancient city of Narni, in Umbria, where her father’s house had long held a noble and distinguished rank. Even as a baby in the cradle, there were not wanting signs which marked her as no ordinary child; and if we may credit the account given us by her old biographers, both her nurses and mother were accustomed to see her daily visited by an unknown religious dressed in the Dominican habit, whose majestic appearance seemed something more than human, and who, taking her from her cradle, embraced her tenderly, and gave her her blessing. They watched closely, to see whence this mysterious visitor came and whither she went, but were never able to follow her; and the mother becoming at length alarmed at the daily recurrence of this circumstance, it was revealed to her that her child’s unknown visitor was no other than Saint Catherine of Sienna, to whom she was given as an adopted daughter.
The accounts that have been preserved of Lucia’s childhood have a peculiar interest of their own. Whilst the early biographies of many saints present us with instances of extraordinary graces and favours granted to them in infancy, quite as numerous and remarkable as those bestowed on Blessed Lucy, yet in her case we find them mixed with the details of a characteristic vivacity of temperament, which give them a lifelike reality, and show her to us, in the midst of her supernatural visitations, with all the impetuosity of an imaginative child. When she was only four years old, her mother’s brother, Don Simon, came on a visit to his sister’s house, and brought with him from Rome various toys and presents for the children. Lucy was given her choice; and whilst the others were loudly clamouring for the dolls and puppets, she selected a little rosary with an image of the Child Jesus; and this being given to her, she took it in her arms, bestowing every name of childish endearment on it, kissing its hands and feet, and calling it her dear Christarello, a name which continued to be given to it ever afterwards. The rest of the day she spent in her own little room, where she arranged a corner for the reception of the Christarello, and was never tired of seeing and caressing her new treasure. Henceforth it was here that she spent the happiest moments of the day. If ever she got into any trouble in the house, it was here she came to pour out all her sorrow; and the innocent simplicity of her devotion was so pleasing to God, that more than once He permitted that the Christarello should wipe away the tears which she shed on these occasions with His little hand, as was several times witnessed by her mother, who watched her through the half-open door. As she grew a little older, she began to accompany her mother to church; and they frequently went to visit the great church of Saint Augustine, which was close to the house where they lived. Now it happened that in this church, among other devout images, there was a small has-relief of the Blessed Virgin holding her Divine Son in her arms, which took the child’s fancy the first time they entered, so that she stopped to look at it. Her mother observed her as she lingered behind: “Lucy,” she said, “do you know who that beautiful lady is whom you see there? She is the Mother of your Christarello; and the little Child whom she carries in her arms is the Christarello also. If you like, we will come here sometimes; and you shall bring the rosary you are so fond of, and say it before her image.” Lucy was delighted at the idea; and whenever she could escape from her nurse’s hand, she found her way to the church, to admire this new object of her devotion. One day, being thus occupied, the thought came into her head, how much she would like to hold the Christarello for once in her own arms, as she had learnt to hold her little baby brother. She therefore prayed to the Blessed Virgin with great earnestness that her request might be granted, and immediately the marble figure of the little Jesus was extended to her by His Mother, and placed in her arms. Nor was this all: no sooner had she received her precious burden, than she felt the cold marble become a living Child; and, full of delight, she ran home still carrying Him; and though she met many people on the way, who stopped her as she hurried along, and tried to take Him from her, she succeeded in getting safe to her own room at home, where she shut herself up with her treasure, and remained with Him for three days and nights without food or sleep, insensible to all the entreaties and remonstrances of her astonished mother. Conquered at length by fatigue, on the third day she fell asleep; and when she woke she became sensible of the truth that God abides only with those who watch with Him; for, on opening her eyes, the first thing she perceived was that the Christarello was gone. Her cries of distress were heard by her mother, who, to console her, carried her once more to the church; and there they found the marble child restored to the image as before, although for the three previous days its place in the arms of the Virgin’s figure had been empty.
She was accustomed from time to time to pay a visit to the uncle before mentioned, and when about seven years old she went as usual to spend some time with him at his country house. She remembered, on the occasion of a former visit, to have seen a room in some part of the house where there were some little angels painted on the walls, as it seemed to her, holding their hands and dancing; and the first morning after her arrival, she determined to set out on a diligent search after the dancing angels. The room in which they were painted was in a wing of the house which had fallen out of repair, and was no longer used by the family; a staircase had led to the upper story, but this was now fallen and in ruins; and though Lucy, as she stood at the bottom, could see the little angels on the wall above her head, all her efforts were unavailing to climb the broken staircase and reach the object of her search. She had recourse to her usual expedient, prayer to the Christarello, and instantly found herself in the empty room, without well knowing how she came there. But her thoughts were soon busy with the angels. There they were; little winged children, their heads garlanded with flowers, their mantles floating as it seemed in the air; and they danced with such an air of enjoyment and superhuman grace, that Lucy sat on the ground before them, absorbed in admiration. As she sat thus, she heard her own name called from the window. She turned round, expecting to see her uncle or some of the servants of the house; but a very different spectacle met her eye. A glorious company of saints and angels stood round the Person of Jesus Himself. On His right was His Virgin Mother; on His left, Saint Catherine and the great Patriarch Saint Dominic, with many others. Then those mystic espousals were celebrated which we read of in so many other tales of the Saints of God: the Divine Spouse receiving the hand of the delighted child from His Blessed Mother, placed a ring on her finger, which she preserved to the hour of her death; after which He assigned her to the special guardianship of Saint Dominic and Saint Catherine, whom from that day she always was used to call her “father and mother.” “And have you nothing to give Me?” He then asked of His little Spouse; “will you not give Me that silk mantle and pretty necklace?” Lucy was dressed in the rich fashion of the day, with a crimson damask mantle over her other garments, and a necklace of gold and coral beads about her neck; but at these words of her Spouse, she hastily stripped them off, and lay them at His feet. He did not fail, however, to give her a richer dress in their place; for she had no sooner taken off the silk mantle, than Saint Dominic clothed her with the scapular of his order, which she continued to wear during the rest of her life under her other clothes. When the vision had disappeared, Lucy found herself full of a new and inexpressible joy. She turned to the little angels on the wall, the only companions left her after the last of the heavenly train had faded from her eyes, and with the simplicity of her childish glee, she spoke to them as though they were alive. “You dear little angels,” she said, “are you not glad at what our Lord has done?” Then the angels seemed to move from the wall, and to become, indeed, full of life; and they spoke to her in reply, and said they were very glad to have her for their queen and lady, as the Spouse of their dear Lord. And they invited her to join in their dance of joy, and sang so sweet and harmonious a music, and held out their hands so kindly and graciously, that Lucy would have been well content never to have left her happy place of retreat; nor would she have done so, if she had not been found by her uncle, and carried against her will back to the house.
The death of her father, left her whilst still young, to the guardianship of her uncle. All her own wishes were fixed on a life of religion, but her uncle had different views for her; and after long resistance on her part, he succeeded in inducing her to accept as her husband Count Pietro of Milan, a young nobleman of considerable worth and abilities. The marriage was accordingly celebrated; but not until, in answer to earnest prayers, Lucy had received a divine revelation that a life so contrary to all her own wishes and intentions was indeed God’s will regarding her.
Doubtless it is one of those cases in which it is not easy for us to follow the ways of Divine Providence. The marriage was followed by much suffering to both parties; yet, if we be willing to take the Saints’ lives as they are given us, without seeking to reduce the supernatural elements we find in them to the level of our own understanding, we shall not he disposed to doubt the truth of the revelation which commanded it, or to fancy things would have been much better if Blessed Lucy had never been placed in a position so little in harmony with her own wishes. On the contrary, we must admire the grace of God, which would perhaps never have been so amply manifested in His servant, had she been called to a more congenial way of life. We are accustomed to admire the wonderful variety of examples which are presented to us in the lives of the Saints: that of Blessed Lucy offers us one of a soul with all her sympathies and desires fixed on the higher life of religion, yet fulfilling with perfect exactitude the minutest duties of a different vocation. She sanctified herself in the will of God, though that will was manifested to her in a position which the world is used to call the hardest of all to bear – an ill-assorted marriage. She found means to practise the humiliation of the cloister, without laying aside the duties, or even the becoming dignity, of her station.
Her first care, on finding herself the young mistress of a house full of servants, was with them, whom she ever looked on less as menials than as a cherished portion of her family. And in the beautiful account given us of her intercourse with them, we must remember that at the period in which she lived, it was considered nothing uncommon or unbecoming for ladies of the highest rank to join in the household occupations, and take their part in the day’s employment, working with their servants, and presiding amongst them with an affectionate familiarity, which, without rendering them less a mistress, gave them at the same time almost the position of a mother. Blessed Lucy delighted in the opportunities, which the simple manners of the day thus afforded her, of laying aside her rich dress and ornaments, and assisting in her own kitchen, where she always chose the meanest and most tiresome offices. What was with others only done in compliance with the ordinary habit of the day, was with her made the occasion of secret humiliations. One of her servants, a woman of very holy life and disposition, she took into her confidence, submitting herself to her direction, and obeying her as a religious superior. On Holy Thursday, she washed the feet of all her domestics; and that with so touching a devotion as to draw tears from the eyes of the rudest and most indifferent among them. So perfect was the discipline she succeeded in introducing among them, that, far from presenting the spectacle of disorder so common in households filled with a crowd of feudal retainers of all kinds, her palace had the quietude and serenity of a monastery. Never was an oath or licentious word heard among them; the name of God was honoured; and habits of devotion became cherished and familiar, where before they had been too often an occasion of mockery. All the family dined at the same table; and during the repast the Lives of the Saints, or the Holy Scriptures, were read aloud. If any fault were committed by any of the household, Blessed Lucy knew how to punish it so rigorously as to prevent a repetition of the offence; and in this she was often assisted by the gift of prophecy, which she enjoyed in a remarkable degree. We read an amusing account of two of her maidens, who took the opportunity of their mistress’s absence at church to kill two fine capons, which they resolved to dress privately for their own eating. The birds were already on the spit, when their mistress was heard entering the house. Fearful of discovery, they took the half-roasted capons from the fire, and hid them under a bed. Blessed Lucy, however, knew all that had happened. “Where are the capons,” she said, “that were in the court this morning?” “They have flown away,” said the two women, in great confusion: “we have been looking for them every where.” “Do not try to deceive God, my children,” replied Blessed Lucy: “they are both under your bed; if you will follow me, I will show them to you.” The servants followed her in silent dismay; but their astonishment was still more increased, when not only did she lead them to the very place where they had hidden their spoils, hut calling the birds to come out, they flew out alive, and began to crow lustily.
In another story of her life, we find her represented with her women washing the linen of the house by the side of a river that flowed by the castle. Whilst so engaged, one of them fell into the river and sank to the bottom; but Blessed Lucy made the sign of the cross over the water, and immediately the drowning woman appeared on the surface safe and sound, close to the river’s bank.
And in the midst of these simple and homely occupations, the supernatural life of prayer, and ecstacy, and communion with God, was never for a moment interrupted. Strange and beautiful sights were seen by many of those who were present in the church when she communicated: sometimes a column of fire rested on her head; sometimes her face itself shone and sparkled like the sun. Once two little children, whom she had adopted as her own, saw, as they knelt behind her, two angels come and crown their mother with a garland, of exquisite roses. But the children began to weep; for they said one to another, “Certainly our mother cannot have long to live, for the angels are even now crowning her with flowers.”
The beauty of her face, and its extraordinary brilliancy at these times, had a singular power in controlling those who beheld it. Even Count Pietro himself was tamed and conquered by a glance from her eye, when it shone with this more than human splendour.
This mention of Count Pietro’s name reminds us that it is tune we should say something of him, and of his share in a story which has in some parts, as we read it, the character of a romance. He was not a bad man; he seems indeed to have had many good qualities, and to have been possessed in some respects of a degree of refinement beyond what was common at the time. He was sincerely attached to his saintly wife; but he could not understand her. They were beings of different worlds; and the very qualities which extorted his respect and admiration often sadly perplexed and worried him. Her very affection for himself was above his comprehension; his own feelings were too much made up of the ordinary selfishness of the world, for him to know how to measure the love of one whose love was in God. He felt her power over himself; and whilst he yielded to it, it irritated him, and not the less because there was nothing of which he could complain. This irritation showed itself in a morose jealousy, sometimes varied by fits of passionate violence; in which he went so far as to confine his wife to her room, and once even to threaten her life.
All this, and the yet more wearing trial of their daily intercourse, was borne by Blessed Lucy with unvarying sweetness and gentleness. But though she accommodated herself in every thing to his sullen temper, and even showed him a true and loyal obedience, the desire after those heavenly espousals to which she had been promised whilst still a child never left her heart; and as time went on, she began to look about for some opportunity of carrying her wishes into effect. In those days it was no uncommon spectacle to see a wife or a husband, in obedience to the interior call of heaven, abandon every tie of flesh and blood for the retirement of the cloister; nor was the propriety of such a step ever questioned. Society, as a body, in the ages of faith, acknowledged the principle, that one whom Christ calls should leave all and follow Him. When, therefore, we hear that Blessed Lucy at length resolved to leave her husband’s house, and take the habit of religion in the Order of Saint Dominic, we must remember that she was no more acting contrary to the custom of the age, than when she worked with her servants in the kitchen. It is not an easy matter at any time for us to judge of the vocation or conscience of another; but when we have to carry back our investigation four hundred years, we can hardly hope that the whole history of a resolution of this nature, – why it was carried out now, and why it was not carried out before her marriage, – should be laid open before us like the pages of a book. Of one thing only we cannot doubt, – God’s will had been very clearly and sufficiently declared; both at first, when she consented to give up her own wishes, and now, when the time was come for them to be granted. She contented herself at first with receiving the habit of the third order, and remaining in her mother’s house for a year; during which time she had to endure much from the indignation of her husband, who expressed his own disapproval of her step in a very summary way, by burning down the monastery of the prior who had given her the habit. But her uncles at length took the case into their own hands; and after considering the very extraordinary signs of a divine call which had been made manifest in her life, they decided that she should be suffered to follow it without further molestation, and placed her in the monastery of Saint Catherine of Sienna at Rome.
Within a year from her entrance there, the fame of her sanctity had become so universal, that Father Joachim Turriano, the General of the Order, being about to found a new convent of nuns at Viterbo, selected her as the prioress of the new foundation; on which office she accordingly entered in the year 1496, being then exactly twenty years of age. So great was the reputation she enjoyed, that though the number of religious sent with her to Viterbo by the general was only five, the crowds that applied for admission as soon as her presence was known was so great that the convent had to be enlarged; and she soon saw herself at the head of a numerous and flourishing community.
Meanwhile, her unhappy husband had not abandoned all hopes of inducing her even yet to return to the world. He had followed her to Rome, and made vain efforts to see and speak with her: he now followed her also to Viterbo; and though unsuccessful in his attempts to obtain the slightest answer to his continual applications and appeals, he continued to linger about the convent, in the restless mood of one who would not give up his design as hopeless. Every tongue around him was busy with the fame of Lucy’s saintliness; from one he heard of her almost continual prayer, from another, of the glory which was seen to hover over her face in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament: but soon, in the February following her removal to Viterbo, the interest of all was absorbed in a new report, – that she had received the sacred stigmata; and that in so remarkable a manner as to put all doubt on the subject out of the question. For it was hi the choir, with the other religious, that, being engaged in profound meditation on the Passion, she was observed by one of the sisters to look pale and as if suffering acute pain. The sister went up to her to support her, and was struck with the appearance of her hands, the bones of which seemed dislocated, and the nerves torn. “Mother of God!” she exclaimed, “what is the matter with your hands?” “Nothing,” was the faint reply; “they are only gone to sleep.” But within a few moments the agony she was enduring and endeavouring to conceal overpowered her, and she became perfectly senseless. They carried her from the choir and restored her to consciousness, so that she was able to return within an hour and receive Holy Communion; but the same sister who had first observed her, being convinced something very extraordinary had happened, continued to watch her, and followed her to her cell. She then remarked that her hands were livid, and the skin raised and much inflamed; and by the end of the week the wounds became large and open, and shed so great an abundance of blood that it could no longer be concealed. The excitement which followed, when these circumstances became generally known, can hardly be described. A minute investigation was first made by the Bishop of Viterbo; after which three successive commissions of inquiry were appointed by the command of the Pope to examine the affair, and each of these inquiries terminated in the declaration that the truth of the miracle was beyond all dispute. Multitudes flocked to the convent to see and touch the sacred wounds, and came back full of the wonders which their own eyes had witnessed. Duke Hercules of Este, the Pope’s nephew, made earnest applications to his uncle to suffer her to be removed to his own city of Ferrara; and whilst all these things were going on, Count Pietro still remained in Viterbo.
The world about him was echoing with his wife’s renown, but none knew his own connection with her. Each marvel that he heard did but seem to widen the gulf between them; yet still he stayed and lingered within sight of the walls that shut her from him for ever: now bitterly accusing himself for the blindness of his own conduct towards her; now striving to keep alive a kind of despairing hope that, could he but once gain admittance to her presence, he might even yet regain possession of a treasure which, when it was his, he knew not how to value. At length his desires were granted. A sudden inspiration induced Lucy to consent to an interview: it was the first that had taken place since she had fled from his house, and it was the last they ever had in this life.
It must have been a singular meeting: the two years of their separation had altered both. As to the Count, his restless despair had worn him to an old man. He had never seen Narni since the day of her departure for Rome, whither he had followed her; and had spent the long days of those two years hanging about the convent-gates like some miserable beggar. And the same two years had placed Lucy far beyond his reach, as it were in a supernatural world above him. When she stood before him at the grate, and he beheld her marked with those sacred and mysterious wounds, and bearing in her whole appearance the air of one whose sympathies were for ever removed from the affections of humanity, his heart failed him. He had thought to speak to her of her home, and the claims which should recall her to the world; he saw before him something a little lower than the angels; and falling on his knees, he bent his eyes to the ground, and remained silent. Then she spoke; and heaven seemed to speak to him by her voice. The mists of earthly passion rolled away from his heart as he listened; the world and its hopes died in him at that moment; an extraordinary struggle tore his very soul, then passed away, and left it in a profound calm. For the first time he caught a glimpse of that reality which till now he had treated as a dream; the world and its unquiet joys were now themselves the dream, and heaven opened on him as the reality. All life fell away from him in that hour; and when his wife ceased speaking, she had won his soul to God. He dragged himself to her feet, and bathed them in his tears; he conjured her pardon for all the persecutions and violence of the past, and renounced every right or claim over her obedience for ever. Then, leaving her without another word, he obeyed the voice which had so powerfully spoken to his heart; for within a few weeks he took the habit of the Friars Minor of the strict observance; and persevering in it for many years, died a little before his wife, with the reputation of sanctity.
Were this a romande, the story of Blessed Lucy might well end here. But her life was yet scarcely begun. Shortly after the interview with her husband just spoken of, Duke Hercules obtained the Pope’s orders for her removal to Ferrara. This was only done by stealth; for the people of Viterbo having got intelligence of the design, guarded the city night and day; so that, in order to gain possession of the Saint, the duke was reduced to the expedient of loading several mules with large baskets, as if full of goods; and in one of these Blessed Lucy was concealed and carried off, under the guardianship of a strong body of armed men. Being arrived at Ferrara, the duke received her with extraordinary honours, and built a magnificent convent for her reception, to which Pope Alexander VI. granted singular privileges, by a brief wherein he declared her to have “followed the footsteps of Saint Catherine of Sienna in all things.” In this convent she gave the habit to her own mother, as well as to many noble ladies of Ferrara.
It were too long to tell of all the signs of Divine favour which were granted to her during the first years of her new government; of the miracles wrought by her hands, the visions of marvellous beauty that were given to her gaze; and the familiarity with which she seemed to live among the saints and angels. Thus one day, passing into the dormitory, she was met by the figure of a religious, whom she knew to be Saint Catherine of Sienna. Prostrating herself at her feet, she prayed her to bless the new monastery, which was dedicated in her name. The saint willingly complied, and they went through the house together; Blessed Lucy carrying the holy water, whilst Saint Catherine sprinkled the cells, as the manner is in blessing a house. Whilst they went along, they sang together the hymn _Ace Maris Stella_; and having finished, Saint Catherine left her staff with Blessed Lucy, and took her leave. And another time they saw in the same dormitory a great company of angels, and the form of one of surpassing beauty, and clad in an azure robe in the midst of them, standing among them as their queen. Then she sent them hither and thither, like soldiers to their posts, and bid them guard the various offices of the monastery; “for,” she said, “we must take possession of this house.”
One lingers over this period of her story, unwilling to pass on to the sorrowful conclusion. God, who had elevated her so highly in the sight of the world, was about to set upon her life the seal of a profound humiliation. Hitherto she had been placed before the eyes of man as an object of enthusiastic veneration: her convent gates were crowded by peisons of all ranks, who thronged only to see her for a moment. Duke Hercules of Este applied to her for counsel in all difficulties of state. The Pope had issued extraordinary briefs to enable the religious of other convents and orders to pass under her government, and even to leave the second order to join her community, which belonged to the third, – a privilege we shall scarcely find granted in any other case. But now these triumphs and distinctions were about to have an end. Blessed Lucy was about twenty-nine years of age. The honour in which she was held, and the public celebrity she enjoyed, were a continual source of sorrow and humiliation to her; and with the desire to escape from something of the popular applause which followed her, she ceased not earnestly to implore her Divine Spouse to remove from her the visible marks of the sacred stigmata, which were the chief cause of the veneration which was paid her by the world. Her request was in part granted, the wounds in her hands and feet closed; but that of the side, which was concealed from the eyes of others, remained open to the hour of her death. Whether the withdrawal of these visible tokens of the Divine favour was the cause of the change in the sentiments of her subjects, we are not told; but we find shortly after, that some among them, disgusted at her refusal to allow the community to become incorporated with the second order, rose in rebellion, and even attempted her life. The scandal of this crime was concealed through the exertions of Lucy herself; but on the death of her great protector, Duke Hercules, in 1505, the discontented members of the community recommenced their plots against her authority and reputation. Then – designs were laid with consummate art; and at length they publicly accused her of having been seen in her cell endeavouring to re-open the wounds of her hands and feet with a knife, in order to impose on the public. Their evidence was so ably concocted, that they succeeded in gaining over the heads of the order to their side. Hasty and violent measures were at once adopted; every apostolic privilege granted by Pope Alexander was revoked; she was degraded from her office of prioress, deprived of every right and voice in the community, and placed below the youngest novice in the house. She was, moreover, forbidden to speak to any one except the confessor, kept in a strict imprisonment, and treated in every way as if proved guilty of an infamous imposture. Nor was this disgrace confined within the enclosure of her own monastery; it spread as far as her reputation had extended. All Italy was moved with a transport of indignation against her; the storm of invective which was raised reached her even in her prison; her name became a proverb of reproach through Europe; and the nuns whonad been professed at her hands made their professions over again to the new prioress, as if their vows formerly made to her had been invalid.
One can hardly picture a state of desolation equal to that in which Blessed Lucy now found herself. It was as if this token of deep abjection and humiliation were required as a confirmation of her saintliness. If any such proof were indeed needed, it was furnished by the conduct which she exhibited under this extraordinary trial. During the whole remaining period of her life, a space of eight-and-thirty years, she bore her heavy cross without a murmur. Perhaps its hardest suffering was, to live thus among those whom she had gathered, together with her own hands, and had sought to lead to the highest paths of religion, compelled now to be a silent witness of their wickedness. Her life was a long prayer for her persecutors, and we are assured that no sorrow or regret ever seemed to shadow the deep tranquillity of her soul. So far as it touched herself, she took it as a more precious token of her Spouse’s love than all the graces and favours He had ever heaped on her before. But it is no part of saintliness to be indifferent to the sins of others; and we can scarcely fathom the anguish which must hourly have pierced her heart, at the ingratitude and malignity of her unworthy children.
And so closed the life which had opened in such a joyous and beautiful childhood. God indeed knew how to comfort one whom the world had utterly cast out; and though cut off from the least communication with any human being, she could scarcely be pitied whilst her neglected and solitary cell was the resort of celestial visitants and friends. The reader is possibly a little tired of such tales; yet we ask his indulgence whilst referring to one of these last incidents in the life of Blessed Lucy, which we can scarcely omit. There lived at the same time, at Caramagna in Savoy, another beatified saint of the same illustrious order, Blessed Catherine of Raconigi. She had never seen Blessed Lucy; but had heard of her saintly fame, and the lustre of her life and miracles, and then also of her sufferings and disgrace. But the saints of God judge not as the world judges; and Catherine knew by the light of divine illumination the falsehood of the charges brought against her sister. She had ever longed to see and speak with her; and now more than ever, when the glitter of the world’s applause was exchanged for its contumely and persecution. The thought of her sister, never seen with mortal eye, yet so dearly loved in God, never left her mind; and she prayed earnestly to their common Lord and Spouse, that He would comfort and support her, and, if such were His blessed will, satisfy in some way her own intense desire to hold some kind of intercourse with her even in this life. One night, as she was thus praying in her cell at Caramagna, her desires were heard and granted. The same evening Lucy was also alone and in prayer; and to her in like manner God had revealed the sanctity of Catherine, kindling in her heart a loving sympathy with one who, though a stranger in the world’s language, had been brought very near to her heart in the mysteries of the Heart of Jesus. We cannot say how and in what way it was, but they spent that night together; but when morning came, and found her again alone as before, Lucy had received such strength and consolation from her sister’s visit, that, as her biographer says, “she desired new affronts and persecutions for the glory of that Lord who knew so well how to comfort and suppoit her in them.”
Her last illness came on her in her sixty-eighth year: for eight-and-thirty years she had lived stripped of all human consolation; and the malice of her enemies continued unabated to the last. None came near her, as she lay weak and dying on her miserable bed. Like her Lord and Master, they hid their faces from her, counting her as a leper. The ordinary offices of charity, which they would have done to the poorest beggar in the streets, they denied to her; she was left to die as she had lived, alone. But if the world abandoned her, God did not. Her pillow was smoothed and tended by more than a mother’s care. Saint Catherine did not neglect her charge. It is said she was more than once seen by the sick-bed, having in her company one of the sisters of the community, who had departed a short time before, with the reputation of sanctity; and together they did the office of infirmarians to the dying Saint. When the last hour drew nigh, she called the sisters around her bed, and humbly asked their pardon for any scandal she had given them in life. We do not find one word of justification, or remonstrance, or even of regret; only some broken words of exhortation, not to be offended at her imperfection, but to love God and be detached from creatures, and abide steadfastly by their rule. At midnight, on the 15th of November, 1544, she felt the moment of release was at hand; and without any death-struggle or sign of suffering, she raised her hands and cried, “Up to heaven, up to heaven!” and so expired, with a smile that remained on the dead face with so extraordinary a beauty, that none could look on it without a sentiment of awe, for they knew it was the beauty of one of God’s Saints.
The truth could not longer be concealed; one supernatural token after another was given to declare the blessedness of the departed soul. Angelic voices were heard singing above the cell by all the sisters; an extraordinary perfume filled the cell and the whole house; and the community, who had probably for the most part been deceived by one or two in authority, without any malice on their own part, now loudly insisted on justice being done to the deceased. It was done, so far as funeral honours can make amends for a life of cruelty and calumniation. The body was exposed in the church; and the fickle crowds who had called her an impostor while living, crowded now to see and touch the sacred remains. The wound in her side was examined, and found dripping with fresh wet blood; the sick were cured, and evil spirits cast out, by cloths which had been placed on the relics.
Four years after the body was taken from its grave, and found fresh and beautiful as in life. Then it was again exposed in the church to the veneration of the faithful, who crowded once more to pay it honour, and were wonder-struck at the perfume, as of sweet violets, which issued from it, and attached to every thing which it touched. And it was again disinterred, little more than a century ago, in 1710, when it presented the same appearance as before, and the sacred stigmata were observed distinct and visible to all. On this occasion a part of the body was translated to Narni, where it now reposes in a magnificent shrine, and receives extraordinary honours, amid the scene of her childish devotion to the Christarello. Perhaps, as we read of these honours to the dead, we may feel they were but poor reparation for the calumnies and injuries heaped on her while living: or, if we seek to measure these things in the balance of the sanctuary, we can believe that to her blessed spirit now, those long years of abandonment and desolation, which cut her off from all communion with this earth for more than half her mortal life, were a far more precious gift than all the shrines, and funeral honours, and popular veneration, which the world in its tardy repentance was moved to give her.
She was finally beatified by Pope Benedict XIII towards the middle of the last century.