Catherine of Genoa
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Saint Catherine of Genoa (Caterina Fieschi Adorno, 1447 – 15 September 1510) was an Italian saint and mystic of the Catholic Church. She is recognised for her contributions to the development of the doctrine of purgatory.
- From, Martin Buber, Ecstatic Confessions
- In God is my being, my I, my strength, my bliss, my desire. But this I that I often call so...in truth I no longer know what the I is, or the Mine, or desire, or the good, or bliss.
- I find in myself by the grace of God a satisfaction without nourishment, a love without fear
- Faith seems to me wholly lost, and hope dead; for it seems to me that I have and hold in certainty that which I believed and hoped at other times. I no longer see union, for I know nothing more and can see nothing more than him alone without me.I do not know where the I is, nor do I seek it, nor do I wish to know or be cognizant of it.
- I am so submerged in the sweet fire of love that I cannot grasp anything except the whole of love, which melts all the marrow of my soul and body.
- Therefore it seems to me that I am no longer of this world, since I can no longer do the work of the world like the others; indeed, every action of others that I see disturbs me, for I do not work as they do, nor as I myself used to do. I feel myself altogether estranged from earthly affairs, and from my own most of all
- I cannot work, or walk, or stand, or speak, but all this seems to me a useless thing
- Many are astonished at this, and since they do not know the reason, they are offended. And truly, if it were not that God stands by me, the world would often consider me mad, and that is because I almost always live outside myself.
- God became man in order to make me God; therefore I want to be changed completely into pure God
- Ibid., P.109.
- I am so plunged and submerged in the source of his infinite love, as if I were quite under water in the sea and could not touch, see, feel anything on any side except water
- Sally Kempton, Meditation for the Love of It: Enjoying Your Own Deepest Experience (2011), p. 227
Life and Doctrine
- From, "Life and Doctrine of Saint Catherine of Genoa" by CHRISTIAN PRESS ASSOCIATION PUBLISHING CO. (1907)
- I see without eyes, and I hear without ears. I feel without feeling and taste without tasting. I know neither form nor measure; for without seeing I yet behold an operation so divine that the words I first used, perfection, purity, and the like, seem to me now mere lies in the presence of truth. . . . Nor can I any longer say, “My God, my all.” Everything is mine, for all that is God’s seem to be wholly mine. I am mute and lost in God...God so transforms the soul in Him that it knows nothing other than God; and He continues to draw it up into His fiery love until He restores it to that pure state from which it first issued
- p. 50
- So long as any one can speak of divine things, enjoy and understand them, remember and desire them, he has not yet arrived in port; yet there are ways and means to guide him thither. But the creature can know nothing but what God gives him to know from day to day
- This is the beatitude that the blessed might have, and yet they have it not, except in so far as they are dead to themselves and absorbed in God. They have it not in so far as they remain in themselves and can say: `I am blessed.' Words are wholly inadequate to express my meaning, and I reproach myself for using them. I would that every one could understand me, and I am sure that if I could breathe on creatures, the fire of love burning within me would inflame them all with divine desire. O thing most marvelous!
- I do not wish a love which may be described as for God, or in God. I cannot see those words, for and in, without their suggesting to me that something may intervene between God and me; and that is what pure and simple love, by reason of its purity and simplicity, is unable to endure. This purity and simplicity is as great as God is, for it is his own
- Ch. XVIII
- I cannot desire any created love, that is, love which can be felt, enjoyed, or understood. I do not wish love that can pass through the intellect, memory, or will; because pure love passes all these things and transcends them
- I shall never rest until I am hidden and enclosed in that divine heart wherein all created forms are lost, and, so lost, remain thereafter all divine; nothing else can satisfy true, pure, and simple love
- In my soul, therefore, I can see no one but God, since I suffer no one else to enter there, and myself less than any other, because I am my own worst enemy.
- If, however, it happens to be necessary to speak of myself, I do so on account of the world, which would not understand me should I name myself otherwise than as men are named, yet inwardly I say: my I is God, nor is any other self known to me except my God
- All things which have being, have it from the essence of God by his participation: but pure love cannot stop to contemplate this general participation coming from God, nor to consider whether in itself, considered as a creature, it receives it in the same way as do the other creatures which more or less participate with God. Pure love cannot endure such comparison; on the contrary, it exclaims with a great impetus of love; my being is God, not by participation only but by a true transformation and annihilation of my proper being.
- In God is my being, my me, my strength, my beatitude, my good, and my delight. I say mine at present because it is not possible to speak otherwise; but I do not mean by it any such thing as me or mine, or delight or good, or strength or stability, or beatitude; nor could I possibly turn my eyes to behold such things in heaven or in earth; and if, notwithstanding, I sometimes use words which may have the likeness of humility and of spirituality, in my interior I do not understand them, I do not feel them. In truth it astonishes me that I speak at all, or use words so far removed from the truth and from that which I feel. I see clearly that man in this world deceives himself by admiring and esteeming things which are not, and neither sees nor esteems the things which are
- Ch. XIV
The Treatise on Purgatory
- From, Catherine of Genoa: Purgation and Purgatory, The Spiritual Dialogue (Classics of Western Spirituality)
- When God sees the Soul pure as it was in its origins, He tugs at it with a glance, draws it and binds it to Himself with a fiery love that by itself could annihilate the immortal soul. In so acting, God so transforms the soul in Him that it knows nothing other than God; and He continues to draw it up into His fiery love until He restores it to that pure state from which it first issued. These rays purify and then annihilate. The soul becomes like gold that becomes purer as it is fired, all dross being cast out. Having come to the point of twenty-four carats, gold cannot be purified any further; and this is what happens to the soul in the fire of God’s love
- p. 79-80
Quotes about Catherine
- Dear friends, in their experience of union with God, Saints attain such a profound knowledge of the divine mysteries in which love and knowledge interpenetrate, that they are of help to theologians themselves in their commitment to study, to intelligentia fidei, to an intelligentia of the mysteries of faith, to attain a really deeper knowledge of the mysteries of faith, for example, of what purgatory is. With her life St Catherine teaches us that the more we love God and enter into intimacy with him in prayer the more he makes himself known to us, setting our hearts on fire with his love. In writing about purgatory, the Saint reminds us of a fundamental truth of faith that becomes for us an invitation to pray for the deceased so that they may attain the beatific vision of God in the Communion of Saints (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1032). Moreover the humble, faithful and generous service in Pammatone Hospital that the Saint rendered throughout her life is a shining example of charity for all and an encouragement, especially for women who, with their precious work enriched by their sensitivity and attention to the poorest and neediest, make a fundamental contribution to society and to the Church.
- Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience Address, 12 January 2011 
- One characteristic of Italian spirituality at this period is the theme of divine love. Historically, it can be traced back to St.Catherine of Genoa (+ 1510), the foundress of Italian hospitals. One of her disciples, Ettore Vernazza, founded a religious group under the title, Oratorio del divino Amore, and it very quickly spread throughout Italy
- Jordan Autman, Christian Spirituality in the Catholic Tradition, p. 181
- Catherine came from the famous Fieschi family in Genoa, where she received a careful and sound education as befitted her noble status. Her early aspirations to become a nun were frustrated by her relatives when, for political reasons, they married her off at the age of sixteen to a young man, Guiliano Adorno, who was worldly, pleasure-loving and indulgent. Catherine experienced considerable unhappiness and spent some sorrowful years in seclusion until she was able to free herself from her husband. She then devoted herself to prayer, contemplation and strict discipline. In 1473 she underwent a deep mystical experience marked by close union with God. From now on her life was transformed. She reached great spiritual heights, but balanced ascetic discipline with an active life of service to the ill and poor
- Ursula King, Christian Mystics: Their Lives and Legacies throughout the Ages (1998), p. 41
- In the early twentieth century, attention was drawn to Catherine’s remarkable mystical, mental, and at times almost pathological, experiences through the classic study by Baron Friedrich von Hügel, The Mystical Element in Religion as Studied in Saint Catherine of Genoa and Her Friends (1908). The last ten years of Catherine’s life were marked by violent interior emotions, mentioned in her works. It has been said that in many ways Catherine of Genoa is a “theologian of purgatory,” a purgatory that she herself experienced in a marriage she did not desire, in her care for plague victims, and also in her nervous illness. She also experienced purgatory spiritually as the soul’s realization of its own imperfections, in her search for salvation and purification. Influenced by Plato and Dionysius, the focus of her mysticism was, in spite of her eucharistic devotion, not so much Christ, but above all the infinite God. Her mysticism is primarily theocentric, not Christocentric. She speaks of the absorption into the totality of God as if immersed into an ocean: “I am so…submerged in His immense love, that I seem as though immersed in the sea, and nowhere able to touch, see or feel aught but water.” At the height of her mystical experiences she could exclaim: “My being is God, not by simple participation but by a true transformation of my being.”
- Ursula King, Christian Mystics: Their Lives and Legacies throughout the Ages (1998), p. 42
- Some of the mo[st] daring statements [are] of another Catherine who has been canonized by the Church—Catherine of Genoa (1447-1510). Among the autotheistic sayings of this mystic are the following: "My me is God, nor do I recognize any other me except my God Himself," and "My being is God, not by some simple participation but by a true transformation of my being."
- James A. Wisemann, O.S.B. (1990), The Autotheistic sayings of the Mystics
- Saint Catherine of Genoa was born in the Vicolo del Filo in that city, in 1447. She was of the great Guelph family of Fiesca, being the daughter of Giacomo Fiesca, at one time Viceroy of Naples, and granddaughter of Roberto Fiesca, whose brother was Pope Innocent IV...She grew up to be very lovely: "taller than most women, her head well proportioned, her face rather long but singularly beautiful and well shaped, her complexion fair and in the flower of her youth rubicund, her nose long rather than short, her eyes dark and her forehead high and broad; every part of her body was well formed." About the time she failed to enter the convent, or a little later, her father died, and his power and possessions passed to her eldest brother Giacomo. Wishing to compose the differences between the factions into which the principal families of Genoa were divided--differences which had long entailed cruel, distracting and wearing strife--Giacomo Fiesca formed the project of marrying his young sister to Giuliano Adorni, son of the head of a powerful Ghibelline family. He obtained his mother's support for his plan, and found Giuliano willing to accept the beautiful, noble and rich bride proposed to him; as for Catherine herself, she would not refuse this cross laid on her at the command of her mother and eldest brother. On the 13th of January, 1463, at the age of sixteen, she was married to Giuliano Adorni.
- EWTN 
- Catherine's states of absorption in prayer, such as we find ever since her conversion, were transparently real and sincere, and were so swift and spontaneous as to appear quasi involuntary. They were evidently, together with, and largely on occasion of, her reception of the Holy Eucharist, the chief means and the ordinary form of the accessions of strength and growth to her spiritual life... Catherine's teaching, as we have it, is, at first sight, strangely abstract and impersonal. God nowhere appears in it, at least in so many words, either as Father, or as Friend, or as Bridegroom of the soul. This comes no doubt, in part, from the circumstance that she had never known the joys of maternity, and had never, for one moment, experienced the soul-entrancing power of full conjugal union. It comes, perhaps, even more, from her somewhat abnormal temperament, the (in some respects) exclusive mentality which we have already noted. But it certainly springs at its deepest from one of the central requirements and experiences of her spiritual life; and must be interpreted by the place and the function which this apparently abstract teaching occupies within this large experimental life of hers which stimulates, utilizes, and transcends it all. For here again we are brought back to her rare thirst, her imperious need, for unification; to the fact that she was a living, closely knit, ever-increasing spiritual organism, if there ever was one.
- Baron Von Hugel, The Mystical Element of Religion (1923), p. 226-7
- The one true divine root-centre of her individual soul is ever, at the same time, experienced and conceived as present, in various degrees and ways, simply everywhere, and in everything. All the world of spirits is thus linked together ; and a certain slightest remnant of a union exists even between Heaven and Hell, between the lost and the saved. For there is no absolute or really infinite Evil existent anywhere; whilst everywhere there are some traces of and communications from the Absolute Good, the Source and Creator of the substantial being of all things that are. And to possess even God, and all of God, herself alone exclusively, would have been to her, we can say it boldly, a truly intolerable state, if this state were conceived as accompanied by any consciousness of the existence of other rational creatures entirely excluded from any and every degree or kind of such possession. It is, on the contrary, the apprehension of how she, as but one of the countless creatures of God, is allowed to share in the effluence of the one Light and Life and Love, an effluence which, identical in essential character everywhere, is not entirely absent anywhere : it is the abounding consciousness of this universal bond and brotherhood, this complete freedom from all sectarian exclusiveness and from all exhaustive appropriation of God, the Sun of the Universe, by any or all of the just or unjust, upon all of whom He shines: it is all this that constitutes her element of unity, saneness, and breadth, the one half of her faith, and the greater part of her spiritual joy.
- Baron Von Hugel, The Mystical Element of Religion (1923), p. 231