Today’s “Throwback Thursday” post was originally published on July 27, 2015 and has been slightly revised.
Catherine of Siena, Italy (1347-1380) is one of Roman Catholicism’s most highly revered and venerated saints. In 1970, she was proclaimed a “Doctor of the Church,” an august honor bestowed upon only thirty-six individuals to date.
WARNING: Some of the details of Catherine’s story below are not for the squeamish.
The Middle Ages saw a flourishing of monasticism and mysticism. The thinking was that acts of penitential self-denial and self-mortification equated to climbing a ladder to spiritual perfection. Severe fasting and self-imposed sleep deprivation, forms of self-mortification used in monasteries, often brought on swoons of religious ecstasy and visions among the monastic nuns. One such mystic was Catherine of Siena. Jesus declares in the Bible that anyone who claims to have seen Him or been visited by Him prior to His second coming is a liar (Matthew 24:23-27), but Catherine, a Dominican nun, claimed that Christ visited her often, eventually joining with her in a “mystical marriage” and presenting her with a wedding ring consisting of his infant “prepuce” (circumcised foreskin), which only she could see. Revolting? Assuredly. And how could Catherine have had Jesus’s foreskin when the Charroux Abbey in France claimed possession of the actual “Holy” Prepuce? [a rhetorical question]
Catherine also claimed she received the stigmata wounds of Christ (as portrayed in the fanciful painting above) and that she was also able to levitate. In a disgusting example of extreme self-mortification, Catherine would drink the drainage from the ulcerous tumors and sores of patients in her care. Was the woman insane or demon possessed? Catherine was also an anorexic who often forced herself to vomit the little food she ate. Towards the end of her short life (dead at thirty-three), Catherine’s daily food intake consisted of one communion wafer. Academicians have termed this eating disorder that was common among monastic nuns during the Middle Ages as “anorexia mirabilis” or “holy/miraculous anorexia” (see here).
In today’s society, a person like Catherine would be correctly diagnosed as mentally ill, but her church rewarded her extreme “piety” and devotion to the popes of her day by proclaiming her a “saint” in 1461. The fact that Catholicism encouraged monastics and others to engage in self-mortification practices leading to sickness and death is a sign of its demonic nature.
Thank the Lord for the Gospel of salvation by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ ALONE!
“They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things (like the pope, Mary, “saints,” and bogus prepuces) rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.” – Romans 1:25
Interesting fact: Prior to being defined as infallible dogma in 1854, the doctrine of the immaculate conception of Mary had been roundly debated within Catholicism for centuries. In the early-Middle Ages, the immaculate conception was championed by the Franciscan order and strongly opposed by the Dominicans. In 1377, Catherine of Siena, a Dominican, claimed Mary visited her and told her the doctrine of the immaculate conception was fallacious (Pope Benedict XIV, “On Heroic Virtue” III.53.#16), another example of Catholicism being at odds with itself.