>During class last night, I spaced out a bit while the very intellectual professor recited a history of first person narratives from Roman times to today. What made me think about St. Catherine of Sienna is beyond me. The mind works in mysterious ways.
Maybe the mention of ancient Rome caused Maurice, the hamster who runs on the wheel that powers my brain, think of Italy, which I first visited in January 1996 as part of a scholarship program at NYU. We took a day trip to Sienna from Florence, and visited a church which had St. Catherine's finger on display. (Now that I think about it, this may have been the start of my obsession with relics.) Our guide explained to us that Catherine's family wanted to marry her off to some guy but that she had pledged herself to Christ (sort of a feminist act, right?), and did not want to break her vows. Suddenly, she developed stigmata that only she could see. Obviously, this was a sign from above that she should not wed a mortal man, and her family shipped her off to a convent instead.
Far be it from me to suggest that Catherine invented the "invisible stigmata" to get what she wanted; that would have been very clever. I suspect that she became hysterical (and I think we were also told that she was locked into her room without food until she agreed to marry the dude), and these conditions likely made her hallucinate the stigmata. Since no one was on her brain hamster's wavelength, the bloody punctures were invisible to everyone but Catherine. I wonder if they really believed she had invisible stigmata, or if they just agreed that she did to shut her up. Interesting.
*I blogged a bit about the invisible stigmata in June 2007, when I saw her cloak in Milan.