Saint Catherine of Genoa was born in Genoa, Italy during the year 1447 A.D. She was the youngest of five children. Her parents, Jacopo and Francesca Fieschi, were descended from ancient Italian nobility.
At the age of thirteen, Catherine asked permission to enter a convent. Her request was denied because of her age. Three years later, Catherine was forced to marry Giuliano Adorno in order to end a family feud. Their childless marriage was completely unhappy. In addition to being egotistical and inconsiderate, Giuliano often spent all their money on frivolities. Catherine was so miserable she forgot about the Faith and looked for comfort from worldly things such as jewelry and entertainment.
Around the year 1473, Catherine saw a vision of Jesus, covered with blood and carrying the cross. She felt His sufferings were caused by her sins and immediately began practicing the Faith more fervently.
Catherine gave up nearly all her comforts and personally tended to the sick in a local hospital. Eventually, her prayers and example convinced Giuliano to give up his destructive behavior and he became a Third Order Franciscan.
After Catherine’s conversion, she would frequently go into ecstasy and receive visions. Her mystical experiences from this period inspired her Treatise on Purgatory and other similar writings.
In 1493, Catherine diligently served the victims of a plague which struck Genoa. She also contracted the disease but was fortunate enough to be one of the survivors.
Saint Catherine of Genoa died of exhaustion on September 15, 1510. She was interred in the chapel of the hospital she had worked in.
In March of 1512, the hospital chapel experienced severe flooding. By the time the saint’s casket was removed, it had been horribly damaged. When it was opened, everyone was surprised to find Catherine’s body perfectly intact. Although the miraculously preserved body is now slightly discolored, its contact with the flood waters did not cause any decomposition.
Saint Catherine of Genoa’s incorrupt body can be seen in a glass reliquary above the main altar of her shrine in Genoa, Italy.
Saint Catherine of Genoa was beatified by Pope Clement X (1590-1676) on April 6, 1675. She was canonized by Pope Clement XII (1652-1740) on June 16, 1737. Her feast day is September 15. Saint Catherine of Genoa is the patron saint of difficult marriages.
Sources: Butler’s Lives of the Saints
Cruz, Joan Carroll “The Incorruptibles”