A saint who was particularly devoted to the holy souls—and is now considered their patron saint—is St. Catherine of Genoa.
St. Catherine was born into an aristocratic Italian family in 1447. She was a quiet, obedient, devout child who practiced prayer and penance and had a deep devotion to Jesus’ Passion.
At the age of sixteen, her family arranged a marriage for her, possibly to end a feud between the two families. Her husband proved to be faithless, however, having also a violent temper and spending his money unwisely. Their married life was miserable. Catherine did not bear any children, and for the first five years lived in “melancholy submission” in her home.
For the next five years, she turned to the world for consolation, and began to engage in the kind of social activity expected of her state in life. This only increased her weariness and depression, and led to the loss of her religious fervor.
So Catherine prayed earnestly for assistance in her trouble. Taking the advice of her sister, who was a nun, Catherine went to confession, and before the sacrament was begun or completed, had a profound mystical experience in which she clearly saw the depth of her sinfulness contrasted with the depth of God’s love.
Catherine renewed her commitment to rigorous prayer, penance, and works of mercy.
Meanwhile, God continued to favor her with mystical visions. She experienced within her soul a real purgatory, and had a deep understanding of what the Holy Souls experience and suffer there. She was given profound insights into the relationship between the Poor Soul and God, the reasons why they suffer, and the fact that these Holy Souls willingly embrace purgatory in order to be made perfectly pleasing in the sight of their Divine Lover, God Himself.
As for Catherine’s husband, her virtue later won his conversion and he became a Third Order Franciscan. Together they cared for the poor and sick in the Genoa hospital.
Catherine’s mystical experiences were recorded by her confessor toward the end of her life in such treatises as Dialogues on the Soul and the Body and Treatise on Purgatory.
This article is just a sneak peek into all the things you’ll learn in Good Catholic’s fascinating series Purgatory: Cleansing Fire, featuring Fr. Matthew Kauth. You’ll discover why souls go to purgatory, the nature of their sufferings, how time works there, what was revealed to the saints about purgatory, and so much more. Sign up today at GoodCatholic.com!