Vision of Heaven - Saint Catherine of Siena
This one August morning in 1370, Saint Catherine was not seated with her fellow Mantellate at the back of the Church of Saint Dominic, as she usually was.
This one Sunday, the priest was preaching, when suddenly there was a commotion in the church.
Her Mantellate companions were all whispering nervously. Father Bartolomeo realized no one was listening to him.
It seemed, he overheard "Catherine Benincasa is dead!" (She was not dead, she was having a Vision of Heaven.)
He quickly finished his homily and after Mass was over, hurried into the sacristy to find a lay brother wringing his hands over the devastating news that Catherine was dead!
The priest rushed over to Catherine's house.
The streets were lined with mourners. He plowed through the many people who jammed the staircase up to her home.
The priest and lay brother forced their way into her room. What they saw brought tears to their eyes; it was Saint Catherine lying motionless in a coffin.
Father Bartolomeo had seen Catherine many times in a trance where she appeared dead, but somehow this was not the same. He groaned, his voice shaking, barely able to pronounce the words: "When did she die?"
Lapa, one of her close companions, said that she had found her like this when she went to awaken her at six in the morning.
The brother with Father Bartolomeo began to sob uncontrollably, so much so, a blood vessel broke in his chest and he began to hemorrhage profusely, blood gushing forth from his mouth.
Everyone was alarmed, as it was apparent the brother was in grave danger.
There was no way to stop the bleeding.
Father Della Fonte, a priest who had been summoned, raised the brother's limp body up to the edge of the coffin.
He took Catherine's still, lifeless hand and placed it on the brother's breast.
The bleeding stopped, immediately.
Color slowly returned to Catherine's pale face, which by this time had taken on the appearance of marble.
Everyone excitedly came close to the coffin. Their joy and eagerness, in anticipation of once again seeing their Catherine's radiant eyes looking back at them, turned to utter dismay.
She looked back at them, completely devastated, and then turned toward the wall, sobbing uncontrollably.
Her companions all filed out, to spread the good news that Catherine was alive! But their good news was her bad news. Her trance had lasted over four hours, but her grief at having returned to life lasted two days. When she did speak, this is what she saidabout her vision of Heaven:
"I have seen the hidden things of God and now I am thrust back into the prison of the body."