vol II date / index
St. Catharine of Sienna, A.D. 1380. St. Maximus, A.D. 250. Sts. James, Marian, &c. Martyrs in Numidia, A.D. 259. St. Erkonwald, B. of London, 7th Cent. St. Ajutre or Adjutor, A.D. 1131.
St. Catharine of Sienna.
St. Catharine often saw the devil. According to Ribadineira, at six years old she knew the lives of the holy fathers and hermits by revelation, practised abstinence, and shut herself up with other children in a room, where they whipped themselves. At seven she offered herself to the Virgin as a spouse for her son. When marriageable, she refused the importunity of her parents to wed; and having cut off her hair to keep her vow, they made her a kitchen-maid; but her father, one day as he was praying in a corner, seeing the Holy Ghost sitting upon her head in the shape of a dove, she was released from drudgery, and was favoured with a revelation from St. Dominick. She eat no meat, drank only water, and at last left off bread, sustaining herself by herbs alone, and her grace before meals was, "Let us go take the punishment due to this miserable sinner[.]" She so mastered sleep, that she scarcely took any rest, and her bed was only boards. She wore around her body next to the skin a chain of iron, which sunk into her flesh. Three times a day, and for an hour and a half each time, she flogged herself with another iron chain, till great streams of blood ran down; and when she took the black and white habit of the order of St. Dominick she increased her mortification. For three years she never spoke, except at confession; never stirred out of her cell but to go to the church; and sat up all night watching—taking rest in the quire at matins only, and then lying upon the floor with a piece of wood under her head for a bolster. She was tempted by devils in a strange manner described by Ribadeneira: but to drive them away, she disciplined her body with the iron chain so much the more. When the fiend perceived he could make no impression on her virginal heart, he changed his battery. She had undertaken to cure an old woman who had a cancer in her breast so loathsome, that no one would go near her, but by the devil's instigation, the old woman gave out that Catharine was not as good as she should be, and stuck to her point. Catharine, knowing the devil's tricks, would not desist; and, to do her honour, Christ appeared, and offered to her the choice of two crowns—one of pure gold, the other of thorns; she took the crown of thorns, pressed it so close upon her head, that it gave her great pain; and Christ commanded her to continue her attendance upon the woman, who, in consequence of a vision, confessed her calumny, to the great confusion of the devil. Ribadineira says that after this, Christ appeared to her, "opened to her the wound in his side, and made her drink till she was so ravished, that her soul was deprived of its functions." Her love and affection to Christ were so intense, that she was almost always languishing and sick; at last it took away her life, and she was dead for four hours, in which time she saw strange things concerning heaven, hell, and purgatory. On a certain day he appeared to her, with his mother and other saints, and espoused her in a marvellous and singular manner; visited her almost continually with the greatest familiarity and affection, sometimes in their company, though ordinarily he came alone, and entertained her by reciting and singing psalms with her. Once as she was coming home from church, he appeared to her in the disguise of a pilgrim, and begged a coat of her; she returned to the church, and secretly taking off her petticoat, brought it to him, not knowing who he was. He asked her for a shirt; she bade him follow her home, and she gave him her shift. Not content with this, he requested more clothes of her, as well for himself as a companion; but as she had nothing else left, and was much afflicted, in the night, he appeared to her as the pilgrim, and showing her what she had bestowed upon him in the garb he had assumed, promised to give her an invisible garment, which should keep her from all cold both of body and soul. One time she prayed to him to take from her her heart of flesh, and it seemed to her that he came, and opening her side, took out her heart, and carried it away with him. It appeared almost incredible to her confessor when she told him she had no heart; "Yet," says Ribadineira, "that which happened afterwards was a certain argument of the truth; for, in a few days, Christ appeared to her in great brightness, holding in his hand a ruddy heart, most beautiful to behold, and coming to her, put it into her left side, and said, 'My daughter Catharine, now thou hast my heart instead of thy own;' and having said this, he closed up her side again, in proof whereof a scar remained in her side, which she often showed." By her influence with heaven, she obtained forgiveness for numbers that were ready to fall into hell. Two hardened and impenitent thieves, being led to execution, and tied and tortured on a cart, were attended by a multitude of devils. Catharine begged the favour of going with them in the cart to the city gates, and there by her prayers and intercession, Christ showed himself to the thieves, all bloody and full of wounds, invited them to penance, and promised them pardon if they would repent, which they accordingly did. Through her intercession, her mother, who died without confession, was raised to life again, and lived till she was fourscore and nine years old. She had the gift of prophecy, healed the sick at the last gasp, cast out devils, and worked miracles. Once making bread of tainted flour, the "queen of angels" came to help her to knead it, and it proved to be most excellent bread, white and savoury. She drew also very good wine out of an empty hogshead. Her numerous victories over the devil enraged him so much, that he tormented her till she was nothing but skin and bones. Sometimes he amused himself with throwing her into the fire, and the marks and prints of the wounds he gave her, appeared all over her body. "At length," says Ribadeneira, "when she was three and thirty years old, she entered into an agony, fought the devil valiantly, and triumphed over him at her death, which happened at Rome on the 29th of April, 1380, her ghost appearing to Father Raymundus, her confessor, at Genoa, on the same day, and her body working so many miracles, that for the multitude of people resorting thither, it could not be buried for three days." All this may be seen in Ribadeneira's "Lives of the Saints," with more, which, from regard to the reader's feelings, is not even adverted to. It should be added, that the present particulars are from the "Miraculous Host," a pamphlet published in 1821, in illustration of a story, said to have been used in converting two ladies, belonging to the family of Mr. Loveday, of Hammersmith.
With the spring comes the lark, and now she carols her rich melody from the earliest beam to the meridian of solar glory. There is no enjoyment more delicious to the ear of nature, than her aërial song in this delightful season:—
O, earliest singer! O, care-charming bird,
Married to Morning by a sweeter hymn
Than priest e'er chaunted from his cloister dim
At midnight,—or veiled virgin's holier word
At sunrise or the paler evening heard,—
To which of all Heaven's young and lovely Hours,
Who wreathe soft light in hyacinthine bowers,
Beautiful Spirit, is thy suit preferred?
—Unlike the creatures of this low dull earth,
Still dost thou woo, although thy suit be won
And thus thy mistress bright is pleased ever.
Oh! lose not thou this mark of finer birth—
So may'st thou yet live on, from sun to sun,
Thy joy uncheck'd, thy sweet song silent never.
To the indications respecting rain by the flight of the swallow, mentioned under April 23, should be added, that when the swallow is observed to fly high, the weather will probably be fair. There are also some other indications in a set of old rules which may be consulted; viz.
Prognostics of the Weather.
To be able to ascertain the future changes of the weather, is of infinite use to the farmer and gardener.
Animals are evidently sooner sensible of the ensuing change of the atmosphere than we are, and from their divers appearance, and apparent sensations, we may in many instances determine what changes are likely to take place.
The following may be set down as general rules, and upon minute observation we shall find them correct.
When the raven is observed early in the morning at a great height in the air, soaring round and round, and uttering a hoarse croaking sound, we may be sure the day will be fine, and may conclude the weather is about to clear and become fair.
The loud and clamorous quackling of ducks, geese, and other water-fowl, is a sign of rain.
Before rain swine appear very uneasy, and rub in the dust, as do cocks and hens.
Before storms kine and also sheep assemble at one corner of the field, and are observed to turn all their heads toward the quarter from whence the wind doth not blow.
The appearance of sea gulls, petrels, or other sea fowl in the inlands, indicates stormy weather.
In fine weather the bat is observed to continue flying abont [sic] very late of an evening.
In autumn before rain some flies bite, and others become very troublesome, and gnats are more apt to sting.
When flocks of wild geese are observed flying in a westward or southern direction in autumn, it indicates a hard winter.
The floating of gossamer, and its alighting on the rigging of ships, foretels fine weather.
The clamorous croaking of frogs indicates rainy weather.
The appearance of beetles flying about of an evening in summer, indicates that the next day will be fair.
Before rain dogs are apt to grow very sleepy and dull, and to lay all day before the fire.
Before rain moles throw up the earth more than usual.
The appearance of rare foreign birds in this country, such as rollers, hoopoos, &c. indicates hard weather.
When spiders are seen crawling on the walls more than usual, rain will probably ensue.
The much barking of dogs in the night frequently indicates a change in the weather.
When the trees and hedges are very full of berries, it indicates a hard winter.
The abundance of woodseare and honeydew on herbs indicates fair weather, as does floating gossamer.
It is said in Wiltshire, that the dunpickles or moor buzzards alight in great numbers on the downs before rain.
Before storms the missel thrush is observed to sing particularly loud, and to continue so till the commencement of the rain; from which circumstance it is in some places called the storm cock.
It is a sign of rain when pigeons return slowly to the dovehouses.
When bees do not go out as usual, but keep in or about their hives, rain may be expected.
Before wind, swine run squeaking about as though they were mad; which has given rise to the notion that pigs can see the wind.
Before rain the pintadoes called comebacks squall more than usual; as do peacocks.
The early appearance of woodcocks, snipes, swinepipes, fieldfares, &c. are prognostications of severe winters.
When the dew lies plenteously upon the grass in the evening, the next day will probably be fine; when there is little or no dew, probably wet.
Dr. Forster observes, on the authority of Virgil, "that the blowing about of feathers, or any light substances on the water, is also a sign of rain."
In the "Indicator" Mr. Leigh Hunt discourses of this beautiful season with his usual grace. He says—
"The spring is now complete. The winds have done their work. The shaken air, well tempered and equalized, has subsided; the genial rains, however thickly they may come, do not saturate the ground, beyond the power of the sun to dry it up again. There are clear crystal mornings; noons of blue sky and white cloud; nights, in which the growing moon seems to lie looking at the stars, like a young shepherdess at her flock.
"Then the young green. This is the most apt and perfect mark of the season,—the true issuing forth of the spring. The trees and bushes are putting forth their crisp fans; the lilac is loaded with bud; the meadows are thick with the bright young grass, running into sweeps of white and gold with the daisies and buttercups. The orchards announce their riches, in a shower of silver blossoms. The earth in fertile woods is spread with yellow and blue carpets of primroses, violets, and hyacinths, over which the birch-trees, like stooping nymphs, hang with their thickening hair. Lilies of the valley, stocks, columbines, lady-smocks, and the intensely red piony which seems to anticipate the full glow of summertime, all come out to wait upon the season, like fairies from their subterraneous palaces."
Cowslip. Primula Veris.
Dedicated to St. Catharine of Sienna.