Young Fratelli Domenico knew better than to disturb the Abbot during his rigorously practiced seclusion, isolated within the dark and cold walls of
his cloister cell adorned with nothing but a large wooden cross.
Friar Don Enzelino, Abbot of a not so humble Dominican monastery dedicated to Sant’Agnese di Assisi in Siena knew instantly that an extraordinary
matter had to be at hand for the young monk to disturb him and stretching a letter toward him. He reached for it, broke the well-known seal
immediately and unfolded the paper to read.
“ Bl. Raymond of Capua, O.P., Master General of the Dominican Order to my faithful and trusted friend Friar and Abbot Don Enzelino di Siena. Anno
Domini October 8th, 1383.
I trust you will forgive my disrespect of a formal letter but I’m writing to you in utmost urgency.
As you know I was called to Rome by His Holiness Pope Urban VI in matters of Catherine of Siena whose spiritual director and confessor I was until her
death in April 1380. Further you know that His Holiness had buried Catherine in a Roman cemetery near the Pantheon despite our claims to bury
Catherine in Siena.
Soon after her funeral in Rome miracles were reported to take place at her grave. There is no end to it, the situation is escalating to a point where
the masses of devotees are endangering the cemetery’s safety. I am asked to oversee her relocation and to resettle Catherine’s remains beneath the
High Altar of Rome’s Santa Maria sopra Minerva. Once more I had pleaded in vein with His Holiness to let me take Catherine back home to Siena.
The matter now is held up for a few days due to unforeseen circumstances.
Because of the use of a poor quality wood for the casket dampness caused by rainwater has started to decompose the body. This brings me to the urgency
of my request and I ask you to depart for Rome immediately. As it looks like it will be an easy matter to rescue at least our beloved Catherine’s
head and take this relic quickly back to Siena. I myself will have to prepare a sermon and stay in Rome until her sarcophagus is ready for veneration.
Don Enzelino closed his eyes for a moment and thanked the Virgin Mother for her provision. He was ready for immediate action but he needed to choose a
companion for the journey. His assistant Friar Angelico was half dead from self-flagellation and Fratello Giovanni and Sisto were desperately needed
to look after the cows, the cheese and the vine cellar. All other capable brothers were still on their way back from Morocco where they had been on
Still kneeling in front of the wooden cross he touched his temple, as if to ease off a headache then looked up to study the young fratelli whom they
had nicknamed Amauris Niavius after an African butterfly. It’s been at least 16 years now he recalled. Fra Bruno had been visiting Sicily on church
business and had come back with a black baby boy. Fra Bruno, being from a wealthy Sicilian family, had been approached by their kitchen slave and been
handed over a little bundle with the words “I didn’t know then but I was pregnant when they brought me here from my Sahara desert village. Please
Padre, look after the boy, please don’t let him become a slave.” The mother had not given a name, and only years later, when Amauris Niavius
joined the brotherhood, was he christened Domenico after Saint Dominic who had founded their order.
Surely he will cause trouble in Rome but he will have to do. “Get the Ox and the cart ready” he said to Fratelli Domenico “we are going to
And sure enough; they had been traveling the old Via Cassia. “We were treated like terrorists from Florence still opposing the Pope for trying to
annex their only just conquered territories around Lunigiana” he puffed, “the gates of the city walls are fortified by these militant……” he
touched his temple “b……”
“Welcome fratello mio, Don Enzelino, my friend” interrupted the Blessed Raymond of Capua, “here you are and not an hour too early. Catherine’s
coffin will be moved after dark hidden from the eye of the mob. You both can have a good night’s rest and be gone by tomorrow morning. Exit Rome
toward Via Aurelia this time, the coastal road at least doesn’t lead directly to Florence.”
His Holiness the Pope just wouldn’t listen to Siena’s pleads for Catherine’s body - Raymond of Capua explained to his friend while they were on
their way to the cemetery - Catherine belongs to Rome. She might have been borne in Siena and had experienced many miracles there…… Yes, Raymond
had agreed, her first miracle was to survive having been borne during the outbreak of the Black Plague, her mother…… Si si, I understand, the Pope
had interrupted, but her contributions to Rome are immense. The Papal Seat might still be in Avignon if it was not for Catherine’s requests, demands
and threats to Pope Gregory XI, Dio lo benedica, to bring an end to the unholy French corruption and influence on the Church to again increase
Raymond had brought up the facts that all Catherine’s ecstatic visions and her stigmata all happened in Siena. It is also where she experienced the
Mystic Marriage and received Christ’s foreskin as her wedding ring. Basta! had Urban VI answered. I’m in this office since 1378 and even since
then Catherine, although she didn’t eat but the Holy Eucharist for the last two years of her life, Dio la benedica, was my special ambassador after
the outbreak of this new schism and she tried to convince nobles and cardinals of my legitimacy and to stop the Papal Seat to return to Avignon with
yet another French Pope elected. These are my last words, Don Enzelino, molto rispettato, he had said. We need Catherine in Rome and we are working
incessantly to canonize her as a saint as soon as possible.
edit on Sun Sep 16 2018 by DontTreadOnMe because: title edit per OP request