Saint of the Day

May 20: Blessed Columba of Rieti

Blessed Columba (1467-1501) was born in the city of Rieti, Italy, into a modest family of weavers and tailors. Though she was named Angiolella at birth, everyone called her Columba.

The story of Columba’s life bears a striking similarity to that of the great Saint Catherine of Siena. Like Catherine, she dedicated her life to God when she was still a young girl. Like Catherine, she experienced visions. Like Catherine, she cut off her hair to make herself less marriageable when her parents tried to arrange a match for her. And she too became a Dominican tertiary, living at home and praying. Columba began serving others when she was nineteen years old, notably bringing a convicted murderer to repentance before his execution.

Pope Alexander VI, who is best known today for his illegitimate children and lavish lifestyle, was impressed with Columba and asked her advice about certain matters. Since her response came with warnings and reproaches, the details were apparently never made public. Unsurprisingly, one of the pope’s illegitimate children took a great dislike to the virgin-prophet of Rieti and instigated a persecution of her. Columba was falsely accused of performing magic and was deprived of her priest-confessor as a result. But she bore the scandal and false accusations with patience until eventually the matter blew over.

Columba died of a painful illness, praying for and encouraging Christians to charity, when she was only thirty-four years old.

Blessed Columba, teach me patience in my suffering.