Catherine Mancini was born in Pisa in 1355, of noble parentage, and from infancy began enjoying the miraculous favors with which her life was filled. At the age of three, she was warned by some heavenly agency that the porch on which she had been placed by a nurse was unsafe. Her cries attracted the nurse’s attention, and they had barely left the porch when it collapsed. When she was five, she beheld in an ecstasy the dungeon of a place in Pisa in which Peter Gambacorta, one of the leading citizens, was being tortured. At Catherine’s prayer, the rope broke and the man was released. Our Lady told the little girl to say prayers every day for this man, because he would one day be her benefactor.
Catherine would have much preferred the religious life to marriage, but she obeyed her parents and was married at the age of twelve. Widowed at sixteen, she was compelled to marry again. Of her seven children, only one survived the death of her second husband, and Catherine learned through a vision that this child, too, would soon be taken from her. Thus she found herself, at the age of twenty five, twice widowed and bereft of all her children. Refusing a third marriage, she devoted herself to prayers and works of charity.
She soon worked out for herself a severe schedule of prayers and good works, fasting and mortifications. She tended the sick and the poor, bringing them into her own home and regarding them as Our Lord Himself. She gave her goods to the poor and labored for them with her own hands. Our Lord was pleased to show her that He approved of her works by appearing to her in the guise of a poor young man, sick, and in need of both food and medicine. She carefully dressed his wounds, and she was rewarded by the revelation that it was in reality her redeemer whom she had served.
St. Catherine of Siena visited Pisa at about this time, and the two saintly women were drawn together into a holy friendship. As they prayed together in the Dominican church one day, they were surrounded by a bright cloud, out of which flew a white dove. They conversed joyfully on spiritual matters, and were mutually strengthened by the meeting.
On the advice of St. Catherine of Siena, Catherine (Mary Mancini) retired to an enclosed convent of the Second Order. In religion, she was given the name Mary, by which she is usually known. She embraced the religious life in all its primitive austerity, and, with Blessed Clare Gambarcota and a few other members of the convent, she founded a new and much more austere house, which had been built by Peter Gambacorta. Our Lady’s prophecy of his benefactions was thus fulfilled.
Blessed Mary was favored with many visions and was in almost constant prayer. She became prioress of the house on the death of her friend Blessed Clare Gambacorta, and ruled it with justice and holiness until her death.
She died in 1431 and was beatified by Pius IX in 1855.