Channel of grace

Today, 27 April 2012, is the feast day of Blessed Osanna of Cattaro (a.k.a. Ozana Kotorska, Hosana of Kotor and Catherine Cosie). In corresponding to God’s special call upon her life she became a channel of grace to numerous souls. God called her to live a life enclosed in a cell for Him as an anchoress and to devote herself to praise of God, to reparation for sin and in intercession for others.

Blessed Osanna of Cattaro was actually born as Catherine Cosie near the village of Komani in Montenegro in 1493. Montenegro is a small country bordering the Adriatic Sea with Bosnia to the north and Albania to the south. Her parents were poor and brought Catherine up in the Orthodox faith. Growing up she spent lots of time looking after the family’s sheep and goats. In the solitude of this occupation she came to a deep appreciation of the beauties of nature and naturally developed a close prayer life with God.

Her simple heart must have been very pleasing to God, because He chose to appear to her under the appearance of a beautiful baby boy, and later as the Crucified Lord. At this stage she was still a child, but a child who greatly desired God. Using some holy ‘pester power’, Catherine begged her mother to be able to go and live in the nearby coastal city of Cattaro (now called Kotor) which had many beautifully decorated churches. By the age of 12, her mother had given in to the requests and had found a serving girl’s position for Catherine in the home of a wealthy, devout Catholic woman in Cattaro. Here the young teenager could visit churches on her way to and from errands and began to learn to read and write so that she could read the Holy Scriptures and other spiritual books. Learning ,together with the good example of the family she served, brought Catherine to the point of conversion from Orthodoxy to Roman Catholicism.  

Life continued rather normally, with Catherine deepening her love for Jesus and for his Church, until she heard an annointed sermon on Good Friday. Here her desire to give herself totally to Jesus in prayer, penance and meditation upon His Passion was ignited. To do this, at the age of 20, she sought permission to live the life of an anchoress. It was unusual for one so young to seek this kind of life, but permission was given, and she was installed in a hut attached to the Church of St Bartholomew. Her cell had a window into the Church and another window to the outside world. Through this latter window she received all the necessities of life and also listened to all those who came to seek counsel and prayers. To earn a living, Osanna would take in sewing and embroidery work and give the proceeds to the poor who came to her window. She, herself in poverty subsisted on what was given to her in charity.

Within her cell the divine visitations of Jesus from her childhood continued. Our Lady and the Saints also visited her. One can presume that St Bartholomew, being the patron of the church her cell was connected to, was one of those visitors. After an earthquake destroyed her cell, which must have been very scary, Catherine needed to discern what to do next. She was led to seek admission as a Dominican tertiary and was enclosed into a cell at St Paul’s church. Since she was now a religious, it was appropriate to change her name, and she took the name of Osanna, in honour of Blessed Osanna of Mantua (d.1505), a Italian Dominican tertiary who experienced many mystical phenomena.

Now settled at St Paul’s, Osanna entered into the most fruitful part of her apostolate. Increasing numbers of souls came to seek spiritual direction from Osanna, and to ask for prayers. So many decided to become her spiritual daughters that a new Dominican convent had to be built nearby. Osanna was particularly drawn to the contemplation of the sufferings Jesus endured in His Passion, to seeking relief for the Holy Souls in Purgatory and what was for the time frequent Holy Commuion (three times a week).

With such luminous spiritual gifts there also came demonic attacks, and human ones prompted by jealousy and skepticsm. Despite what she suffered through false witness about her, Osanna continued to serve Jesus with all her heart and to be an instrument for bringing peace into troubled relationships. When disasters of plague and earthquake threatened the city, people implored her intercession and God heard those prayers. A Turkish pirate attack was overcome through her prayers, the city was under seige and the beseigers gave up and left.

The life of this holy and dedicated woman of prayer came to a close on 27 April 1565. Both Catholics and Orthodox Christians honor her. The Dominican convent her disciples founded lasted until the Napoleonic era. By serving Jesus in such cramped conditions, in the extremes of heat and cold, perservering in prayer and in kindness to all who came to her window, Osanna became an extraordinary channel of grace to countless souls.

May the Church soon recognise Blessed Osanna as a Saint for the Universal Church and canonize her soon.

Blessed Osanna of Cattaro, pray for us.