|Panel of Francesco Messina‘s 1962 monument to St. Catherine of Siena outside Rome’s Castel Sant’Angelo.|
Who is Niccolo di Toldo of Perugia? He is the prisoner whom St. Catherine of Siena befriended. He wasn't particularly religious. He was also a bit of a drunk, who happened to talk against the ruling government in Siena. They had no freedom of speech. And for that, he was sentenced to be executed! Yes, his head chopped off for mouthing off when he was drunk!
And we think our justice system is unfair!
Brutal, cruel, and very unfair, but this was the reality of the times. Niccolo was furious at the injustice of it all. He was going to his death hating God, the Church, and man. He would have nothing to do with the priests who came to prepare him for death. But he did agree to see Catherine. Maybe he was just curious to see this celebrity, because she was one, in her time iand place. Maybe because of her reputed miracles. Maybe because he had heard how she got the pope to move back to Rome. But see her he did.
We know the story of his conversion from Catherine's letters. She describes God's grace. They bonded. They became close. Catherine promised never to leave him. She was there to catch his head when he was executed. She didn't move. His blood drenched her. She remained in that very spot in calm prayer, content to know that Niccolo was with Jesus.