This is my first introduction to St. Christina of Bolsena. Her hagiographer does, in fact, give some astonishing points of her life. For me, it is good know what her patronage is: those with mental illness and disorders, mental health workers, psychiatrists, and therapists.
St. Christina of Bolsena (1150-1224) was born to a peasant family in Belgium. She was orphaned as a child and raised by her two older sisters. When she was 21 she had what was believed to be a severe seizure, and was pronounced dead. At her funeral she suddenly revived and levitated before the bewildered congregation. She said that during her coma she had been to heaven, hell, and purgatory and had been given the option to either die and enter heaven, or return to earth to suffer and pray for the holy souls in purgatory.
Christina chose the greater act of charity. From then on she lived in extreme poverty: wearing rags, sleeping on rocks, and begging for her food. She is called “Astonishing” because she did the most bizarre things and suffered the pains of inhuman feats without being physically harmed by them. She would roll in fire and hide in hot ovens; she would stand in freezing water for hours in the dead of winter; she allowed herself to be dragged under water by a mill wheel; she spent much time in graveyards. She would also climb trees to escape the strong odor of sin in those she met.
Many thought her to be possessed by demons or insane, but many devout people recognized and vouched for her sincerity, obedience, and sanctity. They believed that she was a living witness to the pains that souls experience in purgatory, willingly suffering with them and for them. Christina the Astonishing is the patron of those with mental illness and disorders, mental health workers, psychiatrists, and therapists.
(Thanks to DG for alerting me to this saint.)