St Catherine was born in Florence. Her baptismal name was Alessandra de' Ricci. At age 6, her father put her in the Monticelli convent near their home where she received an education. After a short time outside the convent, at 14, she went to the Dominican convent of St. Vincent in Prato, Tuscany, and chose the name Catherine.
By age 25, she had risen to the post of perpetual prioress (a prioress heads a house of men or women under religious vows). She lived at St. Vincent (San Vincenzo) until her death in 1590.
As the perpetual prioress of St Vincent, she developed into an effective and greatly admired administrator. She was an advisor on various topics to princes, bishops and cardinals. She corresponded with three men who were destined to become popes Pope Marcellus II, Pope Clement VIII, and Pope Leo XI. An expert on religion, management and administration, her advice was eagerly sought. She gave counsel both in person and through writing letters. It is reported that she was extremely effective and efficient in her work, managing her priorities very well.
Her meditation on the passion of Christ was so deep that she spontaneously bled as though scourged and that a coral ring appeared at times of deep prayer on her finger (representing her marriage to Christ under the covenant of being a nun). She was a very prayerful person from a very young age.
Catherine also felt very sorry for the poor souls suffering in purgatory. She realized how they longed to be with God in heaven. St. Catherine prayed and did penance for them.
After a long, painful illness, St. Catherine died at the age of 68 on
February 2, 1590. She was proclaimed a saint by Pope Clement XII in 1747.