Catherine was born at Genoa in 1447. She was the youngest of five children born to a powerful and noble family. Catherine was an extraordinarily holy child, highly gifted in the way of prayer, and with a wonderful love of Christ's Passion and of penitential practices. She was a most quiet, simple, and exceedingly obedient girl. When about thirteen, Catherine wished to enter the convent, but the nuns refused on account of her age. She appears to have put the idea aside without any further attempt. At sixteen, she was married by her parents' wish to a young Genoese nobleman, Giuliano Adorno. The marriage turned out wretchedly; Giuliano proved faithless, violent-tempered, and a spendthrift. He made the life of his wife a misery. Details are scanty, but it seems at least clear that Catherine spent the first five years of her marriage in silent, melancholic submission to her husband. Then, for another five years, she turned a little to the world for consolation in her troubles. The distractions she took were most innocent; nevertheless, they had the effect in her case of producing such intense weariness and depression that she prayed earnestly for a return of her old fervor. Then, ten years after her marriage, came the answer to her prayer. She went one day, full of melancholy, to a convent in Genoa where she had a sister, a nun. The latter advised her to go to confession to the nuns' confessor, and Catherine agreed. No sooner, however, had she knelt down in the confessional than a ray of Divine light pierced her soul, and she experienced such a sudden and overwhelming love of God and so penetrating an experience of contrition for her sins that she almost collapsed. In her heart she said, "No more world for me! No more sin!" She remained at home in seclusion for several days, absorbed in a profound awareness of her own wretchedness and of God's mercy. During this time she experienced a vision of Christ carrying His cross.

Catherine's life underwent several radical changes at this time. She entered into an extended period of prayer, personal penance, mortification, as well as tending to the poor and dealing with the economic consequences of her husband's bankruptcy. Although we have no details, at this time her husband became a humble and sincere convert and spent the rest of his days working with his wife among the sick poor. At first, it is said, Catherine was preoccupied with guilt for her sins but that diminished as her desire to receive the Holy Eucharist increased. A singular element of her life was the ability to endure "great fasts." During Lent and Advent, Catherine could barely eat anything, but the fasting did not affect her. She did not see these fasts as penances since she did not experience hunger or discomfort from them.

Through the years, while experiencing moments of ecstasy, Catherine grew in her role as servant of the sick poor, together with the "Ladies of Mercy" at the Pammatone Hospital where Catherine lived for the last thirteen years of her life. She fulfilled all tasks from that of humblest volunteer to director. She was noted for working "with the most fervent affection and universal solicitude." Her consistency and integrity were the result of certain intuitive "rules" that were given her in prayer, such as, "Never say 'I will' or 'I will not.'" "Never say 'mine,' but always say 'our.'" "Never excuse yourself, but always be ready to accuse yourself." Catherine died worn out with labors of body and soul, and consumed, even physically, by the fires of Divine love within her. She was beatified in 1675 by Clement V, and canonized in 1737 by Clement XII.

Adapted from F.M. Capes, Catholic Encyclopedia, and Rev. Benedict Groeschel, Catherine of Genoa.