St. Catherine of Siena was born in Italy on Mar. 25, 1347. She was the 25th child in her family, however, half of her siblings didn’t live longer than childhood. At a young age, she privately made a vow of virginity and spent her adolescence in prayer, penance, taking care of the sick, and acts of charity. She had a vision of St. Dominic and entered the Third Order of the Dominicans at the age of 16.
Catherine did many things when she entered religious life. One of the main things she’s known for is being a renowned spiritual director. Many people sought her out: nobles, politicians, artists, even Pope Gregory XI. She travelled throughout the continent, spreading the Gospel and encouraging peace among the countries. Her efforts earned her the title of Co-Patroness of Europe. She was not entirely well-received by everyone, however. She had her fair share of opposition and was even summoned to Florence for an interrogation. Nevertheless, she persevered.
Her teachings, such as “Dialogue of Divine Providence,” is considered to be a “masterpiece of spiritual literature.” It also has merited her the declaration of Doctor of the Church alongside Co-Patroness of the City of Rome and Patroness of Italy.
She is most famous for being instrumental in restoring the Papacy to Rome after having prompting the Pope in Avignon to return to Rome for many years and also for helping settle many conflicts between states. She worked adamantly for unity within the church.
She frequently received visions of Our Lady and Jesus. In one vision, Our Lady presented her to Jesus who gave her a ring, establishing a “mystical marriage” with Jesus. She also experienced the “gift of tears,” a spiritual trait that expresses profound sensitivity, a capacity for being moved for tenderness (Pope Benedict). The efforts she made throughout her life live on today in the monastery she created, her teachings, and her diligent work and prayer ethic.
Catherine became ill and died at the age of 33. Her feast day is Apr. 29 and she is the patron saint of fire prevention, miscarriages, people ridiculed for their faith, sexual temptation, nurses, Rome, Italy, and Europe.
Information and photo from the National Catholic Register and Pope Benedict XVI’s November 24, 2010 General Audience.