St. Catherine of Siena: Saint, Mystic, and Doctor of the Church
St. Catherine of Siena and her twin sister were born on Annunciation Day, March 25, 1347. Catherine, a somewhat precocious child, learned the "Ave Maria" as soon as she could talk, and by age five was able to recite the "Angelus." Around age 7, she experienced the first of many unusual encounters, with messages from God directing her to prayer, penance and works of charity.
She not only lived in the presence of God of infinite loving-kindness and mercy, but quietly listened to God’s inspirations with an open heart. She also had an extraordinary gift for human friendship that attracted people to her. At 16, she entered the Third Order of the Dominicans.
Catherine was frequently sought out as a spiritual guide by people from every walk of life, including nobles, politicians, religious, and Bishops. She played a role in urging Pope Gregory XI to return to Rome from Avignon. She pressed for the internal reform of the Church by sending letters to Church Prelates, Cardinals, and the Pope. Prior to Italy becoming a nation, she fostered peace among warring States with letters to government officials.
Throughout her life, Catherine knew great suffering. Her parents and family did not understand her need for solitude and prayer. The General Chapter of the Dominicans in 1374 summoned her to appear before them for questioning because they regarded her as a “presumptuous woman who had the audacity to correspond with prominent politicians, and advise even the Pope — most inappropriate acts for a female.”
Catherine died in Rome at the early age of 33 on April 29, 1380. In 1430, when her body was exhumed, it was found to be incorrupt. She was canonized in 1461 and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1970.
St. Catherine’s Prayer to the Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit, come into my heart; draw it to Thee by Thy power, O my God;
grant me charity with filial fear. Preserve me, O ineffable Love, from every evil thought; warm me, inflame me with Thy dear love, and every pain will seem light to me. My Father, my Lord, help me in all my actions. Jesus, love, Jesus, love. Amen.
St. Catherine truly lived St. Paul’s words: "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me." — Galatians 2:20
Reflect on St. Catherine’s prayerful life, the foundation of her many friendships and her boldly courageous counsels to prelates and kings.
- Do I love my neighbour as myself, without mental judgments?
- Do I have the courage and wisdom to speak the truth in love when necessary?
Sister Anne Schenck