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St. Catherine of Siena

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St. Catherine Painting by Br. Robert Lentz 1995

Courtesy of Trinity Stores           800.699.4482

St. Catherine Church image by Chris Stegner


St. Catherine was born Caterina di Giacomo di Benincasa on 25 March, 1347, in Siena, Italy, the twenty-fourth of twenty five children.  (Perhaps it is her mother who should be canonized.)


Early in her life she decided – against the will of her parents – not to marry, and became a Dominican tertiary.  (Tertiaries, or Third Order, are lay people, single or married, who live their Christian lives in the secular world influenced by the spirituality of a religious order.)  At first she lived her life in solitude, praying and fasting, but then felt a call to a more apostolic life. She became involved in caring for the sick, especially during the great famine of 1370 and the plague of 1374.


Later in life she went on preaching journeys, calling lay people and clergy alike to simplicity and repentance. It was on one of these journeys that she claimed to receive the stigmata (wounds similar to the ones suffered by Christ in His crucifixion), but they were seen only by herself.

She is well-known for her correspondence and meetings with Pope Gregory XI in Avignon, France, where the pope had taken up residence. She is often credited with convincing the pope to return to Rome; the truth seems to be that he had already decided to do so, but was encouraged in his decision by her insistence.


In her last years, Catherine lived a life of rather extreme penances and fasting, and dictated her major work, The Dialogue, wherein she relates mystical conversations she had with God.  She suffered a stroke in 1380 and died some days later, on 29 April, which is now her feast day.

Catherine was canonized in 1461, declared patron saint of Rome in 1866, and patron of Italy (with Francis of Assisi) in 1939.  Pope Paul VI declared her a doctor of the Church, along with Teresa of Avila, on 4 October 1970, and Pope John Paul II proclaimed her patron saint of Europe on 1 October, 1999 (along with five other saints).


She is also the patron saint of journalists, media, and nursing.

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