Today is the feast day of St. Catherine of Siena.
Catherine was born in Siena, Italy, in 1347. When she was sixteen, her older sister died, and Catherine’s parents wanted her to marry her older sister’s late husband. Following the example of her older sister Bonaventura, Catherine resisted her parents’ wishes by fasting. Catherine didn’t believe she was called either to marry or to enter the convent, so she joined the Third Order of St. Dominic to enter into a life of religious service that allowed her to evangelize the message of Christ to the unreached.
At the age of twenty-one, she experienced a “mystical marriage” to Christ, in which she received a ring that was visible only to her. Christ told her to enter public life, so she began serving the sick and the poor in their homes and in hospitals. Over time, she gained several followers who helped her serve those in need.
Catherine watched as social and political tensions rose in Siena and responded to God’s call to speak up for those who couldn’t defend themselves. She began to travel and promote a reform of the Catholic Church. She successfully helped stop the city of Lucca from allying with an anti-Catholic, anti-papal league that was rising in Italy. She also advocated a return of the papacy from Avignon to Rome.
Beginning in 1375, Catherine dictated letters to scribes that we can read today. She has composed more than 400 letters in addition to her Dialogue and her prayers. Her writing was so influential that she was named a Doctor of the Church in 1970.
In 1377, she established a monastery for women outside of Siena. The following year, during the Great Schism, she was summoned to Rome by Pope Urban VI to convince nobles and cardinals that Pope Urban VI was the legitimate pope.
St. Catherine of Siena died on April 29, 1380 when she was thirty-three years old. She is the patron saint against fire and illness, as well as the patron of nurses and people ridiculed for their faith.
Some of St. Catherine of Siena’s most well-known quotes are:
“You are rewarded not according to your work or your time but according to the measure of your love.”
“Proclaim the truth and do not be silent through fear.”