Saint Catherine of Siena
By Margaret Martin
Catherine was born on March 25, 1347, (the Feast of the Annunciation) in Siena, Italy. She was the twenty-fourth child of a wealthy textile merchant. Catherine was treated poorly by her family, but she persevered in accomplishing her chores lovingly. She thought of her father as St. Joseph, her mother as Mary, and her brothers and sisters as Our Lord’s disciples. St. Catherine wanted to become a hermit because God loved them and made them saints. Our Lord spoke to her and said her vocation was to live at home and go out into the world and save souls. St. Catherine obediently followed Our Lord’s request and became God’s servant in the middle of the busy life of her family. She became a Third Order Dominican. Our Lord gave her a golden ring (invisible to others) symbolizing His love for her for the rest of her life. She would visit the prisoners and the poor on the streets. She spent her days attending Mass, receiving the sacraments, and helping the poor.
St. Catherine’s life was one of prayer and penance for the conversion of sinners. At a very young age, she would love to pray, and would even say a Hail Mary on each step as she climbed a staircase. When she was seven, she made a vow of virginity. At the age of twenty-eight, she bore the wounds (invisibly) of Jesus crucified. She prayed for the unity of the Church and convinced Pope Gregory XI to return to Rome. St. Catherine wrote more than three hundred letters and a book that is a conversation between a soul that rises up to God and Our Lord called The Dialogue of Divine Providence. She died at the age of thirty-three in Rome. St. Catherine is a Doctor of the Church and we celebrate her feast day on April 29.
Through her writings and actions, St. Catherine teaches us that we can be God’s servants in the midst of the world. She shows us that God has need of saints in families. We need to be Catholics of great faith. We must love God above all things and recognize our loving relationship with God is vital to our happiness. This relationship must include frequent reception of the sacraments. The Sacrament of Penance reminds us that God can forgive anything if we only ask Him sincerely and with deep conviction. The Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, which St. Catherine lived only on for years, reinforces God’s love for us and can strengthen our love for Him. “O You who are mad about your creature! True God and true Man, You have left yourself wholly to us, as food, so that we will not fall through weariness during our pilgrimage in this life, but will be fortified by you, celestial nourishment.” (Letters of St. Catherine of Siena)
One of the great lessons she would impart to us today is the importance of prayer and sacrifice for sinners. “I have no other desire in this life save to see the honor of God, your peace, and the reformation of Holy Church, and to see the life of grace in every creature that hath reason in itself.” (Letters of St. Catherine of Siena) St. Catherine teaches us that no matter where God may call us, if we center our lives on prayer and the Eucharist, we can accomplish great things for God. St. Catherine accepted her vocation and because her heart was prepared she was able to hear God’s call. We will never know what Our Lord is calling us to if we do not first prepare our hearts. The conversion of sinners and sanctification of souls is the mission of the Church and greatly pleases God. The accomplishment of God’s Will through faithful obedience is a key virtue for us to gain. St. Catherine always obeyed God’s requests to her and it helped form her into a remarkable saint. Faithfully obeying the will of God will lead us to sanctity. “Clothe me, O eternal Trinity, clothe me with yourself, so that I may pass this mortal life in true obedience and in the light of the most holy faith with which you have inebriated my soul.” (Letters of St. Catherine of Siena) May St. Catherine’s life of obedience, prayer, and penance be an example for us to follow in our daily lives.
St. Catherine, beloved daughter of the Father, intercede for us to gain the graces necessary to live a life pleasing to God and help us to attain the eternal crown of victory!