St Catherine of Siena was a Third Order Dominican who lived in the 1300s. She successfully encouraged the Pope to return to Rome from Avignon and helped the sick during the Black Death in Europe.
Who Was Saint Catherine of Siena?
St Catherine of Siena, born Caterina di Giacomo di Benincasa, was born on March 25th, 1347 in Siena, Italy.
Her twin sister, Giovanna, died soon after birth. Catherine’s mother, Lapa, had given birth to 25 children, but around half of them had died in infancy.
Catherine’s sister, Bonaventura, died during childbirth when Catherine was 16, so her parents urged Catherine to marry him, but Catherine refused and made herself look unattractive in protest.
Catherine was utterly devoted to God, but she did not enter a religious Order, instead becoming a Third Order Dominican and remaining with her family.
When she was 21, God gave her a vision which she referred to as her mystical marriage to Christ.
The Black Death had broken out in Europe at this time, and God told her to give her life to help the sick, which she obeyed at once.
She went to the needy and sick in her area, whether in homes or hospitals, and many people were inspired by her selfless generosity.
St Catherine became active in political and civic life, working for peace between the often warring city-states of her area, and encouraging the people to greater devotion to God.
She was given the stigmata, but it was not visible to others.
At this time, the Pope was residing in Avignon instead of Rome, and God put it on St Catherine’s heart to encourage him to return to Rome. Ultimately she was successful, by God’s grace.
Her many letters became famous, and later would be instrumental in her being declared a Doctor of the Church.
She became ill at 33, her Jesus year, and St Raymond her Confessor ordered her to end her extreme fasting, but she was too ill to be able to do so.
She had a stroke and one week later died, on April 29th, 1380.