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Patron: Rome, Italy, Europe, Fire Prevention
St. Catherine was born on March 25, 1347 in Siena and was the 24th child in her family. At the age of six she began to receive mystical visions which in some cases allowed her to see guardian angels just as clearly as other people. Catherine also saw Christ, Mary and the Apostles at the age of only seven. Through these divine gifts at her young age, Catherine vowed to give her life entirely to God. After receiving a vision of St. Dominic, she wished to join his order but was met with opposition from her parents. It wasn’t until Catherine came down with an intense disease that her mother agreed to let her join the “Mantellate”, the local association of Dominican tertiaries. Within only a few days of joining, Catherine was completely healed and clothed in the black and white habit of the Third Order of St. Dominic. St. Catherine continued to have mystical experiences throughout her life. When she was twenty-one, Catherine described in her letters her “Mystical Marriage” marriage with Christ. It was also in this vision that Christ told her to leave her secluded life behind and to enter into public life. Her early public ministry of helping the sick and the poor attracted many followers of both men and women. St. Catherine had a large influence in political affairs, including consulting the papacy. Though she had no formal education, she learned to write through the divine experiences she continued to receive. Her letters are considered to be one of the great works of early Tuscan literature. Five years before she died on April 29, 1380, St Catherine’s confessor/biographer, Raymond of Capua, recorded that she had received the stigmata; the Wounds of Christ. There have been at least sixty-two saints, including St’s. Francis of Assisi and Padre Pio that have received the stigmata.
The most well-known miracle of St. Catherine’s is her incorruptible body, well at least her head. After her death there were reported miracles at her tomb so Raymond moved her body to the Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva. Upon digging her up, they discovered that her body had not decayed! The people of Siena knew that the saint would desire to be back home (or at least part of her), so they removed her head and put it in a gilt bust of bronze and processed back to the Dominican church in Siena. Here is a picture of her head today, and remember she is 668 years old:
St. Catherine of Siena is one of the first women to receive the title of Doctor of the Church. This was given to her by Pope Paul VI alongside St. Teresa of Avila in fall of 1970. Catherine’s letters and mystical experiences have been a source of hope and inspiration for the church for more than 650 years. For these writing and her bravery in politics she has remained a greatly respected figure throughout the world, especially because she was a woman during her particular time period. Many convents, schools, churches and even a medical center have St. Catherine of Siena as their patroness today.
St. Catherine is a role model of faith for all Christians, but especially women. During a time when women were considered less than men she had an enormous amount of courage and influence on the governments in Europe and even in the Vatican. Her complete and utter devotion to God was her source of strength and determination to carry out His will no matter the opposition. St. Catherine of Siena proves that with Him, “who can stand against us” – Romans 8:31.