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Inspired Virgin Saint and Doctor of the Church Catherine of Siena

Updated on December 31, 2011

Siena was born the 24th child of what would be 25 children, in 1347, the year before the infamous Black Death that devastated Europe. Despite her short life and never having held a position  of responsibility, it seems almost incredible how a young village woman could make such large mark as she did in the world for the Lord.  

Catherine, as a  girl was happy and playful as all children at her age, when this childhood was interrupted by a vision that occurred while walking with her sister where she was delivered  a wonderful vision of heaven:

" I saw Jesus sitting on a rich throne and with him the Holy Apostles Peter San Pablo and San Juan ..."


Catherine makes a vow of virginity and at the same time begins a process of mortification, made up of fasting (especially meat) and penance. She being now 12 years of age, her parents not being aware of her vow, they begin to think of marrying her off.

Catherine reacts by cutting off her hair and covering her head with a veil. This does not bode well with parents, who, to overcome her stubbornness, force her to do exhausting housework, which only cements Catherine's devotion to her religious aspirations.

One day her father surprises her in prayer and sees a dove hovering over her head. He then decides to free the young virgin to choose her own path.

Prayer to Saint Catherine of Siena

O marvelous wonder of the Church, seraphic virgin, Saint Catherine, because of thine extraordinary virtue and the immense good which thou didst accomplish for the Church and society, thou art acclaimed and blessed by all people. O blessed Catherine, turn thy benign countenance towards me, who confident of thy powerful patronage call upon thee with all the ardor of affection and I beg thee to obtain by thy prayers the favors I so ardently desire (mention your request). Thou wast a victim of charity, who in order to benefit thy neighbor obtained from God the most stupendous miracles and became the joy and the hope of all; thou canst not help but hear the prayers of those who fly to thy heart - that heart which thou didst receive from the Divine Redeemer in a celestial ecstasy. O seraphic virgin, show once again proof of thy power and of thy flaming charity, so that thy name shall ever be blessed and exalted; grant that we, having experienced thy most efficacious intercession here on earth, may come one day to thank thee in Heaven and enjoy eternal happiness with thee.

Amen

Amidst her family circle, Catherine vowed to remain nonspeaking for three years. She gave up wearing a  shirt made from horse hair, replacing it with a chain that dug into the tender skin of her hips.

This chain she actually wore until the end of her life, it is said.

In addition, Saint Catherine slept on a wooden bench with just a stone for a cushion. Three times a day she assaulted herself with the steel chain: first  for her sins, second for the living and third for the dead .

Her mother was frightened at the sight of her thin, emaciated looks, and Catherine herself was depressed, many times weeping and believing herself haunted by evil spirits.

A vision of St. Dominic strengthened her however,  but her wish to join his order was no comfort to her mother, who took her daughter with her to the baths in Bagno Vignoni in an effort to improve Catherine's health. Instead Catherine chose to bathe in the most scalding of the springs, scorching herself. Then she fell seriously ill with a bad rash, fever and pain, which led to her mother giving in and allowing her to join the Dominican order. 

Within days, Catherine seemed restored, rose from bed and donned the black and white mantel of the Dominicans..However she remained  outside the convent, staying at home with her family as before.  Catherine demanded nothing for herself, but her generosity to others, with her habit of giving without question, cost her family, who had to pay for her acts of generosity.  

Canonization and Relics of Catherine of Siena

Catherine of Siena was canonized by Pope Pius II in 1461 . Pope Paul VI made Catherine Doctor of the Church on 4 October 1970 .

There are now many relics attributed to Catherine. She was buried in Rome in the cemetery of Santa Maria sopra Minerva. But three years later, in 1384, her head was removed as a relic, in Siena, where it is still preserved in the Basilica of San Domenico . In the same church is preserved a finger of Catherine:

The body is still preserved in the basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome. The left foot is kept in Venice (in the Church of Saints John and Paul ).


The Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine of Siena

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