April 28, 2016

Memorial of St. Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor

St. Catherine of Siena
April 29th is the Memorial of Saint Catherine of Siena, virgin and Doctor of the Church. She was born Catherine Benincasa, on March 25, 1347, in Siena, Italy, during an outbreak of the plague. Her large family was poor. At age seven, Catherine began to be favored by God with mystical visions.

When Catherine was 21, she experience what she later referred to as a "mystical marriage to Christ." Among her many concerns was ministering to the poor and sick. Her activities attracted followers who assisted her. In her travels, she called for reform of the Church and for people to confess their sins and love God totally. She was instrumental in persuading the Avignon pope, Gregory XI, to return to Rome. Catherine established a monastery for women in 1377 outside of Siena. She composed over 400 letters, her Dialogue, which is her definitive literary work. God graced Catherine with the stigmata, which like her ring, was visible only to her.

Her efforts for peace and reform of the Church make Catherine a leading figure of the fourteenth century. She died in Rome on April 29, 1380. She was canonized on June 29, 1461 by Pope Pius II. On October 3, 1970, Pope Paul VI named Catherine a Doctor of the Church.

The Life of St. Catherine of Siena

Catherine, the youngest of twenty-five children, was born in Siena on March 25, 1347. During her youth she had to contend with great difficulties on the part of her parents. They were planning marriage for their favorite daughter; but Catherine, who at the age of seven had already taken a vow of virginity, refused. To break her resistance, her beautiful golden brown tresses were shorn to the very skin and she was forced to do the most menial tasks. Undone by her patience, mother and father finally relented and their child entered the Third Order of St. Dominic.

Unbelievable were her austerities, her miracles, her ecstasies. The reputation of her sanctity soon spread abroad; thousands came to see her, to be converted by her. The priests associated with her, having received extraordinary faculties of absolution, were unable to accommodate the crowds of penitents. She was a helper and a consoler in every need. As time went on, her influence reached out to secular and ecclesiastical matters. She made peace between worldly princes. The heads of Church and State bowed to her words. She weaned Italy away from an anti-pope, and made cardinals and princes promise allegiance to the rightful pontiff. She journeyed to Avignon and persuaded Pope Gregory XI to return to Rome. Even though she barely reached the age of thirty-three her accomplishments place her among the great women of the Middle Ages. The virgin Catherine was espoused to Christ by a precious nuptial ring which, although visible only to her, always remained on her finger.

Excerpted from The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch

Patron: Against fire; bodily ills; Europe; fire prevention; firefighters; illness; Italy; miscarriages; nurses; nursing services; people ridiculed for their piety; sexual temptation; sick people; sickness; Siena, Italy; temptations.

Symbols: Cross; heart; lily; ring; stigmata.

Collect Prayer

O God, who set Saint Catherine of Siena on fire with divine love in her contemplation of the Lord's Passion and her service or your Church, grant, through her intercession, that your people, participating in the mystery of Christ, may ever exult in the revelation of his glory. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, on God, for ever and ever.

Prayer of St. Catherine of Siena

O Supreme and Ineffable God, I have sinned! Therefore, I am unworthy to pray to Thee. But Thou canst make me less unworthy. Punish my sins, O Lord, but turn not away from my misery. From Thee I have received a body which I offer to Thee. Behold my body and my blood! Strike, destroy, reduce my bones to dust, but grant me what I ask for the Sovereign Pontiff, the one Bridegroom of Thy Spouse. May he always know Thy will, may he love it and follow it, so that we may not perish. O my God, create a new heart in him! May he ever receive an increase of Thy grace; may he never tire of bearing the standard of Thy holy cross; and may he bestow the treasures of Thy mercy upon unbelievers as he bestows them upon us who enjoy the benefits of the passion and blood of Thy most beloved Son, the Lamb without a spot. O Lord, eternal God, have mercy on me for I have sinned. Amen. 

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