Today the Church celebrates the feast of St. Catherine of Siena which is particularly significant during this Year of Mercy and 800th Jubilee of the Foundation of the Dominican Order. St. Catherine led an extraordinary life as an advisor to the Holy See, Dominican tertiary, and witness to God’s merciful love.
Catherine Benincasa was born on the feast of the Annunciation in 1347 and quickly grew to have a deep spiritual life first having an apparition of Christ at the young age of 6. After some hesitation from her family, St. Catherine obtained permission to become a Dominican tertiary and experienced a “mystical marriage” with Christ at the age of 21. Following the momentous occasion, she performed works of mercy including visiting the imprisoned whom she hoped would turn to God and nursing the sick even volunteering to care for those afflicted with the most terrible diseases.
St. Catherine soon became renowned throughout Italy for her sanctity and wisdom. During her life, she strove to maintain peace throughout Italy by negotiating peace terms between cities and preaching a crusade in hopes of unifying the Christendom to retake the Holy Land. St. Catherine’s wisdom caused popes to take her counsel as she was influential in convincing Pope Gregory XI to return to Rome and even moved to Rome herself at the request of Pope Urban VI during the Great Schism that occurred in 1378. Her wisdom and profound spiritual insights are also apparent in her writings which led her to be proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI.
The feast of the renowned Dominican saint corresponds this year with the 8th Triennial General Assembly of the Dominican Sisters International who are currently meeting in Rome to pray, reflect and discuss the future of their preaching mission. The IRL has many Dominican affiliates including the Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne who were founded by the youngest child of author Nathaniel Hawthorne, Rose. For more information on affiliate Dominican communities please visit the IRL website.