On the feast of the Annunciation in 1347, a seasoned mother gave birth to twin girls in Siena, Italy. The eldest was named Catherine. Beautiful and bold, sweet and charming, she was treasured by her entire family, especially after the untimely death of her twin sister. Though Catherine was beloved, she also became deeply misunderstood.
Catherine’s spirit was naturally inclined toward her Creator; at six years old she received Jesus’ first mystical visit. From then on, she intensified her efforts to strive for holiness. Her family was not against her piety, but they did not understand its source or depth. At sixteen, her father found an advantageous match for his arguably favorite daughter. Catherine refused it, wanting nothing to do with marriage.
Initially, her parents categorized her behavior as youthful passion. Lovingly, they increased her daily disciplines and duties within their home, hoping to change her stoutheartedness in favor of their own plans. However, Catherine found joy and happiness in the increased load, serving her family with nothing but ardor and devotion. As time passed, Catherine revealed details concerning Christ’s mystical visits to her father and he stopped punishing and planning. He then gave her an entire room of their house to use for prayer.
Catherine always prioritized her Divine relationship. Through becoming a lay member of the Third Order of the Dominicans, she was chosen by Christ as His bride. He presented her with a ring at the age of twenty-one and directed her to devote her life to the poor and sick in society. Catherine understood this literally, ministering to the physically ill and those living in squalor. The more time she spent doing this, the more she realized that all of society was sick and poor. Thus, her focus widened. The fruitful effects of her service snowballed. Her spiritual guidance was sought by the masses—from the lowest of the low, to the highest political and spiritual leaders of the time.
To this day, her writings are considered exemplary regarding growth in union with Christ. Saint Catherine of Siena was declared Doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI in 1970.
Closing Prayer //
O Lord, transform my heart and mind to be oriented like the heart of St. Catherine. Grant that I may live my life with You as the first and foremost recipient of my love and attention. May anything else to which I give my time and effort be an authentic overflow of my deep love for You. Amen.
Reflection Questions //
Do you have family or friends who misunderstand your religious devotion? How could your response to their doubts and questioning be more like Saint Catherine of Siena’s response to her parents?
Who do you know that is poor or sick? Identify individuals in your home, your school, your work, your church community. Is there a way you could serve them as an overflow of your love for Christ?