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Extraordinary Women: St. Catherine of Siena

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When I was in eighth grade, my mom told me, “You don’t choose your confirmation saint—it chooses you.” I waved her advice off like any fourteen-year-old, and had my heart set on St. Maria Goretti (also an amazing young woman).

That is, until I picked up Lay Siege to Heaven by Louis de Wohl—a detailed biography of one of the female Doctors of the Church—St. Catherine of Siena.

St. Catherine of Siena was a saint I knew I should admire, but one that I didn’t think I related to. She was the nun who told the Pope where to live, right? The one who said to “be who God made you to be and you will set the world on fire?” Yeah, that’s cool. Retweet.

What I didn’t know—and what we women need to learn from St. Catherine—is that fire defined this woman’s whole life. Not only was she short, spunky, and told the Pope how it was—she also told God exactly how she felt. Her friends often reported her prayer to be hours of her “storming Heaven” for her intentions—reminding God of His promises. She never let God off the hook—He was her spouse, after all. What brutal, beautiful honesty.

In our world today, fire is either misused or put out before it has the chance to grow. We encourage women to be tough, to strive to be like men and place their uniquely feminine gifts aside; or, we allow ourselves to be beaten into a quiet submission and never speak out of fear or shame.

St. Catherine did neither. She saw the beauty in her feistiness, in her powerful voice, and allowed God to harness it and unleash it on the world when He saw fit. Not only did St. Catherine shock the world with her courage and honesty—she also humbled herself before God and allowed Him to lead her, no matter the cost—submitting to His Divine Will.

She saw crisis in our Church during a massive schism, and decided to do something about it. Yes, she stood before the Pope himself and told him what’s what in a time where women hardly spoke outside of their households, let alone spoke to the Pope himself in the bluntest of fashions.

For a young woman with a reckless personality like myself, St. Catherine was a breath of fresh air.

Finally, someone who struggled with those same things I did and overcame them with the help of grace. Finally, a woman who was fiery and blunt and sassy—yet somehow still ended up being a saint. I always felt so discouraged by reading about the St. Thereses and the St. Gianna Mollas and the Blessed Mother Teresas—while they were women I greatly admired and could learn from, I never felt like them.

St. Catherine became not only my confirmation saint, but my inspiration, my friend, and my example of how to be a spunky gal for the Lord. I am sure she saw my own fire that I ignore and thought I should be ashamed of and decided to pluck me out of the crowd and pray that those gifts are not wasted.
She taught me to storm Heaven and never stop believing in an all-powerful God who can do the biggest of things in the smallest of people, that fire is not a gift to ignore, and that any woman—regardless of looks, stature, vocation, or personality—can become one of the greatest saints the world has ever known.

She taught me to raise those fists, to speak out of turn when God says so, and to never let the evil of the world silence you.

She didn’t just believe in the fire that was the Holy Spirit—she embodied it. She let it consume her and she breathed it into the world. I pray that I am given the courage to do the same.

St. Catherine, pray for us.

“You are a fire always burning but never consuming; you are a fire consuming in your heat all the soul’s selfish love; you are a fire lifting all chill and giving light.” -St. Catherine of Siena

Rachael Gieger lives in the beautiful Colorado and can usually be found in hole-in-the-wall coffee shops drinking really good chai lattes. A believer that flower crowns can be worn in every season, she finds peace while sprawled in the adoration chapel at her parish or reflecting on the works of Henri Nouwen, C.S. Lewis, and Fulton Sheen.

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