Happy Feast Day! 13 Quick Facts about St. Catherine of Siena

Today is the Feast of St. Catherine of Siena!

Courtesy WikiCommons, CC0.

Courtesy WikiCommons, CC0.

If you're unfamiliar with this marvelous saint, I highly suggest you become un-unfamiliar. Once again I recommend this biography by Nobel Laureate Sigrid Undset.

Quick facts to whet your palette:

  1. Catherine had a naturally cheerful disposition. We also surmise that she was her mother's favorite child.
  2. Speaking of, Catherine's mother was loving but overbearing. Monna Lapa did not understand her daughter or her daughter's vocation and her tears and interference often tested Catherine's patience.
  3. Catherine's father was more understanding of her strange vocation; he made provision for her to live as a hermit for a time in a 3-by-9 foot room at the back of their house - a luxury for a medieval middle-class family. 
  4. Catherine was a mystic early in her life.
  5. Though Catherine was a Dominican, she was not a nun. Instead, Catherine was part of a Sienese Dominican tertiary group known as the Mantellate. Until Catherine joined, the Mantellate only included widows among their ranks; Catherine's desire to take vows of virginity as a Mantellate caused quite a stir.
  6. She also caused quite a stir by traipsing unladylike around Siena, and then the world, doing works of mercy: feeding the poor, tending the sick, and admonishing Popes.
  7. Consequently, a lot of people distrusted her. She didn't let it stop her.
  8. Catherine is commonly credited with convincing Pope Gregory XI to leave Avignon and return to Rome.
  9. Catherine had the stigmata, though hidden.
  10. Though she could not read, Catherine wanted to pray the Divine Office so badly that God gave her the grace of doing so.
  11. Catherine thought her inability to eat anything other than the Eucharist was a trial, not a super-cool miracle.
  12. Catherine wrote to everyone. Thanks to the ready assistance of several secretaries, she kept up a lively correspondence with hundreds of people, from world leaders to friends back home.
  13. Pope Paul VI named Catherine a Doctor of the Church in 1970.

Bonus: in honor of the 800th anniversary of the Order, all members of the Dominican family who participate in a Jubilee celebration or make a pilgrimage to the churches and chapels of the Dominican family can receive a Plenary Indulgence. And the feast of St. Catherine is a good day to do so! We don't have anything Dominican-y around here, but my husband rearranged his work schedule today so that I can at least get to Mass. Good man.

St. Catherine of Siena, pray for us!