Today is the memorial of St. Catherine of Siena. She is a saint, a mystic, and a doctor of the Church. She was born in Siena, Italy in 1347 into a very large family. She died in Rome in 1380. She was canonized in 1461. When Catherine was 16 years old, motivated by a vision of St Dominic, she entered the Third Order of the Dominicans. She dedicated herself to prayer, penance, and works of charity, especially for the benefit of the sick. Due to her prayer and dedication to the poor, her holiness spread across Europe. She became the source of inspiration for many people, including Pope Gregory XI who was living at Avignon, France. Catherine effectively urged the Pope to return to Rome.
In 2010, Pope Benedict gave an audience in which he discussed the basic facts of Catherine of Siena’s life. Pope Benedict wrote, “Like the Sienese saint, every believer feels the need to be conformed with the sentiments of the heart of Christ to love God and his neighbour as Christ himself loves. And, we can all let our hearts be transformed and learn to love like Christ in a familiarity with him that is nourished by prayer, by meditation on the Word of God, by the sacraments, above all, by receiving Holy Communion frequently and with devotion. Catherine also belongs to the throng of Saints devoted to the Eucharist…the Eucharist is an extraordinary gift of love that God continually renews to nourish our journey of faith, to strengthen our hope and to inflame our charity, to make us more and more like him.” (Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, Paul VI Hall, November 24, 2010)
Let us learn from St Catherine to love Christ and the Church with courage, intensely and sincerely. As she said, “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”