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St. Catherine of Siena
Doctor of the Church (1347 - 1380)
Caterina di Giacomo di Benincasa was born on the feast of the Annunciation, March 25th, 1347, in the Fontebranda district of Siena, Italy, the twenty-fourth of twenty-five children. Her father was a dyer and her mother was the daughter of a local poet. Catherine was known as an imaginative, idealistic, and outgoing child who was fiercely independent. She began to have personal revelations early in her childhood. Catherine consecrated her virginity to Christ at the age of seven and began wearing the Dominican Tertiary’s habit at the age of sixteen, taking the Vows of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience. She took care of the sick, especially those with the most repulsive diseases, served the poor, and dedicated her life to the conversion of sinners. She lived in a century when chaos ruled the Church and society. Early on, her passion to know the truth took precedence over every other pursuit in her life. Her profound love of God and the clarity with which she expressed this love transformed the society around her and the wider culture in a very practical way. St. Catherine died in Rome, in 1380, at the age of thirty-three.
St. Catherine of Siena was canonized by Pope Pius II in 1461, and named Patron Saint of Italy on May 5, 1940 by Pope Pius XII. She was given the title of Doctor of the Church in 1970 by Pope Paul VI. She is simultaneously the Patron Saint of Siena, the Patron Saint of Italy, and the Patron Saint of Europe, as proclaimed by Blessed John Paul II in October 1999. Today, the body of Catherine is in a tomb in the Basilica di Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome, and her head is enshrined, incorrupt, in San Domenico Church in Siena, Italy.
St. Catherine of Siena is one of only three female “Doctors” of the Roman Catholic Church (St. Teresa of Avila and St. Therese of Lisieux are the other two). She is known as the Doctor of Unity for bringing about the union of the Papacy and returning it to Rome after nearly a century in France. St. Catherine dictated, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, four treatises called “The Dialogues.” She also wrote nearly four hundred letters and a series of prayers.