Monday, February 14, 2011

SANTA CATALINA DE SENA: Virgin and Doctor of the Church

Virgin and Doctor of the Church

            Acclaimed as the greatest light of the Third Order of Saint Dominic, Catherine was born at Siena, Italy on the Feast of the Annunciation, March 25, 1347, one of the 25 children of Giacomo and Lapa Benincasa.  She began to have the mystical experiences she was to have all her life when she was only 6.  At the age of 7, she offered her virginity to Our Lord and at 17, received the habit of the Mantelate and increasingly experienced visions of Christ, the Virgin Mary and the saints.  She ministered to the ill in hospitals, devoting herself to caring for patients with particularly distressing illnesses and was famous for her great virtue and remarkable innocence of life.

                        Catherine is known to have delivered many from diabolical possession, to have performed many miracles of healing, to have levitated frequently during prayer, and to have experienced the Mystical Espousal in which Our Lord, in a vision, gave her a golden ring, set with four precious stones around a superb diamond, which was visible only to her.  Strengthened by Christ her spouse in frequent sweet conversation, she merited to become a sharer in His sufferings and wounds.  This sharing culminated in her reception of the Sacred Stigmata at Pies in 1375, invisible during her lifetime but clearly apparent at the time of her death.

                        At once humble and great, Catherine brought peace to hearts, to cities, to the Republic of Italy and to the Church.  As ambassadors of the Florentines, she went to Avignon, and while there persuaded Pope Gregory XI to return the papacy to Rome in 1376.  On her return to Siena, she devoted herself to recording her mystical experiences, which were published as the “Dialogue of Saint Catherine”.  During the Great Schism, she journeyed to Rome to pray, to give counsel and to immolate herself for the Church.  Her love for the Papacy and for the Pope, whom she called “IL DOLCE CHRISTO IN TERRA”, was unbounded.

                        Consumed by love and suffering, Catherine, one of the greatest Christian mystics, died in Rome on April 29, 1380.  Pope Pus II canonized her in 1461.  Saint Catherine was declared Co-Patroness of Rome in 1866.  In 1939, Pope Pius XII declared her and Saint Francis of Assisi, Principal Patrons of Italy.  He also named her Patroness of Italian Nurses on September 15, 1943.   Pope Paul VI declared her and Saint Teresa of Avila Doctors of the Church in 1970.

                                    O God, you made Saint Catherine burn with divine love through the contemplation of the Passion of the Lord and in the service of your Church; grant, through her intercession, that your people, associated to the mystery of Christ, may always rejoice in the contemplation of his glory.  This we ask you through Christ our Lord.  Amen.


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