Dying for Siena

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  5. St. Catherine of Siena: Saint of the Eucharist.
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Where We Are Siena at St. Clair Siena Drive Upper St. While still a small girl, about 7, Catherine was touched by the extraordinary movement of the Holy Spirit in her community and saw a vision of Jesus with Peter, Paul, and John the evangelist. She announced her determination to live some sort of special religious life.

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Alarmed, her father Jacobo and mother Lupa tried to divert her into the customary preparation for marriage and children. At age 15 she even cut off her hair to thwart pressures to marry. The great question was, What kind of religious life?


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  • Catherine did not want to be an ordinary nun, either active or contemplative. Her childhood experiences of religion predicted a mystical approach to the faith. At the same moment, Catherine was an active person, in body as well as mind. Christian service, traditionally offered by religious women to the poor and sick, attracted her. Her cousin and first confessor, Tommaso della Fonte, was a Dominican priest, and he encouraged her to think in terms of the great mendicant reform orders of St.

    Francis and St. Committed to preaching and service, these begging orders represented the last popular internal reform in the church prior to the Protestant Reformation. In , Catherine joined the Third Order of the Dominicans. The Third Order provided a satisfying way for lay people to participate in the formal religious life. Catherine could live at home and direct her own activities.

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    Her spiritual family included many old friends, and new people, of whom Bartolomeo Dominici was most important. He joined Catherine in as her second confessor. Young and brilliant, Bartolomeo encouraged his charge to expand her horizons. During this period, Catherine learned to read. Precisely what she read can only be deduced from her later writings. However, it is clear she read the Bible, especially the Gospels. Her favorite apostolic sources were John and Paul.

    Of the church fathers, she became familiar with Gregory the Great and Augustine. Her language also reveals that she became deeply familiar with the popular preachers of the day. From to , Catherine continued serving the poor of Siena. However, she became increasingly interested in evangelism; the conversion of all sorts of sinners preoccupied her.

    Catherine did not have a sense of the profound conditions of class and status that defined the people of her time. In a kind, pedantic, scolding way she entreated all people to repent and be saved. At this moment, Neri di Landoccio Pagliaresi, a Tuscan poet of some fame, joined her spiritual family. He became her secretary and greatly expedited her correspondence.

    She had not as yet learned to write. To Neri she dictated the letters that carried her ministry throughout Italy. She wrote to everyone, pleading for personal conversion and public reform. Sermons and advice were directed evenly at family and friends, princes, nuns, warlords, the pope, and quite ordinary sinners whom she did not know but about whom she had heard. The core of her thought was not original, but she provocatively synthesized theological ideas in a fresh and lively rhetoric.

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    Catherine of Siena

    And it was not the cross or nails that held Christ to the tree; those were not strong enough to hold the God-Man. No, it was love that held him there. Catherine became so popular that she was encouraged to attend the general chapter of the Dominicans that met in Florence in While there, she met a young priest, Raymond of Capua, who was appointed by the head of the Dominican Order as her third confessor. In Raymond, Catherine found her most sympathetic friend and her chief biographer. Her return to Siena was darkened by a visitation of the Black Death, which had first struck the city in the year of her birth.

    Catherine and her followers stayed in town to care for the sick and the dead.

    April 29 Church Celebrates Feast Day of St. Catherine of Siena - ZENIT - English

    When the crisis abated, she began to consider the larger topics of public reform. Doubtlessly, she had heard these discussed in Florence. She contemplated the whole of Italy as an arena for her ministry. At first, Catherine was hurt by criticism that while she, a woman, might do good, even evangelize, at home under the protection of her relatives and followers, it was shameful for her to contemplate distant missions.

    Typically, she turned inward to prayer and contemplation. With me there is no longer male or female, lower and upper classes, but all are equal in My sight. With Raymond and two other comrades, Tommaso and Bartolomeo, she set out for Pisa to preach a crusade.

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