April 29 is the Feast Day of St. Catherine of Sienna of the Dominican Order.
St. Catherine was born in Siena, Italy in 1347 to a wealthy wool dyer. She was the 24th of 25 children. Even as a young child she felt called to a life dedicated to God and prayer. At the age of 16 she became a Dominican Tertiary (lay follower) of the Dominican Order. She embraced a life of poverty and service.
For three years Catherine prayed in her small room and had many visions. Then God told her she must go out of herself and help others. So she began to nurse the sick in the Siena hospitals. Many miraculous healings happened because of St. Catherine’s prayers. She also went to prisons and counseled those who were condemned to death. She became well-known as a peacemaker and was able to settle many disputes.
Her major written work, The Dialogue, is considered a classic among spiritual literature. To some, it is the considered the mystical counterpart in prose of Dante’s “Divine Comedy.” Catherine’s writings revealed her insistent cry that we will have peace in the world only by doing justice, especially in terms of how the world’s goods are distributed among us. Hatred and killing, indeed, every evil, she writes, comes from our lust for wealth. (Dialogue 150; 316-317)
She is the first woman to be named a “Doctor of the Church” because of all the help she was able to give to the Church and the great wisdom of her writing. St. Catherine died in 1380 and was only 33 years old. She is the co-patron of Italy and of Europe.