“If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world on fire.”
– St. Catherine of Siena
From her earliest childhood Catherine of Siena (one of 21 children and born a twin) began to see visions of Christ and to practice extreme austerities. At the age of seven she consecrated her virginity to Christ, and in her sixteenth year took the habit of a lay woman of the Dominican Tertiaries.
She soon became well known for her gentle ability to tend to the ill, especially those afflicted with the most repulsive diseases, all the while laboring to convert sinners. In 1375 Catherine received the Stigmata, although at her prayerful request, the marks did not outwardly appear on her body during her lifetime.
Much of Catherine’s short time on earth was also dedicated to supporting needed reforms of the Church, and she became a major influence in the politics that culminated in the historic move of the Papacy from France back to Rome. The writings of Catherine rank among the classics of Italian literature. Her thoughts brought readers to mystical heights of contemplation and a rarefied atmosphere of sanctity.
After prodigious years of inspirational dedication and service to Christ, Catherine passed away in 1380 at the age of thirty-three, to be canonized by Pius II in 1461.