Saint Catherine of Siena, T.O.S.D
St. Catherine of Siena,
by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo
|Virgin, Patron of Europe (Patrona Europae), Stigmatist, Doctor of the Church|
|Born||25 March 1347|
Siena, Republic of Siena
|Died||29 April 1380 (aged 33)|
Rome, Papal States
|Venerated in|| Catholic Church |
|Canonized||29 June 1461 by Pope Pius II|
|Major shrine||Santa Maria sopra Minerva, Rome and Shrine of Saint Catherine , Siena|
|Feast||29 April; 30 April (Roman Calendar, 1628–1969)|
|Attributes||Dominican tertiaries' habit, lily, book, crucifix,cupid, heart, crown of thorns, stigmata, ring, dove, rose, skull, miniature church, miniature ship bearing Papal coat of arms|
|Patronage||against fire; bodily ills; Diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania, USA; Europe; illness; Italy; Bambang, Nueva Vizcaya, Samal, Bataan, Philippines; miscarriages; people ridiculed for their piety; sexual temptation; sick people; sickness; nurses|
Catherine of Siena (25 March 1347 – 29 April 1380), a lay member of the Dominican Order, was a mystic, activist, and author who had a great influence on Italian literature and the Catholic Church. Canonized in 1461, she is also a Doctor of the Church.
She was born and raised in Siena, and at an early age wanted to devote herself to God, against the will of her parents. She joined the "mantellate," a group of pious women, primarily widows, informally devoted to Dominican spirituality.She made herself known very quickly by being marked by mystical phenomena such as invisible stigmata and a mystical marriage. Her influence with Pope Gregory XI played a role in his decision to leave Avignon for Rome. She was then sent by him to negotiate peace with Florence. After Gregory XI's death and peace concluded, she returned to Siena. She dictated to secretaries her set of spiritual treatises The Dialogue of Divine Providence. The Great Schism of the West led Catherine of Siena to go to Rome with the pope. She sent numerous letters to princes and cardinals to promote obedience to Pope Urban VI and defend what she calls the "vessel of the Church." She died on 29 April 1380, exhausted by her penances. Urban VI celebrated her funeral and burial in the Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome.
The devotion around Catherine of Siena developed rapidly after her death. She was canonized in 1461, declared patron saint of Rome in 1866, and of Italy (together with Francis of Assisi) in 1939.She was the first woman (along with Teresa of Ávila) to be declared a "doctor of the Church," on 4 October 1970 by Pope Paul VI. She was also proclaimed patron saint of Europe in 1999 by Pope John Paul II. Catherine of Siena is one of the outstanding figures of medieval Catholicism, by the strong influence she has had in the history of the papacy and her extensive authorship. She was behind the return of the Pope from Avignon to Rome, and then carried out many missions entrusted by the pope, something quite rare for a woman in the Middle Ages. Her Dialogue, hundreds of letters, and dozens of prayers, also give her a prominent place in the history of Italian literature.
Caterina di Giacomo di Benincasa was born on 25 March 1347 (shortly before the Black Death ravaged Europe) in Siena, Republic of Siena (today Italy), to Lapa Piagenti, the daughter of a local poet, and Giacomo di Benincasa, a cloth dyer who ran his enterprise with the help of his sons.The house where Catherine grew up still exists. Lapa was about forty years old when she gave premature birth to twin daughters Catherine and Giovanna. She had already borne 22 children, but half of them had died. Giovanna was handed over to a wet-nurse and died soon after. Catherine was nursed by her mother and developed into a healthy child. She was two years old when Lapa had her 25th child, another daughter named Giovanna. As a child Catherine was so merry that the family gave her the pet name of "Euphrosyne", which is Greek for "joy" and the name of an Euphrosyne of Alexandria.
Catherine is said by her confessor and biographer Raymond of Capua O.P.'s Life to have had her first vision of Christ when she was five or six years old: she and a brother were on the way home from visiting a married sister when she is said to have experienced a vision of Christ seated in glory with the Apostles Peter, Paul, and John. Raymond continues that at age seven, Catherine vowed to give her whole life to God.
When Catherine was sixteen, her older sister Bonaventura died in childbirth; already anguished by this, Catherine soon learned that her parents wanted her to marry Bonaventura's widower. She was absolutely opposed and started a strict fast. She had learned this from Bonaventura, whose husband had been far from considerate but his wife had changed his attitude by refusing to eat until he showed better manners. Besides fasting, Catherine further disappointed her mother by cutting off her long hair as a protest against being overly encouraged to improve her appearance to attract a husband.
Catherine would later advise Raymond of Capua to do during times of trouble what she did now as a teenager: "Build a cell inside your mind, from which you can never flee." In this inner cell she made her father into a representation of Christ, her mother into the Blessed Virgin Mary, and her brothers into the apostles. Serving them humbly became an opportunity for spiritual growth. Catherine resisted the accepted course of marriage and motherhood on the one hand, or a nun's veil on the other. She chose to live an active and prayerful life outside a convent's walls following the model of the Dominicans.Eventually her father gave up and permitted her to live as she pleased.
A vision of Saint Dominic gave strength to Catherine, but her wish to join his Order was no comfort to Lapa, who took her daughter with her to the baths in Bagno Vignoni to improve her health. Catherine fell seriously ill with a violent rash, fever and pain, which conveniently made her mother accept her wish to join the "Mantellate", the local association of devout laywomen.The Mantellate taught Catherine how to read, and she lived in almost total silence and solitude in the family home.
Her custom of giving away clothing and food without asking anyone's permission cost her family significantly, but she requested nothing for herself. By staying in their midst, she could live out her rejection of them more strongly. She did not want their food, referring to the table laid for her in Heaven with her real family.
According to Raymond of Capua, at the age of twenty-one (c. 1368), Catherine experienced what she described in her letters as a "Mystical Marriage" with Jesus,later a popular subject in art as the Mystic marriage of Saint Catherine . Caroline Walker Bynum explains one surprising and controversial aspect of this marriage that occurs both in artistic representations of the event and in some early accounts of her life: "Underlining the extent to which the marriage was a fusion with Christ's physicality [...] Catherine received, not the ring of gold and jewels that her biographer reports in his bowdlerized version, but the ring of Christ's foreskin." Catherine herself mentions the foreskin-as-wedding ring motif in one of her letters (#221), equating the wedding ring of a virgin with a foreskin; she typically claimed that her own wedding ring to Christ was simply invisible. She wrote in a letter (to encourage a nun who seems to have been undergoing a prolonged period of spiritual trial and torment): "Bathe in the blood of Christ crucified. See that you don't look for or want anything but the crucified, as a true bride ransomed by the blood of Christ crucified-for that is my wish. You see very well that you are a bride and that he has espoused you-you and everyone else-and not with a ring of silver but with a ring of his own flesh. Look at the tender little child who on the eighth day, when he was circumcised, gave up just so much flesh as to make a tiny circlet of a ring!" Raymond of Capua also records that she was told by Christ to leave her withdrawn life and enter the public life of the world. Catherine rejoined her family and began helping the ill and the poor, where she took care of them in hospitals or homes. Her early pious activities in Siena attracted a group of followers, women and men, who gathered around her.
As social and political tensions mounted in Siena, Catherine found herself drawn to intervene in wider politics. She made her first journey to Florence in 1374, probably to be interviewed by the Dominican authorities at the General Chapter held in Florence in May 1374, though this is disputed (if she was interviewed, then the absence of later evidence suggests she was deemed sufficiently orthodox).It seems that at this time she acquired Raymond of Capua as her confessor and spiritual director.
After this visit, she began travelling with her followers throughout northern and central Italy advocating reform of the clergy and advising people that repentance and renewal could be done through "the total love for God."In Pisa, in 1375, she used what influence she had to sway that city and Lucca away from alliance with the anti-papal league whose force was gaining momentum and strength. She also lent her enthusiasm towards promoting the launch of a new crusade. It was in Pisa in 1375 that, according to Raymond of Capua's biography, she received the stigmata (visible, at Catherine's request, only to herself).
|Part of a series on|
Physical travel was not the only way in which Catherine made her views known. From 1375onwards, she began dictating letters to scribes. These letters were intended to reach men and women of her circle, increasingly widening her audience to include figures in authority as she begged for peace between the republics and principalities of Italy and for the return of the Papacy from Avignon to Rome. She carried on a long correspondence with Pope Gregory XI, asking him to reform the clergy and the administration of the Papal States.
Towards the end of 1375, she returned to Siena, to assist a young political prisoner, Niccolò di Tuldo, at his execution.In June 1376 Catherine went to Avignon as ambassador of the Republic of Florence to make peace with the Papal States (on 31 March 1376 Gregory XI had placed Florence under interdict). She was unsuccessful and was disowned by the Florentine leaders, who sent ambassadors to negotiate on their own terms as soon as Catherine's work had paved the way for them. Catherine sent an appropriately scorching letter back to Florence in response. While in Avignon, Catherine also tried to convince Pope Gregory XI, the last Avignon Pope, to return to Rome. Gregory did indeed return his administration to Rome in January 1377; to what extent this was due to Catherine's influence is a topic of much modern debate.
Catherine returned to Siena and spent the early months of 1377 founding a women's monastery of strict observance outside the city in the old fortress of Belcaro.She spent the rest of 1377 at Rocca d'Orcia, about twenty miles from Siena, on a local mission of peace-making and preaching. During this period, in autumn 1377, she had the experience which led to the writing of her Dialogue and learned to write, although she still seems to have chiefly relied upon her secretaries for her correspondence.
Late in 1377 or early in 1378 Catherine again travelled to Florence, at the order of Gregory XI, to seek peace between Florence and Rome. Following Gregory's death in March 1378 riots, the revolts of the Ciompi, broke out in Florence on 18 June, and in the ensuing violence she was nearly assassinated. Eventually, in July 1378, peace was agreed between Florence and Rome; Catherine returned quietly to Florence.
In late November 1378, with the outbreak of the Western Schism, the new Pope, Urban VI, summoned her to Rome. She stayed at Pope Urban VI's court and tried to convince nobles and cardinals of his legitimacy, both meeting with individuals at court and writing letters to persuade others.
For many years she had accustomed herself to a rigorous abstinence.She received the Holy Eucharist almost daily. This extreme fasting appeared unhealthy in the eyes of the clergy and her own sisterhood. Her confessor, Raymond, ordered her to eat properly. But Catherine claimed that she was unable to, describing her inability to eat as an infermità (illness). From the beginning of 1380, Catherine could neither eat nor swallow water. On 26 February she lost the use of her legs.
Catherine died in Rome, on 29 April 1380, at the age of thirty-three,having eight days earlier suffered a massive stroke which paralyzed her from the waist down. Her last words were, "Father, into Your Hands I commend my soul and my spirit."
There is some internal evidence of Catherine's personality, teaching and work in her nearly four hundred letters, her Dialogue, and her prayers.
Much detail about her life has also, however, been drawn from the various sources written shortly after her death in order to promote her cult and canonisation. Though much of this material is heavily hagiographic, it has been an important source for historians seeking to reconstruct Catherine's life. Various sources are particularly important, especially the works of Raymond of Capua, who was Catherine's spiritual director and close friend from 1374 until her death, and himself became Master General of the Order in 1380. Raymond began writing what is known as the Legenda Major, his Life of Catherine, in 1384, and completed it in 1395.
Another important work written after Catherine's death was Libellus de Supplemento (Little Supplement Book), written between 1412 and 1418 by Tommaso d'Antonio Nacci da Siena (commonly called Thomas of Siena, or Tommaso Caffarini): the work is an expansion of Raymond's Legenda Major making heavy use of the notes of Catherine's first confessor, Tommaso della Fonte (notes that do not survive anywhere else). Caffarini later published a more compact account of Catherine's life, entitled the Legenda Minor.
From 1411 onwards, Caffarini also co-ordinated the compiling of the Processus of Venice, the set of documents submitted as part of the process of canonisation of Catherine, which provides testimony from nearly all of Catherine's disciples. There is also an anonymous piece entitled "Miracoli della Beata Caterina" (Miracle of Blessed Catherine), written by an anonymous Florentine. A few other relevant pieces survive.
Three genres of work by Catherine survive:
The Christian hagiography [ which? ]associated a part of Catherine's letters to a sort of magic and thaumaturgical properties. The so-called "Heaven letters" or ‘miraculous letters’ were believed to be "written by divine hand, which fall to earth at crucial moments, occasionally carried by an angel, their messages often deciphered by a deaf-mute child or an extremely devout clergyman." Until the First World War German militaries believe in their capability to cause a major likelihood of survival in favour of their male owners[ dubious ], similarly to an ancient acheropite holy image. The University of Alcalá conserves the unique handwritten Spanish manuscript of the collection survived to the 19th century[ citation needed ], while the remaining available texts were printed copies collected by the National Library of France.
Catherine's theology can be described as mystical, and was employed towards practical ends for her own spiritual life or those of others.She used the language of medieval scholastic philosophy to elaborate her experiential mysticism. Interested mainly with achieving an incorporeal union with God, Catherine practiced extreme fasting and asceticism, eventually to the extent of living solely off the Eucharist every day. For Catherine, this practice was the means to fully realize her love of Christ in her mystical experience, with a large proportion of her ecstatic visions relating to the consumption or rejection of food during her life. She viewed Christ as a "bridge" between the soul and God and transmitted that idea, along with her other teachings, in her book The Dialogue. The Dialogue is highly systematic and explanatory in its presentation of her mystical ideas; however, these ideas themselves are not so much based on reason or logic as they are based in her ecstatic mystical experience.
In one of her letters she sent to her confessor, Raymund of Capua, she recorded this revelation from her conversation with Christ, in which he said: "Do you know what you are to Me, and what I am to you, my daughter? I am He who is, you are she who is not".This mystical concept of God as the wellspring of being is seen in the works and ideas of Aquinas and can be seen as a simplistic rendering of apotheosis and a more rudimentary form of the doctrine of divine simplicity. She describes God in her work, 'the Dialogues', as a "sea, in which we are the fish", the point being that the relationship between God and man should not be seen as man contending against the Divine and vice versa, but as God being the endless being that supports all things.
She was buried in the (Roman) cemetery of Santa Maria sopra Minerva which lies near the Pantheon. After miracles were reported to take place at her grave, Raymond moved her inside the Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, where she lies to this day.
Her head however, was parted from her body and inserted in a gilt bust of bronze. This bust was later taken to Siena, and carried through that city in a procession to the Dominican church. Behind the bust walked Lapa, Catherine's mother, who lived until she was 89 years old. By then she had seen the end of the wealth and the happiness of her family, and followed most of her children and several of her grandchildren to the grave. She helped Raymond of Capua write his biography of her daughter, and said, "I think God has laid my soul athwart in my body, so that it can't get out."The incorrupt head and thumb were entombed in the Basilica of San Domenico at Siena, where they remain.
Pope Pius II, himself from Siena, canonized Catherine on 29 June 1461.
On 4 October 1970, Pope Paul VI named Catherine a Doctor of the Church;this title was almost simultaneously given to Teresa of Ávila (27 September 1970), making them the first women to receive this honour.
Initially however, her feast day was not included in the General Roman Calendar. When it was added in 1597, it was put on the day of her death, 29 April; however, because this conflicted with the feast of Saint Peter of Verona which also fell on 29 April, Catherine's feast day was moved in 1628 to the new date of 30 April.In the 1969 revision of the calendar, it was decided to leave the celebration of the feast of St Peter of Verona to local calendars, because he was not as well known worldwide, and Catherine's feast was restored to 29 April.
In his decree of 13 April 1866, Pope Pius IX declared Catherine of Siena to be a co-patroness of Rome. On 18 June 1939 Pope Pius XII named her a joint patron saint of Italy along with Saint Francis of Assisi.
On 1 October 1999, Pope John Paul II made her one of Europe's patron saints, along with Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross and Saint Bridget of Sweden.She is also the patroness of the historically Catholic American woman's fraternity, Theta Phi Alpha.
The people of Siena wished to have Catherine's body. A story is told of a miracle whereby they were partially successful: knowing that they could not smuggle her whole body out of Rome, they decided to take only her head which they placed in a bag. When stopped by the Roman guards, they prayed to Catherine to help them, confident that she would rather have her body (or at least part thereof) in Siena. When they opened the bag to show the guards, it appeared no longer to hold her head but to be full of rose petals.
Catherine ranks high among the mystics and spiritual writers of the Church.She remains a greatly respected figure for her spiritual writings, and political boldness to "speak truth to power"—it being exceptional for a woman, in her time period, to have had such influence in politics and on world history.
The main churches in honor of Catherine of Siena are:
English translations of The Dialogue include:
The Letters are translated into English as:
The Prayers are translated into English as:
Raymond of Capua's Life was translated into English in 1493 and 1609, and in Modern English is translated as:
The Dominican Order, formally known as the Order of Preachers, is a mendicant order of the Catholic Church founded in France by the Spanish priest Saint Dominic. It was approved by Pope Honorius III via the Papal bull Religiosam vitam on 22 December 1216. Members of the order, who are referred to as Dominicans, generally carry the letters OP after their names, standing for Ordinis Praedicatorum, meaning of the Order of Preachers. Membership in the order includes friars, nuns, active sisters, and affiliated lay or secular Dominicans.
Pope Gregory XI was head of the Catholic Church from 30 December 1370 to his death in 1378. He was the seventh and last Avignon pope and the most recent French pope. In 1377, Gregory XI returned the Papal court to Rome, ending nearly 70 years of papal residency in Avignon, France. His death shortly after was followed by the Western Schism involving two Avignon-based antipopes.
Teresa of Ávila, born Teresa Sánchez de Cepeda y Ahumada, also called Saint Teresa of Jesus, was a Spanish noblewoman who felt called to convent life in the Catholic Church. A Carmelite nun, prominent Spanish mystic, religious reformer, author, theologian of the contemplative life and of mental prayer, she earned the rare distinction of being declared a Doctor of the Church, but not until over four centuries after her death. Active during the Catholic Reformation, she reformed the Carmelite Orders of both women and men. The movement she initiated was later joined by the younger Spanish Carmelite friar and mystic John of the Cross. It led eventually to the establishment of the Discalced Carmelites. A formal papal decree adopting the split from the old order was issued in 1580.
Bridget of Sweden ; born as Birgitta Birgersdotter, also Birgitta of Vadstena, or Saint Birgitta, was a mystic and saint, and founder of the Bridgettines nuns and monks after the death of her husband of twenty years. Outside of Sweden, she was also known as the Princess of Nericia and was the mother of Catherine of Vadstena.
Domenico di Pace Beccafumi was an Italian Renaissance-Mannerist painter active predominantly in Siena. He is considered one of the last undiluted representatives of the Sienese school of painting.
Agnes of Montepulciano was a Dominican prioress in medieval Tuscany, who was known as a miracle worker during her lifetime. She is honored as a saint by the Catholic Church.
Saint Catherine of Bologna [Caterina de' Vigri] was an Italian Poor Clare nun, writer, teacher, mystic, artist, and saint.
Catherine of Genoa was an Italian Roman Catholic saint and mystic, admired for her work among the sick and the poor and remembered because of various writings describing both these actions and her mystical experiences. She was a member of the noble Fieschi family, and spent most of her life and her means serving the sick, especially during the plague which ravaged Genoa in 1497 and 1501. She died in that city in 1510.
Saint Angela of Foligno, T.O.S.F. was an Italian Franciscan tertiary who became known as a mystic from her extensive writings about her mystical revelations. Due to the respect those writings engendered in the Catholic Church she became known as "Mistress of Theologians".
The Third Order of Saint Dominic, also referred to as the Lay Fraternities of Saint Dominic or Lay Dominicans since 1972, is a Roman Catholic third order affiliated with the Dominican Order.
Santa Caterina a Magnanapoli is a baroque church dedicated to St. Catherine of Siena on Largo Magnanapoli on the slopes of the Quirinal Hill in Rome.
Raymond of Capua, was a leading member of the Dominican Order and served as its Master General from 1380 until his death. First as Prior Provincial of Lombardy and then as Master General of the Order, Raymond undertook the restoration of Dominican religious life. For his success in this endeavor, he is referred to as its "second founder".
Osanna of Mantua was an Italian Dominican tertiary who gained notice as a stigmatic and mystic.
The mystical marriage of Saint Catherine covers two different subjects in Christian art arising from visions received by either Catherine of Alexandria or Catherine of Siena (1347–1380), in which these virgin saints went through a mystical marriage wedding ceremony with Christ, in the presence of the Virgin Mary, consecrating themselves and their virginity to him.
Ecumenical meetings and documents on Mary, involving ecumenical commissions and working groups, have reviewed the status of Mariology in the Orthodox, Lutheran, Anglican, and Roman Catholic Churches.
The title Virgin is an honorific bestowed on female saints and blesseds in both the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church.
Saint Catherine de' Ricci, O.S.D., was an Italian Dominican Tertiary sister. She is believed to have had miraculous visions and corporeal encounters with Jesus, both with the infant Jesus and with the adult Jesus. She is said to have spontaneously bled with the wounds of the crucified Christ. She is venerated for her mystic visions and is honored as a saint by the Catholic Church.
Sebastiano Folli (1568–1621) was an Italian painter of the late Renaissance period. He was a scholar of Alessandro Casolano, and a native of Siena. He distinguished himself by several frescoes in the churches at Siena, particularly the cupola of Santa Marta, and some subjects from the Life of St. Sebastian, in the church of that saint, painted in competition with Rutilio Manetti, to whose pictures they are in no way inferior. He visited Rome, and was employed in some considerable works for the Cardinal de' Medici, afterwards Leo XI. He died in 1621.
Medieval women's mysticism was "a succession of insights and revelations about God that gradually transformed the recipient" according to historian Elizabeth Petroff of Oxford University in her 1994 book, Body and Soul. The word "mysticism" has its origin in ancient Greece where individuals called the mystae participated in mystery religions. The life of a medieval woman mystic was spent seeking unity with God in a series of stages. The mystical life of a medieval woman began with a purge of the spirit in which she released herself from earthly indulgences and attachments. In a state of contrition the medieval woman mystic faced suffering because of her past sins, and the mercy of God was revealed to her through penitence. Mystics sought to imitate the suffering of Christ in order to gain an understanding through experience. During the compassion stage of suffering, the pain experienced by the medieval woman mystic "revealed the believer's love of Christ, fostered unity with Christ and the world, and began to draw the believer beyond the physical Jesus who suffered on the Cross to understand the immensity of the love that motivated Christ in the world to suffer on humanity's behalf". Medieval women mystics experienced visions during what medieval historians refer to as the Illuminative stage of their lives that contained instructions from God and would communicate their revelations in written form.
Constance de Rabastens (13??-1386) was one of the female visionaries who concerned herself with politics in the late fourteenth century.: Many visionaries emerged in the late fourteenth century that predicted the future of the Church. Visionaries often claimed that their visions came from God and that the Church should listen to what is being told. Unlike Catherine of Siena and Marie Robine, other visionaries of the Great Schism, Constance was denied any official recognition and Constance at one point had to extract herself from an inquisitorial interrogation only with great difficulty. During the Great Schism there were multiple popes, the pope and the antipope, and Constance's denial of any official recognition was because she endorsed the "wrong" pope through her divinely inspired prophetic pronouncements. Little is known about Constance's life as her confessor, Raymond de Sabanac, decided not to write about her life and decided to only write about her visions. Although there are not much known about Constance's life, there are documents about her visions and the letters she wrote to the inquisitor of Toulouse that are preserved in a Catalan translation in Bibliothèque nationale de France. Most of Constance's visions were put together by her confessor, Raymond de Sabanac, but some series of visions were transmitted to Raymond by Constance's son.