Thought for the Day – 29 April – Fifth Sunday of Eastertide and the Memorial of St Catherine of Siena (1347-1380) Doctor of the Church
Catherine of Siena is one of the most remarkable figures of the fourteenth century and had an influence far beyond her holiness of life. She took part in the politics of both Church and State and was a beacon of light in a very difficult time.
The mystical experiences that were to last throughout her whole life and an intimacy with her Saviour that transformed her whole existence began when she was but six years old. She grew up, known for cheerfulness and merriment, with no indication of the astonishing role she was to play in the work of the Church.
In 1364, she became a member of the Third Order of St Dominic and from this time her influence began to grow in Siena as she gathered around her a circle of followers. She began dictating letters to this circle and to take part in public affairs. (She had never learnt to write, which was not uncommon for women in that era). In 1374, she began to interest herself in furthering a crusade against the Turks and in the return of the Pope from Avignon to Rome. In 1376, she went to Avignon to urge Pope Gregory XI to return to Rome. With her encouragement, he did but died shortly thereafter. In 1375, whilst on a trip to Pisa, she received the Stigmata.
Pope Gregory’s successor, Urban VI, so alienated the Cardinals who elected him, that they decided to elect another pope. This was the beginning of the Great Western Schism in which two and later three, popes, divided the allegiance of Christendom. Catherine was shattered by this division in the Church and went to Rome to work for the reunification of the Church.
Burdened with sorrow and offering herself for the unity of the Church, Catherine died in Rome on 29 April 1380. She left a huge collection of letters as well as her chief work, The Dialogues.
By the sheer force of her personality, St Catherine converted thousands and the mere sight of her would convert hardened sinners. We may not have her personality but we can reach into the lives of others and influence them for good. We cannot have warmth ourselves, without giving it to others. “Then they said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us?’...Luke 24:32
St Catherine of Siena, Pray for us!