Patron saint of Italy, together with St Francis, for nearly 80 years, St Catherine has been a Doctor of the Church since October 1970. Known to everyone as Catherine of Siena, the Saint of the Middle Ages, whose real surname was Di Jacopo Benincasa, received the call of Jesus as a child. At the age of just six, little Catherine made a vow of chastity, entrusting her heart to God. Twenty-fourth of twenty-five children, the young girl was the daughter of the cloth dyer Jacopo Benincasa and his wife Lapa Piacenti. At the age of twelve, her parents arranged a marriage for their daughter, which Catherine herself avoided, declaring her love for the Lord.
Initially hindered in the realisation of her dream of taking her vows, the young girl continued to lead a life of Prayer and Penance. Her obstinacy was so strong that her father, Jacopo, gave up and allowed her to enter the Monastic Order. From then on, courage and strength became the constant virtues that accompanied Catherine's life. She decided to join the Dominican Tertiaries. This choice was considered a little risky at the time, given that the order included widows and mature women of good reputation who continued to live in the world through works of charity.
The chastity of the young woman was an obstacle and it was on this occasion that the first miracle of the Saint took place. In order to wear the Black Cloak of the Sisters of St. Dominic, Catherine changed her graceful young face into that of a more mature woman. After becoming a Tertiary, she dedicated her life to the poor and the sick, assisting in particular those suffering from the most contagious diseases. This activity of hers lasted for months, especially during the most devastating epidemics.
But the young Saint's courage and tenacity did not stop there. As an illiterate woman, Catherine learned to read and write. Through her writings, the Saint spoke to Popes, Kings and Queens, never forgetting the weakest, and she also wrote to prisoners. Her messages, most of which were dictated, gave rise to a veritable body of letters. In her Letters, Catherine addressed religious and political issues with extreme gentleness. She actively intervened in religious issues concerning not only the Church but also the Empire, States and Kingdoms.
Her constant commitment to the affirmation of the values of Christ in the social, religious and political life to which she belonged, led her to take on the role of Mediatrix and Peacemaker in the various anti-papal conflicts of the Church of the time. For this reason, in 1970, she was awarded the title of Doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI.
Today, 29th April, more than 640 years after her Death, we remember the Life of a young Saint dedicated to caring for the weakest, not forgetting her gentleness in dealing with her "Enemies" and her many Miracles.
In particular, her charitable work with the sick earned her the title of Patroness of Nurses. Catherine showed us in her short earthly life - she died at the age of only 33 - that Courage and Tenacity, if driven and nourished by Love, are able to help us change the World.