Memorial of Saint Catherine of Siena, virgin
(Acts 12:24-35a; John 12:44-50)
In English few religious women attain the status of “Mother.” Blessed Teresa of Calcutta is recognized with that distinction and also St. Frances Xavier Cabrini. But in general religious women are called “Sister.” In Spanish-speaking countries, however, the terms “Mother” and “Sister” seem to be interchangeable. Today the Church honors St. Catherine of Siena, a religious who was surrounded by a large family of men and women who called her “Mother” even though she was younger than most of them.
Catherine lived in the fourteenth century. At the tender age of seven she is said to have dedicated herself to Christ. As an adolescent, she was allowed to spend her days in prayer and fasting which turned out to be preparation for a very active apostolate. When she was twenty-one, she attracted a following of women and men, even priests, whom she directed as a kind of religious superior. Since childhood, Catherine was associated with Dominican priests who defended her as she became influential from the criticism of citizens. Soon she entered one of the great issues of the time, the displacement of the pope to Avignon. Catherine was instrumental in bringing him back to Rome although later the situation actually became worse. Nevertheless, she continued her struggle for Church unity under the bishop of Rome.
Catherine’s spirituality was preeminently Christocentric. She thought of herself as married to Christ and spent her life building up his body, the Church. Such dedication could not help spill over to work for a better society. Today Catherine is recognized as the co-patron of Italy along with St. Francis of Assisi and one of the co-patrons of Europe.