drawn with the stigmata
St Catherine of Siena is known by various titles including: The Seraphic Virgin, Mystic of the Incarnate Word, and Mystic of the Mystical Body of Christ.
These titles reflect something of the esteem in which she is held. Unlike the other two women doctors, Theresa of Avila and Therese of Liseaux, Catherine was a lay woman and not a nun.
Born in 1347 along with a twin sister who died at birth, Catherine was the 23rd of 25 children. Only eight of the family grew to maturity.
Catherine was born on March 25th, the feast of the Annunciation which was also Palm Sunday that year. 1347 was the worst year of the black death in Europe and Siena lost 80,000 people to this plague.
Catherine had her first of many visions of Christ when she was only six years old. Jesus appeared to her as a priest and later Catherine said that all she needed to know about salvation was taught to her directly by Jesus.
Catherine was afraid of nothing and went to the pope who was living in Avignon and told him to go back to Rome. He did so.
She also brought peace to the warring cities of Italy by speaking directly to the princes and leaders and telling them what to do.
Catherine is renowned for her deep spirituality and a lot of her writings have survived.
When he was making her a Doctor in 1970, Paul VI said:
"She saw the blood of the saviour flowing continually from the side of the Saviour while she was at Mass.....The Church, she used to say, is nothing else but Christ Himself....in the Pope she saw sweet Christ on Earth, to him is due son-like obedience because he represents Christ in earth."
Her visions of purgatory and hell are well recorded. She said,"I saw the pains of hell and purgatory so great that the tongue of no man is able to proclaim them."
Catherine died in 1380.