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Article: April 29 + Saint Catherine of Siena

April 29 + Saint Catherine of Siena - VENXARA®

April 29 + Saint Catherine of Siena

Catherine ranks high among the mystics and spiritual writers of the Church. She remains a greatly respected figure for her writings and political boldness to "speak truth to power" — it is exceptional for a woman, in her time period, to have had such influence in politics and on world history. She is one of the most influential writers in Catholicism, to the point that she was the first woman and one of only four women to be declared a Doctor of the Church.

Catherine was born during the outbreak of the plague in Siena, Italy on March 25, 1347. She was the 25th child born to her mother, although half of her brothers and sisters did not survive childhood. Catherine herself was a twin, but her sister did not survive infancy.

She joined the Third Order of St. Dominic when she was a teenager and received the stigmata and the Crown of Thorns at twenty-eight years of age. Catherine endured an intense pain in her head, caused by the miraculous hidden thorns which continually pierced it.

Catherine often visited hospitals and homes where the poor and sick were found. Her activities quickly attracted followers who helped her in her mission to serve them. She was drawn further into the world as she worked, and eventually she began to travel, calling for reform of the Church and for people to confess and to love God totally. She became involved in politics and was key in working to keep city states loyal to the Pope. She petitioned for peace and became involved in the fractured politics of her time, but was instrumental in restoring the Papacy to Rome and in brokering peace deals during a time of conflict and war between the Italian city states.

By 1380, the 33-year-old mystic had become ill and her illness accelerated her inability to eat and drink. Within weeks, she was unable to use her legs. She died on April 29, following a stroke just a week prior.

She died while in Rome, but her hometown, Siena, wanted to have her body. When a few of her followers from home realized they would not be able to smuggle her whole body past the guards in Rome, they took only her head, hidden in a paper bag. They were stopped by the guards and the smugglers prayed to Catherine to protect them. When the guards looked in the bag, they saw not the small, beautiful head of the saint, but hundreds of rose petals. When they returned to Siena, her head had re-materialized ... Saint Catherine’s final miracle. Her head was placed in a splendid reliquary, where it remains today. The rest of her incorrupt body is preserved in the magnificent Dominican Church of Santa Maria Della Minerva in Rome.

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