29 April 2006

St. Catherine of Siena

An extraordinary woman for an extraordinary time. Born in the 14th century, as the renaissance dawned, St. Catherine of Siena was a welcome light in the Church and in the world. Perhaps her most well-known gift to the Church was her influential hand -- and pen -- in bringing an end to the Avignon papacy. Though Pope Gregory XI moved back to Rome, it did not end tension in the Western Church; through the scandal of having two popes which divided Europe, St. Catherine was a valued and trusted resource for Pope Urban VI as well as other contemporary theologians.

Beyond her diplomatic skills and theological expertise, St. Catherine was a gentle soul well accustomed to suffering. Her family, wishing her to marry, did not easily accept her choice to be a Dominican tertiary. Despite a challenging home environment, St. Catherine attracted a band of spiritual friends to whom she became confidant, advisor and spiritual guide.

In 1461 St. Catherine of Siena was canonized; in 1970 she was named a doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI and in 1999 Pope John Paul II named her among the patrons of Europe.

Most of us do not have the opportunity (or the gifts and expertise) to serve as advisor to popes and learned theologians. All of us, however, have the opportunity to lead people to Christ by our own lives in our earnest pursuit of virtue.

"We do not always have opportunities to do great things; opportunities do little things with great love abound."
St. Francis de Sales

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