Saint Catherine of Siena
“Most Holy Virgin, look not upon my weakness, but rather grant me the grace to take as my spouse He whom I love with all my soul, your Most Holy Son, our only Lord, Jesus Christ! I promise Him and you, that I will never take any other spouse.”
Catherine was born in Siena, Italy, on March 25, 1347. She was the second to last of the 25 children of Jacobo Benincasa and Lapa Piacenti. Catherine learned charity towards the poor from her father, and love of work and courage to take on arduous tasks from her mother. The biography of St. Catherine is very long, but her love for and trust in the Virgin Mary from a very young age stand out among that information. Throughout her life she looked to the Virgin Mary for help and refuge. As a child she would go up and down the stairs praying Hail Mary’s. She offered herself to the Lord in front of an image of Our Lady, with the words of this Marian Thought. She took the Blessed Virgin as her only Mother when she was rejected by her family for not wanting to get married. Under Our Lady’s gaze she lived and grew in humility, obedience, and charity. She conquered her family with this attitude and was given permission to become a member of the Third Order of Saint Dominic. She dedicated herself generously to the poor and sick. Her heart belonged totally to the Lord, her only Spouse. One of the mystical experiences that stands out the most is one that took place the day before her religious profession. She suddenly found herself in front of the Mother of God, who had a golden garment in her hands. With a soft and tender voice She said, “I have brought you this gown, my daughter, from the heart of my Son. It was hidden in the wound of his side as in a golden basket, and I made it for you with my own hands. With fervent love and humility, Catherine inclined her head, and the Virgin Mary placed the heavenly gown on her. It was Our Lady that put Catherine’s hand in that of the Her Son’s in the Mystical marriage with Jesus. St. Catherine lived her life growing in love of God and his “sweet Mother,” to whom she had recourse for herself and for others. She spoke trustingly to the Mother of Mercy praying for the conversion of hardened sinners, lifting her eyes to heaven and repeating Mary's name until she received the favor. Catherine was very devout to the Child Jesus. One Christmas, while she prayed, she had a vision of Mary adoring the newborn Baby Jesus. Catherine implored Our Lady to let her hold Baby Jesus in her arms a moment. The Virgin Mary gave her Jesus with a smile. During her life, Catherine suffered much for the Church. Our Lady sustained her in her sufferings. She reached sainthood in just 33 years, living and suffering heroically. She was canonized by Pope Pius II in 1461, and proclaimed Doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI in 1970. John Paul II proclaimed her Co-Patroness of Europe in 1999.