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.
“To thee, oh blessed Virgin, be praise and glory, because today we are filled with the goodness of thy house; that is, of thy womb.”
St. Anthony was born in Portugal. He is known as “of Padua” because of the Italian city of Padua where he died and where his relics can still be venerated today. Statues and devotion to him are found everywhere, which is why Leo XIII referred to him as “everyone’s Saint.” One biographer said of him, “He was powerful in deeds and in words. His body dwelled on this earth but his soul lived in Heaven.”
He was born in the year 1195. The name given to him at baptism was Fernando, but when he joined the Order of Friars Minor, he changed his name to that of Anthony because of his devotion to the great patriarch of monks and the official patron of the chapel in which he received the Franciscan habit.
From the time of his youth, he had many difficulties. He was harshly assaulted by temptations against purity, but he did not allow himself to be defeated and with the help of God, dominated his passions. He was strengthened by visiting the Most Blessed Sacrament. He renewed the consecration he had made as a child to the Most Blessed Virgin, to whom he had entrusted his purity.
In 1220, while he studied in Coimbra with the regular canons of St. Augustine, the King, Don Pedro of Portugal, brought relics of the Franciscan Friar Saints who shortly beforehand had obtained the glorious crown of martyrdom in Morocco. Upon seeing the relics, a deep desire was born in his heart to give his life for Christ. Shortly afterwards, some Franciscan Friars arrived to where he was and helped him to open his heart. He was admitted to the Order at the beginning of 1221 and almost immediately afterwards was given permission to journey to Morocco. His goal? To preach the Gospel to the Muslims. On his way, he fell gravely ill and was forced to return to Europe. Due to strong winds, the ship on which he sailed had to take a different route and stopped in Messina, the capital of Sicily. From there, he travelled to Assisi. St. Anthony, full of extraordinary intellectual and spiritual gifts, gave himself over to prayer and the service of the other Friars. Having discovered a great gift for preaching, he fully dedicated himself to it and eventually became very famous.
People came from all over to listen to him and touch him. He arrived at Padua. News spread of the miracles he performed and it was said of him that he radiated holiness. He said, “The great danger of the Christian is to preach and not practice, believe but not live according to what he believes.” His lived out what he preached. Despite his poor health, he completely dedicated himself to his Brothers and tirelessly worked for souls. In the spring of 1231, after having preached a series of sermons, St Anthony’s health declined and he took to rest. Aware of his imminent end, he asked to be taken to Padua. He never reached the city. On June 13, 1231, in the private room of the Poor Clares’ chaplain at Arcella, he received the last sacraments. He sang a hymn to the Blessed Virgin and smiling, said, “I see Our Lord coming,” and died.
He was canonized before a year had passed since his death and seven centuries later, Pope Pius XII declared St. Anthony a “Doctor of the Church.”