Today, April 29, is the feast of St. Catherine of Siena, one of three women the Roman Catholic Church recognizes as Doctors of the Church.

In her book Speaking with Authority: Catherine of Siena and the Voices of Women TodayM. Catherine Hilkert, OP, writes of Catherine:

Amid plague and wars, poverty and papal politics, hunger for survival and hunger for the Word of God, she heard a call to do what women did not do. She embraced a vocation to preach on hillsides and to the curia, to pray in the classic language of the church and in words that had the authority of only her experience to share the mission of her brother preachers when women of the word were supposed to be enclosed in monasteries. She initiated a ministry of peacemaking in a world of politics where she had little expertise; she took stands in complex political situations. When she could not see the way forward, she nevertheless voiced words of protest to family and friends, to world and church: this cannot go on. Even as a young woman she gathered friends and disciples and shared with them the unspeakable joy of God’s love. Without the appropriate education or titles, she authored letters that changed people’s lives and became classics of Italian literature. The theological and mystical classic for which she has been recognized as Doctor of Wisdom reflects the riches of the tradition, but also adds new insights to that same tradition. The scriptures and the liturgy of the church formed her into both devoted disciple and keen critic.

Catherine of Siena writing

Everlasting God, you so kindled the flame of holy love in the heart of blessed Catherine of Siena, as she meditated on the passion of your Son our Savior, that she devoted her life to the poor and the sick, and to the peace and unity of the Church: Grant that we also may share in the mystery of Christ’s death, and rejoice in the revelation of his glory; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. — Collect for the Feast of Catherine of Siena, from the Episcopal Church’s Holy Women, Holy Men

5 thoughts

  1. Thanks for posting this, Bridget! How neat was it that the Anglican Bishop of London began his homily for William and Kate’s wedding with this line from Catherine:

    “‘Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.’ So said St Catherine of Siena whose festival day it is today.”

    1. That’s great, Dan — I consciously avoided the wedding coverage, so I didn’t know that Catherine got a mention in the homily. I’m impressed at the sense of mutuality and equality in that homily, as well — I have been at too many weddings recently where there has been a very explicit Christ / God : Church / humanity :: husband : wife element.

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