This year marks the 50th anniversary of the declaration by Pope Saint Paul VI confirming St. Catherine of Siena as a Doctor of the Church. St. Catherine of Siena was named co-patron of Europe in 1999 by St. John Paul, II. Not bad for someone that was the 24th daughter of a cloth dyer from Siena.
She was a remarkable woman. She knew who she was and whom she was created to be. Remember her most famous quote: “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”
She was the living embodiment of the feminine genius spoken about by St. John Paul II, exemplified in her life by spiritual motherhood. Catherine lived her life as a married woman, one espoused to Christ. Remember her words:
“Recall, dearest children, that I have given my life for the Holy Church.” St. Catherine was, above all else, a woman. And it is her femininity which allows her to speak to priests, to prelates, and to popes and to be heard, much more so than any cleric ever would be.
St. Catherine can teach us three “P”s: First “P” — prayer: Catherine spoke often about her prayer life. She wrote: “The cell will no longer be your usual home; indeed, for the salvation of souls you shall also leave your city … you shall bear the honor of my name and my doctrine to small or great, be they lay, clergy or religious. I shall place on your mouth a wisdom, which no one can resist. I shall lead you before Pontiffs, Heads of the Churches and of the Christian people, so that through the weak, as is my way of acting, I shall humiliate the pride of the strong.” She is the model of the Christian who bridges the active and the contemplative. From this Doctor, we can learn to pray!
The second “P” — pope. This relationship is perhaps what Catherine is most famous for in history, her work in bringing Pope Gregory XI back from the Avignon exile to where he should be and then establishing Urban VI in Rome as the legitimate pontiff. Catherine saw the humanity of the popes firsthand, up close and personal, as it were. But she referred to the pope as the “sweet Christ on earth,” always giving him reverence and respect while being able to gently chide and direct him. In the innocence of a baby daughter, she referred to the Pope as “my kindest daddy.”
From this Doctor we can learn to love the Pope as the Vicar of Christ and that Pontiff, that Bridge, and center of unity! The third and final “P” — priests. Catherine loved her priests. She revered them. She recognized when they had fallen and failed, and she still revered the office and loved them individually. Catherine wanted her priests to be holy. She had a task given to her by Christ. The Lord told her: “Intervene to eliminate the stink of the ministers of the Holy Church; pull out the stinking flowers and plant scented plants, virtuous men who fear God.” From this Doctor of the Church, we can learn to love our priests and by our prayers and our own Christian example, inspire our priests to greater holiness!
Yes, St. Catherine is one of our greatest saints and one of the greatest doctors of the Church. Take some time to learn about her, to pray through her intercession, and to celebrate her legacy 50 years since her declaration as a Doctor of the Church.