St. Catherine of Sienna

Friends in Christ, today is the Feast of St. Catherine of Sienna. Catherine was born in 1347, the youngest of 25 children.  She was very smart and also very beautiful. As a child even then, she loved penance: when 5 years old, she would climb the stairs on her knees saying a ‘Hail Mary’ on each step.  
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One day when she was 6, she was walking along with her brother, when suddenly, looking at the sky, she saw Jesus surrounded by light, he was smiling; he blessed her, then vanished. From then on, Catherine’s soul was on fire for God.  
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When still quite young she made a vow to live only for the Lord and never marry. She denied herself many comforts in order to offer these to God. She ate mostly boiled vegetables and slept on the ground.    
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Because Catherine was so beautiful and charming, her parents began to make plans for her to marry a respectable man. But she said that she wished to live only for God and be a Sister, but they would not hear of it; her mother said she was too pretty to be a sister! So Catherine prayed that she would be sick and ugly.  Eventually however, her parents agreed, and when she was 18 she became a 3rd order Dominican sister.  
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Jesus once appeared to her and offered her two crowns: one of gold, the other of thorns. Choose, he said. She took the crown of thorns and pushed it onto her head.
One day when the Sisters were feeing the poor, there was not enough bread for everyone; Catherine however, just kept handing it out and it multiplied to feed all.
Now in those days, the Popes had been living in France, not Rome, because Rome was dangerous. But everyone knew that the Pope should be in Rome; so Catherine wrote numerous letters to the Pope, telling him to return to Rome.     She herself, finally went to France and told him, he must return to Rome. The French Bishops tried to tell the Holy Father that Catherine was not so smart and should not be heard. They called her before them and asked her all kinds of difficult theological questions, which she answered perfectly each time. Even though she never studied, the Holy Spirit gave her the Gift of Knowledge to answer.  Catherine was so highly respected in those days, that the Pope DID listen to her and returned to Rome.
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She was given the miraculous stigmata, the wounds of Jesus on hands and feet, and she often ate nothing except the Holy Eucharist; There was a period of 85 days straight, when only Holy Communion sustained her. She died at the age of 33, a magnificent light for the Church, in her short life.

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