St. Catherine of Siena: Christ’s Beloved Laborer

Today, the Church celebrates the Memorial of Saint Catherine of Siena, whose life reflects today’s gospel,  where Jesus invites us to find rest in him. St. Catherine serves as a model of this. She was a woman of action, but the heart of everything she did was for the sake of Christ and his Church.

St. Catherine was born in Siena, Italy on the Solemnity of the Annunciation. She was the twenty-third of twenty-five children, however, many of her siblings did not survive to adulthood.

Catherine’s family lived in the midst of the Black Plague, which killed up to one-third of the population of Europe. She grew up in a time where Europe was losing faith in Christ, in part because of the crisis that surrounded it. The pope resided in Avignon, France, although he was still the bishop of Rome.

Regardless, Catherine grew up intensely religious, often protesting against her parent’s efforts to marry her off. She loved Christ and wanted to give her life to him.

At age 18, she entered the Third Order (lay) Dominicans, an order typically reserved for widows and elderly. She lived a secluded, contemplative life, but wrote letters to men, women, priest, and religious, offering them spiritual guidance and advice. Eventually, people began gathering around her, seeking her counsel. Her influence spread up the ranks of the Vatican to the pope himself.

She eventually began to travel, calling for reform in the broken church, and urging people to pray and fast for healing and love God totally.

Catherine played a key role in stabilizing the papacy after the Avignon Papacy. Through letters and visits, she convinced Pope Gregory XI to return from Avignon to Rome.

She wrote over 380 letters to church leaders and lay people. Because of her writings, she was named one of three female doctors of the Church. She is also the only lay Doctor of the Church.

Like Christ, Catherine died when she was 33 years old.

Catherine was a woman of action. When she saw an injustice, especially surrounding her beloved church, she acted, consecrating her work to Christ and letting him heal his broken church through her.

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Hannah Crites is a native to Denver Colorado and graduate of the Franciscan University of Steubenville. She has written for numerous publications and blogs including the Chastity Project, Washington Times, Faith & Culture: The Journal of the Augustine Institute, and Franciscan Magazine. She is currently working in content and digital marketing for a small web development and digital marketing agency. Connect with her through Twitter (@hannah_crites) and Facebook. Check out more of what she has written at