The Virgin with Sts. Catherine of Siena, Rose of Lima and Agnes of Montepulciano

BANNER Number 9

Saint Catherine of Siena


April 30


 Born on March 25 at Siena, Italy, daughter of a dyer and the youngest of twenty-five children, she began to have the mystical experiences she was to have all her life when she was only six. She resisted all efforts of her parents to have her marry and devoted herself to prayer and fasting. She became a Dominican tertiary when she was sixteen and increasingly experienced visions of Christ, Mary, and the saints, interspersed with diabolical visions and periods of spiritual aridity. She ministered to the ill in hospitals, devoting herself to caring for patients with particularly distressing illnesses like leprosy and advanced cancer cases. Her supernatural gifts attracted ardent supporters, but many believed she was a faker and caused her to be brought before a chapter general of the Dominicans in Florence, where the accusations were dismissed. At this time, BI. Raymond of Capua was appointed her confessor, in time became her disciple, and later was her biographer. On her return to Siena, she devoted herself to caring for those stricken by a plague that devastated the city, ministered to condemned prisoners, and was acclaimed for her holiness, aid to the spiritually troubled, and abilities as a peacemaker. She whole-heartedly supported Pope Gregory Xl's call for a crusade against the Turks, and while on a visit to Pisa in 1375 [a visit that brought on a religious revival in that city] received the stigmata, invisible during her lifetime but clearly apparent at the time of her death. She was unsuccessful in attempting to mediate between Florence and Pope Gregory, but her meeting with the Pontiff in Avignon and her urging led him to return the papacy to Rome in 1376. At his request, she again returned to Florence, and this time she was successful in reconciling Florence and the Holy See. On her return to Siena, she devoted herself to recording her mystical experiences, which were published as the Dialogue of St. Catherine. On Gregory's death in 1378, the Great Schism began when Urban VI's election as Pope was contested by a group of dissident cardinals, who elected Robert of Geneva antipope Clement VII at Fondi and set up a papal court at Avignon. Catherine worked unceasingly to secure support for Urban and end the schism, though never hesitating to censure Urban for some of his actions. He welcomed her criticisms and brought her to Rome, where she continued her efforts to gain support for him. She suffered a paralytic stroke on April 21 and died in Rome a few days later, on April 29. Catherine was one of the greatest of Christian mystics. In addition to her Dialogue, some four hundred of her letters to people in every class of society are still extant. She was canonized in 1461, made patron of Italy in 1939, and was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI in 1970.

Saint Rose of Lima

August 23

d. 1586

 Isabel de Santa Maria de Flores was born at Lima, Peru, of Spanish parents and took the name Rose at confirmation. Noted for her beauty, she resisted her parents' efforts to have her marry and practiced great austerities, taking St. Catherine of Siena as her model from her childhood days. She became a Dominican tertiary, lived as a recluse in a shack in the garden she had worked to help her parents, who had fallen on difficult times, and experienced mystical gifts and visions of such an extraordinary nature that a commission of priests and doctors was appointed to examine her. They decided they were of supernatural origin. Stories of her holiness spread, and her garden became the spiritual center of the city; when earthquakes strock nearby, her prayers were credited with sparing Lima. In ill health, she accepted the offer of Don Gonzalo de Massa and his wife to take care of her, and she spent the last three years of her life in their home in Lima and died there on August 24. She was canonized in 1671 by Pope Clement X, the first Saint of the New World. She is patroness of South America.

Saint Agnes of Montepulciano

April 20

c. 1268-1317

 Born in Gracchiano-Vecchio, Tuscany, she entered the convent at nearby Montepulciano when only nine. When a new convent was opened at Procena she was transferred there and soon became abbess although only fifteen, attracting many postulants by the sanctity and austerity of her life. About 1300 the inhabitants lured her back to Montepulciano by building a new convent of which she became prioress, and which she put under the Dominican rule. She was famous for her visions [she was reported to have received Communion from an Angel and held the infant Christ in her arms], experienced levitation, and performed many miracles. She died in the convent at Montepulciano, and was canonized in 1726.


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