Today is the feast of St. Catherine of Siena, Doctor of the Church, Dominican mystic, and papal advisor. She was born in 1347 in Siena, Italy, the youngest of 25 children of the Benincasa family.
Here's more from Our Sunday Visitor's Encyclopedia of Saints, by Dr. Matthew Bunson:
She became a Dominican tertiary at sixteen, experiencing visions and
periods of spiritual dryness. In the local hospital, Catherine cared for
cancer victims and lepers. Her supernatural gifts brought about
resentment from her Dominican sisters, and charges were leveled against
her. At a meeting of the Dominicans in Florence, she was cleared and
provided with a spiritual director, Blessed Raymond of Capua.
Returning to Siena, Catherine cared for plague victims and condemned
prisoners. Her holiness attracted many followers and led to her being
called upon as peacemaker and counselor. She supported Pope Gregory XI
(r. 1370-1378) in his crusade against the Turks and visited Pisa in
While in Pisa, Catherine received the stigmata, which remained
invisible until she died. Catherine also promoted peace between the pope
and the city of Florence. Meeting Gregory XI in Avignon, France, she
successfully counseled the Holy Father to restore the papacy to Rome in
1376. Upon returning to Siena, Catherine devoted herself to recording
her mystical experiences. Her Dialogue was published as a result.
When Pope Gregory died in 1378, the subsequent conclave elected Pope
Urban VI (r. 1378-1389). When, however, a group of dissident cardinals
rejected Urban’s election and chose instead an antipope, Robert of
Geneva, as Clement VII, they launched the Great Schism. The schism
troubled the Church well into the next century. Catherine was called to
Rome, where she counseled Urban VI and tried to summon support for him
throughout the Church. She suffered a paralytic stroke on April 21, and
died on April 29, 1380.
Catherine of Siena was canonized in 1461. In 1939, she was made
patroness of Italy, and in 1970, was declared a Doctor of the Church by
Pope Paul VI (r. 1963-1978). She has been the patroness of Rome since
1866, and patroness of the dying. She is invoked against headaches and
the plague. Her mortal remains are in Rome, and her relics are enshrined
in Siena and Venice. She was named co-patroness of Europe, with St.
Brigid of Sweden and St. Edith Stein, on October 1, 1999, by Pope John