Saint Catherine of Siena was born March 25, 1347 in Italy. This was during the time of the Black Death. She is believed to have had her first vision of Christ when she was 5 or 6 years old. At 7 years old she gave her life to Christ. When Catherine was 16, her older sister died giving birth. Her parents wanted Catherine to marry, her sister’s former husband. Catherine did not want to do that. She began fasting. She also cut off her hair as a protest.
She began serving her family humbly, to grow spiritually. To be humble means to show a great deal of respect to others and to make others more important than yourself. She refused to marry. She had a vision of Saint Dominic. She chose to live a life as the Dominicans did the Dominicans live a life of prayer and service. Then she became seriously ill. This caused her parents to change their mind, and allow her to join the Dominicans. Once she joined, her health was restored.
She was allowed to be a Third Order Dominican. This meant she would not enter a convent but would still belong to a religious community. She returned home to live with her family. Dominican sisters taught her how to read. She chose to live in almost total silence and solitude in her family home.
It was her custom to give away clothing or food without asking anyone. This was expensive for her family, but she never asked for anything for herself. She said she didn’t need to eat, she was waiting for her table in Heaven.
In 1368, when she was 21 she had vision of Jesus where she was told to leave her life of solitude. She rejoined her family. She helped the poor and the sick. She took care of them in hospitals or at their homes. She had many people who started following her. She then began to travel to central and northern Italy. She told people to repent and renew their love of God. She wrote letters and preached asking for peace between the regions of Italy. She asked the seat of the Church be returned from Avignon back to Rome.
She returned to Rome in 1377, and formed a convent. For most of her life she fasted. Even when she was ordered to eat properly she could not. On April 21, 1380, she suffered a stroke. She died eight days later on April 29. She is the patron saint of the United States, Italy, fire prevention, and nurses.