Patron Saint of the United States – Saint Catherine of Siena

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.

First US born saint- Katharine Drexel

Katharine Drexel was born in Philadelphia, on November 26, 1858.  Her mother died just after her birth.  She and her older sister were raised by an aunt and uncle for a few years until their father remarried. She had a third sister after she returned to her father’s home. She and her sisters were educated at home by private tutors.  They regularly toured Europe with their family. Twice a week the Drexel family gave food, clothing, and money to those in need.  They always gave quietly to protect the dignity of those in need.

Katharine attended dances and other social functions. Her step-mother became ill. This taught Katharine money could not keep her from pain or death. She had always been interested in the Native Americans. She saw their suffering and poverty. She wanted to do something specific to help. After her father died in 1885, Katharine and her sisters donated money to the St. Francis Mission in South Dakota.

She was considering joining a religious order. Her spiritual mentor told her to wait and pray. The Drexel sisters went to Europe in 1886. In January 1887, they were seen by Pope Leo XIII.  They asked him for missionaries to help some of the Indian missions.  Pope Leo suggested Katherine become a missionary herself. She met again with her spiritual mentor and entered the Sisters of Mercy in 1889.

On February 12, 1891, she took religious vows. She began working with Native Americans and African Americans in the southwestern United States.  She was soon joined by 13 other sisters. She established a religious order. After three years, she and her followers opened her first boarding schools in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

By the time she died, she established 145 missions, 50 schools for African American 12, schools for Native Americans. She helped establish Xavier University of Louisiana. This is the only historically black Catholic college in the United States.

She died on March 3, 1955, at the age of 96.

Saint Scholastica

Saint Scholastica was born around 480 in Italy. Her parents were wealthy. She dedicated her life to God from the time she was very young. Her father depended on her after Scholastica’s mother had died, and didn’t want her to go, but he could not refuse God his child.  She is the twin sister of Saint Benedict, who formed the Benedictine order. They grew up together until he left home to continue his studies. He created a monastery near Monte Cassino.  She created the first Benedictine convent for nuns about five miles from his monastery.  They visited each other once a year.  She was not allowed in his monastery, so they met at a home between the two monasteries. They spent their visits praying and discussing spiritual matters.  

At one of these meetings, St. Scholastica begged her brother to stay until the next day.  St. Benedict refused to break his own rule that he not spend the night outside of his monastery.  She prayed and a major thunderstorm came.  It was storming so hard no one could return home. Benedict asked, “What have you done?”

She answered. “I asked and you would not listen, so I asked my God and He did listen.”

So they spent the rest of the night praying, discussion the faith, and the power of prayer.  The next day, both left.  Three days later Saint Scholastica died. In a vision, Saint Benedict saw her soul, in the form of a shining white dove go to heaven.  She died in 543.  Benedict had her buried in the tomb he had prepared for himself.  She is the patron saint of nuns and against thunderstorms.