5 Stunning Facts about Saint Catherine of Siena

Saint Catherine of Siena was one of the greatest followers of Christ. Her ability to articulate to Gospel and her ability to charitably bring the papacy to reform are among the key reasons she is one of my favorite saints. My youngest daughter is even named after this amazing saint. Here’s five amazing facts about Catherine.

Catherine of Siena

25 Kids and Counting

While it may seem astronomical to us, having 25 children was not insane back in the Middle Ages. Due to the low infant mortality rate and disease, families gave born to many children but unfortunately few survived to adulthood. Catherine was the 25th child born to her mother, but only half of her siblings survived childhood!

Still, it is incredible to think that if Catherine’s parents lived in today’s society, it would be very likely they would not have been as open to live of so many children. It is astounding that God works in miraculous ways to take one of the youngest of such a large family to grace her with the eventual title of Doctor of the Church!

None of the Nunnery

I always believed that Catherine was part of a religious order and lived in a convent  similar to spiritual greats like Therese of Lisieux and Teresa of Avila. After reading more about her, I learned that she actually never spent time in a convent.  Instead, Catherine joined the Third Order of St. Dominic. This permitted her to associate with a religious society while remaining within the confines of her home.

Gone too Soon

Why do the most innocent and vibrant of souls perish too early? From film stars to sports figures that perished at a young age, to maybe someone within your life that died too soon, it is natural to question the purpose of an early death. While I do not have the answer to that question, I found it interesting that Catherine of Siena died at the mere age of 33—the exact age that Jesus Christ was crucified, died, and buried!

Never Let Obstacles Get in Your Way

It would have been easy for Catherine to give up when she wrote the pope but she remained steadfast. Her persistence and charity were instrumental in convincing Pope Gregory XI to return from Avignon to Rome.

Catherine of Siena quote

Unseen Suffering

The stigmata are wounds certain saints received on their hands and/or feet. It is a sign of their closeness to Christ and was given to them as a reminder for Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross. In the case of Catherine, the stigmata wounds were visible only to her. She accepted this unique suffering with grace and hope in God’s Providence.

God raises up holy individuals in times of great need. Saint Catherine of Siena is a perfect role model for Catholics in the 21st century in a world where it’s common to be less than enthusiastic about the faith. May we ask for her help to grow in love and devotion to God.

“Be who you were created to be, and you will set the world on fire.”

― St. Catherine of Siena

Related Links

Spiritual Surgeons—Saint Catherine of Siena

Saint Catherine of Siena’s Miracle in My Life

How Saint Catherine of Siena Leads You to God

St. Catherine of Siena: Saint of the Eucharist

Catherine of Siena Novena

 

 

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Book Review— St. Maria Goretti: A Journey into Forgiveness and Redemption

Forgiving people who wronged you can be tough. Jesus constantly told his disciples to show mercy and forgive. People who have modeled excellence in virtue and holiness can be canonized as official saints in the Catholic Church. They reflect the light of Christ in the world.

Sometimes it seems like the saints are people who are inaccessible to the ordinary person. But when you break it down the path to holiness is simple (not the same as easy)— love like Jesus.

I had the pleasure of reading a book about an amazing saint who reflected Jesus’ love throughout her life— Saint Maria Goretti. Authored by Bret Thoman A Journey into Forgiveness and Redemption details the young saint’s life, death, and canonization process.

Saint Maria Goretti

Thoman begins his book with a chapter on Maria’s parents: Luigi and Assunta Goretti. I have sometimes doubted the impact I could have on my kids and their faith journey. I was reminded of the importance of showing love in the family after reading about the saint’s parents. Holiness is a habit not an isolated event. Maria didn’t randomly decide to follow Jesus. She experienced a personal love from her parents and witnessed the love they displayed to each other.

The book continues to chart out Maria’s life and describes her interaction with her parents, siblings, and faith. Thoman brings a realness to her story interweaving accounts from his pilgrimage to Italy and important places from Maria’s life. This alternating pattern between biography and personal pilgrimage captured my attention throughout the book.

I especially enjoyed the chapter on Alessandro Serenelli. It drew me into Maria Goretti’s story even more. I had some familiarity with her story and death but didn’t realize her murderer actually lived with her family for several years before he committed the horrendous act.

After the death of her father Luigi, Maria’s family had to share a house with the Serenellis. Alessandro came to consider the Goretti’s like a family and Maria as a sister. However, he began to make sexual advances towards Maria. He sunk further into this sinful behavior, and it eventually led to her death on July 6th, 1902, when he stabbed Maria to death after an attempted rape.

The harrowing details of Maria’s death in A Journey into Forgiveness and Redemption were uncomfortable to read at times, but it displayed how connected she was to Jesus until the end. Maria was able to forgive Alessandro even as she lay on the floor dying. Something I take for granted being a cradle Catholic is the notion of forgiveness. It sometimes seems like an idea into of a reality. Of course, we need to forgive (seven times seventy even!) but to forgive someone when you are in the most painful and horrifying situation is sanctity of another world.

Thoman’s book provided an intimate look into the Italian saint’s life. I enjoyed the number of details he gives of Saint Maria Goretti’s life, death, and the redemption of Alessandro. This book is an excellent read about a holy witness to the faith!

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6 Cool Facts about Saint Joan of Arc

Over the course of the past 500 years, Saint Joan of Arc has experienced arguably more variance of opinion than any other figure in the Catholic Church. Born in 1412 the French saint grew up during the Hundred Years War—the most turbulent time in the history of England and France. She led a siege on the English which proving instrumental, and as a turning point toward France’s ultimate victory. Vilified by a pro-English bishop, Joan was burned at the stake in 1431 as a heretic.

Although cleared of charges by Pope Callixtus III in in 1456, Joan was not officially canonized a saint until 1920—by Pope Benedict XV. Patron saint of soldiers and France, Joan also serves as a solid role model for women and for those facing corruption. Along with her being an epic national heroine for France, here are six other amazing facts you should know about St. Joan of Arc.

Saint Joan of Arc

She was a tenacious teenager

Parents of children currently in middle and high school are quite aware of the fieriness of teenagers. Joan was no example. Dying at the mere age of 19, she accomplished more than the average adolescent. Aided by the Holy Spirit, Joan withstood the intense scrutiny of the ecclesial court trial. Listen to this portion of her 8th Privation Examination to get a sense of the hard-lined questioning she faced:

Examiner: “Do you know if Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret hate the English?”

Joan: “They love what God loves: they hate what God hates.”

Examiner: “Does God hate the English?”

Joan: “Of the love or hate God may have for the English, or of what He will do for their souls, I know nothing; but I know quite well that they will be put out of France, except those who shall die there, and that God will send victory to the French against the English.”

Examiner: “Was God for the English when they were prospering in France?”

Joan: “I do not know if God hated the French; but I believe that He wished them to be defeated for their sins, if they were in sin.”

Sounding like a typically obstinate teen, at least to prideful clergy, Joan quipped back without being baited into judging the English. She was simply carrying out the will of God!

She experienced victory through her visions

A second amazing fact about the life of Joan of Arc is that she received visions and guidance from God, angels, and saints. The most common “Voices” as she initially called them included a star-studded crew: St. Michael the Archangel, St. Catherine of Siena, and St. Margaret of Antioch. The French saint achieved hope and strength in the face of adversity because of her devotion to the saints. In the Second Private Examination, Joan was questioned about the role of her visions. Here is a sample of that exchange:

Examiner: “Has not the Angel, then, failed you with regard to the good things of this life, in that you have been taken prisoner?”

Joan: “I think, as it has pleased Our Lord, that it is for my well-being that I was taken prisoner.”

Examiner: “Has your Angel never failed you in the good things of grace ?”

Joan: “How can he fail me, when he comforts me every day? My comfort comes from Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret.”

Examiner: “Do you call them, or do they come without being called?”

Joan: “They often come without being called; and other times, if they do not come soon, I pray Our Lord to send them.”

She had complete trust in her convictions

Saint Joan of Arc quote

Another interesting thing about Joan was her complete and utter trust. Her convictions were so strong that she even ran away from home to join the army. This left her parents distraught! Certainly, if my children suddenly disappeared without my knowledge I would be full of worry. God does work in mysterious ways. Seriously though, he guided a young girl to join the ranks of the military! Not sure if I would possess that much trust.

As crazy and reckless Joan’s decision was she trusted in a greater Divine Plan. If you ever get told to trust in God’s will plan for the unexpected
— Joan definitely did!

She wore antagonistic apparel

While Joan’s expeditious enrollment into the French army seems odd enough, her refusal to don women’s clothing throughout her trial is even more interesting. As I read over a hundred pages of trial documents including both public and private cross examinations, a common theme persisted: her insistence to wear her military uniform. Maybe it was to gain influence in a male-dominated society. Perhaps Joan genuinely hated dresses. Regardless, she definitely would be considered a “tomboy” by today’s standards.

Her fashion idiosyncrasies together with her persistent temper certainly surprised the prosecution. So much that Joan was given at least 5 times to switch her garb. The next time a Catholic student complains about the uniform advise them at least it is not a life or death matter!

She was also intellectually brilliant

A fifth fact about St. Joan that I found truly amazing was her theological acumen. Along with being a courageous solider, she has great insight to offer the faithful. The Catechism of the Catholic Church directly references Joan four times: CCC 223, 435, 795, and 2005. When Joan’s judges attempted to create a false dichotomy and trap her into siding with God or the Church, she quipped, “About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they’re just one thing, and we shouldn’t complicate the matter.” The wisdom and simplicity of her response reminds me of Jesus’ interrogation by Pilate.

She was likely a Southpaw

The sixth fact about St. Joan of Arc that I found fascinating relates to penmanship. According to modern handwriting experts, the French saint may have actually been left-handed. They determined this by looking at the stroke angles of the surviving manuscripts with her signature (https://www.jeanne-darc.info/biography/letters/ ) As a fellow southpaw, this is a cool connection I have with Joan. If you have a left-handed family member or friend please share this neat fact with them!

Joan of Arc exhibited high moral character in spite of a hostile secular and religious climate. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI spoke exceptionally of her in his January 26th, 2011 General Audience:

Dear brothers and sisters, with her luminous witness St Joan of Arc invites us to a high standard of Christian living: to make prayer the guiding motive of our days; to have full trust in doing God’s will, whatever it may be; to live charity without favouritism, without limits and drawing, like her, from the Love of Jesus a profound love for the Church. 

Let us also trust in God with the same fervor and consistently as St. Joan of Arc. Lead us in the battle of sin and into communion with our Savior Jesus Christ!

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How Saint Rita of Cascia’s Story is Impossibly Beautiful

The process pearls are created is a wonder of wonder. A speck of sand or small piece of a shell finds it’s way inside an oyster. Due to the irritant, the oyster secretes a substance called nacre. It covers the irritant and over time (on average seven years) the nacre builds up to form a beautiful pearl.

Rita of Cascia— Beautifully Holy Saint

God often works in a person’s spiritual life like a grain of sand provokes the oyster. Over the course of time, God allows individuals to suffer, participate in the Passion of His Son Jesus Christ, as a means to grow in holiness. One of the greatest saints whose life mirrored the beauty of a pearl is Saint Rita of Cascia.

Rita of Cascia

Rita was born in 1381 in the republic of Cascia. In the local dialect her name meant “pearl” (what a coincidence!). Growing up, Rita became acquainted with the Augustinian nuns of St. Mary Magdalene Monastery. Their lifestyle attracted Rita but her parents wanted her to marry. Rita had an arranged marriage to Paolo Mancini and had two sons.

The political climate of her time was volatile (not unlike today). Fighting between families broke out often.  Rita’s husband was murdered as a result of this violence. She already was following the will of God when she gave forgiveness to her husband’s murderers. Shortly after, both of her sons fell seriously ill and died. Instead of allowing the loss of her entire family cripple her spiritually, Rita plunged further into trusting God’s Providence.

Rita sought to join the religious life after 18 years of marriage. Initially, the Augustinian nuns rejected her requests because Rita’s extended family still refused to forgive her husband’s killers. Her peacekeeping and persistence finally helped her family (and others in the region) reconcile and give up hatred.

At the age of 36, Rita was accepted into the religious life under the Rule of Saint Augustine. She lived out this vocation for forty years. Shortly before dying, Rita received one of the wounds of Christ— the crown of thorns.

Patron Saint of Impossible Causes

One of the things Rita of Cascia is most known for is her patronage of impossible causes. God works in mysterious and wonderful ways. He allowed Rita to experience the full gamut of life: daughter, wife, mother, widow, and religious nun. Seemingly ordinary vocations, the process by which God allowed Rita to follow those paths was anything but ordinary.

Rita of Cascia crown of thorns

Forgiving those who have hurt you may seem like an impossible task sometimes. How can you find it in your heart to show mercy to those who bitterly rejected or hated you? Rejection is a natural part of life. But continual rejection? It can make even the most ardent wills downcast and doubt God’s plan.

Three years ago, my wife and I thought she was going to miscarry our youngest daughter. She had some bleeding and other same signs as our previous miscarriages. We implored the intercession of many saints—Rita of Cascia was one of them. Since Mother’s Day 2017, my wife and I had never forgotten to include Saint Rita in our nightly litany.

Rita is an excellent saint to petition for help. We all experienced chaos, tumult, and confusion the past year. No matter your circumstance please take refuge in the fact God uses all things for good (Romans 8:28).


Dear St. Rita,
during your entire life on earth
you found your happiness by following the will of our heavenly Father.

Help me to be as trusting of God in all His plans for me.
Help me this day to give myself to Him as you did,
without limit, without fear, without counting the cost.

Help me to be generous in serving the needs of others,
patient in all difficulties,
forgiving toward all who injure me.

Help me to learn more deeply the great mystery of the Cross of Jesus,
so that by embracing it as you did,
I may come to experience its power to heal and to save. Amen.

Related Links

St. Rita of Cascia: Hope for the Impossible!

Rita of Cascia: Catholic Answers

Prayers to St. Rita

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3 Reasons Why St. Athanasius is My Favorite Saint!

I never even heard of Saint Athanasius during my formative years in Catholic education. Now he’s my favorite Catholic saint! I first learned of Athanasius when I was taking a Master’s course on the Trinity. With today being the feast day of St. Athanasius I want to share three key things about his life that make him my favorite saint of all-time!

fighter silhouette

Fighter against Heresy

 Born in 296 A.D, Athanasius grew up in arguably the most chaotic time for the Catholic Church. A sinister heresy known as Arianism infested the 4th century Church. This heresy asserted that Jesus was not the Son of God, but simply the highest creation created by God to carry out His works. Arianism rejected the dogma of the Incarnation. St. Athanasius championed truth with his role in the 1st Ecumenical Council at Nicea. Here the Nicene Creed proclaimed the belief in the Trinity officially laid out in dogmatic decree. Without God working through the person of Athanasius, Christianity may have suffered greatly from Arianism. We proclaim with St. Athanasius,

Holy Trinity

 

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.

Grassroots Movement

Along with fighting Arianism doctrinally, Athanasius as bishop of Alexandria shepherded his diocese toward truth. He talked the talk and walked the walk. Often at odds with the secular leaders of his day, Athanasius was exiled five times by various emperors including Constantine’s son Emperor Constantius II. Athanasius even lived with monks during one of his banishments— for six years!

The exile of Athanasius didn’t stop his supporters. His is holy witness galvanized the faithful to push for his continual return despite his many exiles. I have great respect for anyone who witnesses to truth despite such threats.

 Athanasius―Promoter of Holiness

The last reason that St. Athanasius is my favorite saint is his promotion of sanctity. Besides championing orthodoxy at the Council of Nicaea, Athanasius is maybe most well-known for his support of asceticism. Athanasius wrote Life of St. Antony—which become a best-seller in his time—and helped spread the acetic movement throughout the Church. I was drawn to the witness of St. Antony’s life of holiness when I read his biography by St. Athanasius. I am grateful for this gift!

Saint Athanasius

Saint Athanasius pray for us!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hope to make up for my early years without knowledge of St. Athanasius—nicknamed the “Pillar of Orthodoxy”—by spreading his story in as many ways possible. I will be sure to wrote more about him in the future. If you have time today, please think about reading the divine office today for his feast day and thanking God for Athanasius’ gift of courage in standing up for truth and for having such a cool name to say as well. May God continue to grant us courage in promoting the truth of the Gospel!

Related Links

Selected Quotes from St. Athanasius—the Hammer of Orthodoxy

Saint Athanasius: New Advent

The True Lesson of St. Athanasius

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Spiritual Surgeons— Saint Isidore of Seville

doctors of the church

 

 

 

 

 

Facebook, Google, and Youtube are all familiar terms in people’s vocabulary in the 21st century. The spread of information through the Internet allows for people to keep in touch and to stay updated with news around the world in mere minutes— sometimes even seconds.

The Catholic Church even has a saint dedicated as the patron of the Internet. His name is Saint Isidore of Seville. As a bishop he brought unity to present-day Spain in the 7th century. Yes, you heard me right, Isidore lived in the 600s! Why was he chosen as patron of the Internet? Almost all our daily routines contain things not even invented his Isidore’s time!

say what gif

In 1997 Pope John Paul II named Isidore as patron of the Internet. This is due to the structure of his writings was similar to that of databases. Isidore desired unity. He brought peace to a society devastated by years of war and united all Christians in Spain. As Doctor of the Church, Isidore’s writing promote unity and healing for those suffering separation or doubts about the faith.

isidore of seville

We can also use the Internet in a similar fashion to evangelize and advocate ecumenism among various Christian denominations. This can occur through teaching friends via social media about the Church or even educating yourself on Catholic doctrine.

Be in Good Company

surround yourself with the best

According to Orpah Winfrey, “Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher.” Timeless advice, St. Isidore definitely stood in good company. Pope Benedict XVI, in his General Audience on June 18, 2008, as ”
He was a younger brother of Leander, Archbishop of Seville, and a great friend of Pope Gregory the Great.” His humility and fervor for knowledge helper him to better evangelize the Visigoths and other converts to Christianity at the time. The emeritus pope put it this way, “The wealth of cultural knowledge that Isidore had assimilated enabled him to constantly compare the Christian newness with the Greco-Roman cultural heritage (
General Audience on June 18, 2008).

Isidore— An Excellent Teacher

Commonly referred to as the Schoolmaster of the Middle Ages, Isidore acted as a true model of Christ the Teacher for the Catholic Church as a whole. Setting up rigorous schools and seminaries, the saint desired to properly form the newly converted Visigoths in the faith. The words of the 15th Council of Toledo, in 688, sums up Isidore’s character best, “The extraordinary doctor, the latest ornament of the Catholic Church, the most learned man of the latter ages, always to be named with reverence, Isidore.”

Isidore, archbishop of Seville, ranks as an outstanding leader in the Church during the 7th century. His personal acumen along with the desire to catalogue human knowledge with precision makes him the perfect patron for the internet, computer technicians, and computer users!

internet

While you surf the net, reflect on life St. Isidore. Seek to imitate his life by uniting Christians and all humans around you in worship of Jesus Christ. 

Prayer Before Logging onto Internet

Almighty and eternal God, who created us in Thy image and bade us to seek after all that is good, true and beautiful, especially in the divine person of Thy only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, grant we beseech Thee, that, through the intercession of Saint Isidore, bishop and doctor, during our journeys through the internet we will direct our hands and eyes only to that which is pleasing to Thee and treat with charity and patience all those souls whom we encounter. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Sources

Benedict XVI General Audience: June 18, 2008

Patron Saint of the Internet

Related Links

Spiritual Surgeons— Saint Alphonsus Liguori

Spiritual Surgeons—Saint Lawrence of Brindisi

Spiritual Surgeons— Clean Out the Wounds of Your Soul with Saint Teresa of Avila

Spiritual Surgeons—Saint Catherine of Siena

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Book Review― A Catholic Field Guide to Fairy Tale Princesses


“Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” ― G.K. Chesterton


I’ve always been a fan of fairy tales and fantasy stories. The appeal initially began with the wonderful plots and scenery. But it’s the character development (at least in Disney renditions of the fairy tales) that continues to enchant me to revisit these tales. In the book A Catholic Field Guide to Fairy Tale Princesses: Modern Virtues in Tales as Old as Time, author Therese Zoe Williams examines a panoply of classic and modern princesses and the virtues they espouse.

A Catholic Field Guide to Disney Princesses

One of the challenges Catholics faces is how to evangelize in a secular modern not in line with traditional Catholic Church teaching. Followers of Jesus know this world is not our home. It’s a pilgrimage towards the next reality― Heaven. But this doesn’t mean we should flee from worldly things completely or never engage with the present culture. Williams says it well, “If we are to be truly ‘in this world but not of it’ (cf. Romans 12:3), then we have to sincerely engage pop culture at large. The whisper of God is in everything” (p. 18).

Williams’ book is divided into four sections: The Official Disney Princesses, Other Notable Disney Princesses, Other Disney Women of Virtue, and Noteworthy Non-Disney Princesses. Each chapter includes a description and brief history of the fairy tale related to the princess. Williams also includes a section titled A Real-Life Fairy Tale where she focuses on a saint who exhibits the same virtue depicted by the fairy tale heroine. Chapters conclude with a prayer related to the virtue and/or saint.

This was a fun and quick read. Williams did a great job in showing how the virtues exhibited by Disney princesses are relevant to our lives today. I particularly enjoyed the Real-Life Fairy Tale section. Williams found appropriate saints throughout Church history to match their fairy tale counterparts.

If you’re a fan of fairy tales or Catholic hagiography you will find this book enjoyable. If you are a fan of both, then this is a must buy for you! Purchase your copy of A Catholic Field Guide to Fairy Tale Princesses: Modern Virtues in Tales as Old as Time today.


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