Saint Catherine of Siena

Attribution: By Uffizi Galleries (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Saint Catherine of Siena (1347 – 1380)

If there is one word that descibes the effect Saint Catherine had on all her knew her, it might be encouragement. This uneducated young girl, a member of a lay order of  Dominican women, became an advisor to popes and kings. The words of Blessed Raymond of Capua, contemporary and confessor of Saint Catherine, describe her thus:

“My heart overflows as I recall it, and compels me to record here this mysterious attraction which was part of her. It made itself felt, not only be her spoken word, but by the very fact of one being present where she was. By it, she drew the souls of men to the things of God, and made them take delight in God himself. She drove out despondency from the hearts of any who shared her company, and banished dejection of of spirit and all  feelings of depression, bringing in instead a peace of soul so deep that those who experienced it did not know themselves.” – Raymond of Capua, The Life of Catherine of Siena, trans. C. Kerns (Wilmington, DE: 1980), 8.

Some of Catherine’s accomplishments and events in her life included:

  • She served the poor and sick in Siena during the plague
  • She witnessed the Great Schism of the Church and encourage the Popes through this time of separation, corruption and division.
  • She convinced Pope Gregory XI to return to Rome from Avignon, France
  • She was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1970
  • She left her writings and prayers – about freedom, fear, human dignity, and much more
  • She experienced and lived out a mystical union with Christ

Saint Catherine describes three states of the soul, or stages of spiritual growth:

  1. Fear of penaly from our sins
  2. Rejection of sin due to our love of God
  3. In humility, seeking God alone and knowing him as one’s Father

Did you miss our live session on Tuesday evening? You can listen to Bishop Barron’s podcast about Saint Catherine of Siena here:

Discussion and Reflection Questions

  1. Can you recognize times in your life when you have been in one or another of the three stages described by Saint Catherine? Explain.
  2. What is a metaphor you use to describe your union with God? (e.g., spouse, subject, disciple, lover, slave, flame, etc.) Explain. If you are not happy with your metaphr, what would you like it to be?
  3. Read this quote from the Good News Bible translation of Sirach 15: 11-20. What does it say to you about free will?

    Don’t blame the Lord for your sin; the Lord does not cause what he hates. 12 Don’t claim that he has misled you; he doesn’t need the help of sinners to accomplish his purposes. 13 The Lord hates evil in all its forms, and those who fear the Lord find nothing attractive in evil.14 When, in the beginning, the Lord created human beings, he left them free to do as they wished. 15 If you want to, you can keep the Lord’s commands. You can decide whether you will be loyal to him or not. 16 He has placed fire and water before you; reach out and take whichever you want. 17 You have a choice between life and death; you will get whichever you choose. 18 The Lord’s wisdom and power are great and he sees everything. 19 He is aware of everything a person does, and he takes care of those who fear him. 20 He has never commanded anyone to be wicked or given anyone permission to sin.

  4. As Catholics, what are some of the tools we have to deal with sin in our lives?
  5. Are you more charismatic/mystical or more ministerial in the expression of your faith? How can we be more open to integrating one or the other in our Catholic lives?

Additional Resources

The Path to Virtue: The metaphor of the three stages- 

National Catholic Register article about St. Catherine –

Quotes from St. Catherine –

The iconography of St. Catherine of Siena – 

The text of Catherine’s writings, The Dialogue –