Roman Catholic Saint. Born in Siena, Italy, one of 25 children born to Lapa Piagenti and Giacomo di Benincasa, a well to do dyer. At the age of six, she claimed religious visions, at seven she made a vow of chastity. When her parents proposed a marriage to her widowed brother-in-law, she resisted, cutting off her hair. In 1363, she took her vows as a Sisters of Penance of St. Dominic. Apparently, for her first three years in the order, she remained isolated in her room, seeing only her confessor. Uneducated and illiterate, she nevertheless then threw herself into her mission, becoming active in the public and political world. She dictated letters and other works to secretaries; the best known of these is 'Dialogo,' a series of theological treatises on church doctrine. She frequently fasted and indulged in self-scourging. In June 1376, she went to Avignon as an ambassador, and had private audiences with Pope Gregory. Rome promised to submit to papal authority if the Pope returned, so in January 1377, Gregory did so. Catherine is one of those credited with persuading him to return to Rome. Upon the death of Gregory, however, the return to Rome led to the Great Schism and the subsequent election of two popes. Catherine threw herself behind the Roman elected Pope, Urban VI, and was highly critical of those who supported the so-called Anti-Pope in Avignon, Clement VII. She traveled widely, both advocating the internal reform of the Church and to encourage peace among the Italian states. In 1380, following an extreme fast, she fell seriously ill. She suffered what appeared to be a paralytic stroke, and within a week had died. Pope Pius II canonized her in 1461. In 1939, she and Francis of Assisi were declared co-patrons of Italy. In 1970, Pope Paul VI named her a doctor of the Church, indicating that her writings were approved teachings. In iconic art, she is usually depicted in a Dominican habit, and often with lilies. She is also known as Caterina Benincasa. Her feast day is April 29.
Bio by: Iola