St Catherine of Siena (April 29) ST CAI HERNE Of Siena (1347-80) was a mystic who intervened in ecclesiastical politics, never mincing her words. "You shed a stench which makes the whole world reek," she told three Italian cardinals, "Be not a timorous child, but manly," she chided Pope Gregory XI, while Urban VI was instructed to control his temper. Catherine Benincasa was the youngest of some 20 children of a Sienese dyer. Defying attempts to marry her off, she became a tertiary sister of the Dominican Order. living at home and experiencing mystical raptures which turned her into a devoted servant of the poor and sick. Soon disciples gathered around her, the Caterinati.
In 1376 her concern at the conflict between Florence and the papacy took her to Avignon to see Pope G regory XI, whom she helped persuade to return to Rome. After the Great Schism, in 1378, she advised Urban VI in Rome, sending out incandescent pleas in his cause. Catherine was illiterate, yet 383 of her dictated letters have survived. Her Dialogo, delivered in an ecstasy, and presenting Christianity in a
manner both simple and eloquent, has become a classic of Italian prose .1 n 1970 she was named a Doctor of the Church.