St. Caterina of Siena and Following God's Will: Part 1
St. Caterina of Siena is the ultimate guide who shows us how we can accomplish the impossible, as long as we follow God's will for our lives.
Caterina of Siena—more commonly known as Catherine, the English version of her name—was a powerful Italian mystic of the 14th century who died in 1380, was canonized as a saint by Pope Pius II in 1461, and was named a Doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI in 1970. Although in her day women were supposed to “shut up and put up,” remaining either cloistered and obedient in a convent or busy procreating and mothering, Caterina did neither. Realizing her call was to a spiritual life, yet also recognizing that her mission wasn’t to remain secluded but rather to teach God’s graces to others, Caterina did what no one of her young age (not quite 20) had yet to do—she joined the Mantellate.
Breaking all social rules and conventions of the day, Caterina did what no woman in the fourteenth century had ever before done—in other words, she did her own thing.
The Mantellate were a Third Order of Dominican women who, although they wore a habit to distinguish their calling, were not nuns. This group of women, plentiful in the Tuscan region of Caterina’s birth, consisted of women who lived in their own homes while maintaining a spiritual lifestyle of what I call the “Trinity of C’s”—charity, chastity, and community. They vowed to give their all to God, meaning they served their community in whatever way they were able, such as charitable hospital work, ministering to the poor, and other deeds we’d now call “community service.” The chastity bit was a given—they were all older widows, and didn’t go gadding about with foolish young gentlemen. They were over that already.
However, there are two things we need to understand about the Mantellate in order to fully grasp Caterina’s out-of-the-box mission and why her lifestyle was constantly criticized (she was at risk for being condemned as a heretic on several occasions—and it was her own order, the Dominicans, who were in charge of the Inquisitional judgments).
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