Contemplative Profiles: Catherine of Sienna

Catherine of Siena (1347-1380) lived during a particularly tumultuous time in history and in the history of the church in particular. While the Black Death struck during her early childhood and then later in her life throughout her native Italy, the Roman Catholic Church remained in turmoil as successive popes struggled to unify break off groups.

While Catherine devoted significant time toward assisting the Popes and guiding the church toward greater unity, she is best known for the joining of contemplation and ministry. She was an active servant to the poor, an evangelist who even traveled on a mission despite many who opposed women in such a capacity, and nurtured a deep understanding of theology and the practiced prayer regularly.

Caroline T. Marshall writes for the Christian History Institute:


Mystical experience always led Catherine back into the world to serve. As she wrote of herself: “ . . . she addressed petitions to the most high and eternal Father, holding up her desire for herself first of all-for she knew she could be of no service to her neighbors in teaching or example or prayer, without first doing herself the service of attaining virtue.” With virtue, actions were done for God’s sake alone. “The important thing is not to love Me for your own sake, or your neighbor for your own sake, but to love Me for Myself, yourself for Myself, your neighbor for Myself.”


“A soul rises up, restless with tremendous desire for God’s honor and the salvation of souls. She has for some time exercised herself in virtue and has become accustomed to dwelling in the cell of self-knowledge in order to know better God’s goodness toward her, since upon knowledge follows love. And loving, she seeks to pursue truth and clothe herself in it.”
– Catherine of Siena


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For Reflection

How are you being led by God to love your neighbors today?