Catherine of Siena, Jordan Hainsey, Digital Photograph, 2018

Catherine of Siena

Born in 1347, Caterina Benincasa was a devout young girl who would grow into a powerhouse of faith as a mystic and emissary for Christ and his Church. At the age of 15, she donned the black cloak of the Dominican Tertiary sisters and worked tirelessly with the sick of the hospital of Santa Maria della Scala.

She traveled constantly, and acted as mediator for the Papacy in Avignon, where she urged Pope Gregory to bring the Papal Court back to Rome. Later, on the death of Pope Gregory XI in 1378, his successor Urban VI faced strong opposition from a number of cardinals who had elected a second pope, helping to incite the Great Schism of the West. Catherine would be called on again, this time by Pope Urban VI, to act as mediator with princes, politicians and members of the Church.

This image depicts the mystical exchange of hearts by Catherine of Siena. One day while in prayer, Catherine continued to recite the words of Psalm 51, "Create a clean heart in me, O God, and renew a right spirit within me." Over and over again she asked the Heavenly Father to take her own heart and will from her. Our Lord heard the prayer and appeared to her. It then seemed to the saint that he opened her left side, took out her heart and then went away with it. Catherine later told her confessor that she no longer had a heart. 

Later, when Catherine was in the Dominican church in Sienna, she fell into ecstasy. A light from heaven soon enveloped her, and in this light appeared the Savior, who held in his hands a bright red human heart. Approaching Catherine, he opened her left side once again and place the heart within her chest, saying, "Dearest daughter, as I took your heart away, now, you see, I am giving you Mine, so that you can go on living with it forever. He closed the opening he had made but as a sign of the miracle a scar remained.

Catherine is also shown wearing a ring, recalling the Mystical marriage from one of her visions in which Our Lady presented her to Jesus who gave her a splendid ring, saying: "I, your Creator and Savior, espouse you in the faith, that you will keep ever pure until you celebrate your eternal nuptials with me in Heaven" (Bl. Raimondo da Capua, S. Caterina da Siena, Legenda maior, n. 115, Siena 1998). Catherine's hands reveal the stigmata, the wounds of Christ, received during a vision in the Church of Santa Cristina in 1375, just five years before her death at 33.


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