It must have been an oversight. If there was no role for women in the Church, no one told Caterina Benincasa. The 23rd of 25 children, Caterina grew up in the Tuscan city of Siena, in a home from which she could see a church simple in design but grand in size: Saint Dominic’s, which stood atop a hill not far from her family home. Illiterate but open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, Caterina dictated letters to some of the most powerful figures of the mid-fourteenth century. Her letters were strong in tone, yet unassuming. Perhaps because her words were in sync with the loving will of God, and she herself deeply in touch with God though prayer and mystical union, her letters changed the minds and hearts of their recipients, whether Duke or Pope. A Doctor of the Church and co-patron of Italy with Francis of Assisi, Saint Catherine of Siena did not wait for an invitation to an office of power to have a profound effect on the life of the Church. Just tell the Pope who received her rebuke while in exile in Avignon after the fall of Rome to the barbarian tribes, that women have no voice in the Church. She scolded him for not being in Rome, where the Apostles Peter and Paul built the foundations of the Church. Today one can visit the empty papal compound in Avignon, but to see the successor of Peter, you’ll have go to Rome.
Msgr. William J. King