I last visited Siena in June 2016 with a group of women from WINE, Women in the New Evangelization, and wrote the following account of our visit. We had a truly memorable day in this picturesque, historic, medieval Tuscan hill town, as you will see in some of my photos. And you just have to love Catherine of Siena! Here I am with Kelly Wahlquist, founder of WINE, and Teresa Tomeo!


Saint Catherine of Siena (1347-1380), Third Order Dominican, scholar, philosopher, theologian, mystic, spiritual writer, co-patron of Italy with St. Francis of Assisi and a Doctor of the Church.

What an astonishing, wonderful story, what a remarkable and inspirational woman was St. Catherine. I truly felt her presence everywhere we visited in Siena and am now starting to read the two books I bought – her “Letters” and also “The Dialogues,” her spiritual legacy.

Catherine was the 23rd child of Jacopo and Lapa Benincasa, a well off couple – Jacopo was a fabric dyer – of Siena. A number of her siblings, including a twin sister, did not survive to adulthood. (from Franciscan media: Painting of Saint Catherine of Siena | Siena Cathedral Choir | photo by Sailko)

They lived, as you will see, in a very large home in hilly Siena with fabulous views of the city and outlying countryside.

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Her home –

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One of the plaques I photographed points to the fact that St. Therese of Jesus and St. Catherine of Siena were the first two women whom Popes named as Doctors of the Church.

Two other photos show a very ornately decorated room – the Benincasa family dining room!

Biographies state that Catherine was lively, curious, cheerful, fun-loving and intelligent and very religious.

From an EWTN bio: When Catherine was twelve, her mother, with marriage in mind, began to urge her to pay more attention to her appearance. To please her mother and sister, she dressed in the bright gowns and jewels that were fashionable for young girls. Soon she repented of this vanity, and declared with finality that she would never marry. When her parents persisted in their talk about finding her a husband, she cut off the golden-brown hair that was her chief beauty As punishment, she was now made to do menial work in the household, and the family, knowing she craved solitude, never allowed her to be alone.

Catherine bore all this with sweetness and patience. Long afterwards, in “The Dialogue,” she wrote that God had shown her how to build in her soul a private cell where no tribulation could enter. Catherine disappointed her mother by cutting off her hair as a protest against being overly encouraged to improve her appearance in order to attract a husband. Her father ordered her to be left in peace, and she was given a room of her own for prayer and meditation.”

“…..In the small, dimly-lighted room now set apart for her use, a cell nine feet by three, she gave herself up to prayers and fasting; she scourged herself three times daily with an iron chain, and slept on a board. At first she wore a hair shirt, subsequently replacing it by an iron-spiked girdle. Soon she obtained what she ardently desired, permission to assume the black habit of a Dominican tertiary, which was customarily granted only to matrons or widows. She now increased her asceticism, eating and sleeping very little. For three years she spoke only to her confessor and never went out except to the neighboring church of St. Dominic, where the pillar against which she used to lean is still pointed out to visitors.”

“….The years of solitude and preparation were ended and soon afterwards she began to mix with her fellow men and learn to serve them. Like other Dominican tertiaries, she volunteered to nurse the sick in the city hospitals, choosing those afflicted with loathsome diseases—cases from which others were apt to shrink. There gathered around this strong personality a band of earnest associates….”

“….Her pity for dying men was not confined to those who were sick. She made it a practice to visit condemned persons in prison, hoping to persuade them to make their peace with God. On one occasion she walked to the scaffold with a young Perugian knight, sentenced to death for using seditious language against the government of Siena. His last words were: ‘Jesus and Catherine!’”

And Popes listened to this singularly remarkable woman…

“….Many of the troubles which then afflicted Europe were, to some degree at least, due to the seventy-four-year residence of the popes at Avignon, where the Curia was now largely French. Gregory had been ready to go back to Rome with his court, but the opposition of the French cardinals had deterred him. Since in her letters Catherine had urged his return so strongly, it was natural that they should discuss the subject now that they were face to face. “Fulfill what you have promised,” she said, reminding him of a vow he had once taken and had never disclosed to any human being. Greatly impressed by what he regarded as a supernatural sign, Gregory resolved to act upon it at once.

“On September 13, 1376, he set out from Avignon to travel by water to Rome, while Catherine and her friends left the city on the same day to return overland to Siena. On reaching Genoa she was detained by the illness of two of her secretaries, Neri di Landoccio and Stephen Maconi. The latter was a young Sienese nobleman, recently converted, who had become an ardent follower. When Catherine got back to Siena, she kept on writing the Pope, entreating him to labor for peace. At his request she went again to Florence, still rent by factions, and stayed there for some time, frequently in danger of her life. She did finally establish peace between the city governors and the papacy, but this was in the reign of Gregory’s successor.

“After Catherine returned to Siena, Raymund of Capua tells us, ‘she occupied herself actively in the composition of a book which she dictated under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost’. This was the mystical work, in four treatises, called The Dialogue of St. Catherine. Her health was now so impaired by austerities that she was never free from pain; yet her thin face was usually smiling. She was grieved by any sort of scandal in the Church, especially that of the Great Schism which followed the death of Gregory XI. Urban VI was elected as his successor by the cardinals of Rome and Clement VII by the rebellious cardinals of Avignon.

“Western Christendom was divided; Clement was recognized by France, Spain, Scotland, and Naples; Urban by most of North Italy, England, Flanders, and Hungary. Catherine wore herself out trying to heal this terrible breach in Christian unity and to obtain for Urban the obedience due to the legitimate head. Letter after letter was dispatched to the princes and leaders of Europe. To Urban himself she wrote to warn him to control his harsh and arrogant temper. This was the second pope she had counseled, chided, even commanded. Far from resenting reproof, Urban summoned her to Rome that he might profit by her advice. Reluctantly she left Siena to live in the Holy City. She had achieved a remarkable position for a woman of her time. On various occasions at Siena, Avignon, and Genoa, learned theologians had questioned her and had been humbled by the wisdom of her replies.

“Although Catherine was only thirty-three, her life was now nearing its close. On April 21, 1380, a paralytic stroke made her helpless from the waist downwards, and eight days later she passed away in the arms of her cherished friend, Alessia Saracini. The Dominicans at Rome still treasure the body of Catherine in the Minerva Church, but Siena has her head enshrined in St. Dominic’s Church.” (Saint Catherine of Siena, Virgin | EWTN)



The Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, led by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, is behind the organization of the month-long initiative of Pope Francis to have a worldwide prayer marathon during the entire month of May for an end to the pandemic.

The theme is: “Prayer by the Church was fervently being made to God” (Acts 12:5).

A press release by the council explains that, “the Holy Father will open and close the prayer, along with the faithful around the world, from two significant locations within the Vatican City State.

“On Saturday May 1, Pope Francis will pray at Our Lady of Succor (Our Lady of Help), an icon venerated as early as the seventh century depicted in a fresco above the altar of Saint Leo, near the southern transept of the primitive Vatican Basilica, afterwards placed, where it still stands today, inside the new Saint Peter’s Basilica erected by Pope Gregory XIII in 1578, at the Gregorian Chapel, where, the relics of Saint Gregory of Nazianzus, Doctor and Father of the Church, are also kept.

“In 2013, during the Year of Faith, the icon underwent a new restoration. Since it was the first restoration carried out in the pontificate of Pope Francis, at that time newly elected, the words SVCCVRRE NOS and FRANCISCVS PP. A. I., were engraved below the icon, thus entrusting the Pope to Our Lady of Succor. ***

“On this occasion, the Holy Father will bless special Rosaries used particularly for this event, which will then be sent to the thirty Shrines directly involved. A number of families from parishes in Rome and Lazio will take part by reading and leading the recitation of the Holy Rosary, along with young people representing some of the New Evangelization Movements.

“On May 31, Pope Francis will conclude this prayer marathon from a significant place in the Vatican Gardens, of which further information will be given. Both of these moments will be accessible to persons without hearing.

*** (JFL: If you want to visit an amazing site about St. Peter’s Basilica – here it is: St Peter’s Basilica Info – Click here for Our Lady of Succour (go to Floorplan, No. 71): St. Peter’s – Altar of Our Lady of Succour (



The Pope’s Motu proprio requires a declaration on the part of senior management and administrators that they are clear of convictions or investigations regarding terrorism, money laundering or tax evasion. They will also be prohibited to place assets in tax havens or to invest in companies whose principles are against the Church’s doctrine. All employees are prohibited to receive gifts worth more than 40 Euro.

(Vatican News)

According to Scripture, faithfulness in matters of little consequence is related to faithfulness in more important ones”.

These words introduce Pope Francis’s new Motu proprio on transparency through which the Pope will require everyone in a management position in the Holy See, and all who carry out administrative, judicial or supervisory functions, to sign a declaration stating they have never received a conviction, that they are not subject to any pending criminal trials or investigations regarding corruption, fraud, terrorism, money laundering, exploitation of minors, or tax evasion. The declaration also covers cash holdings or investments in countries at high risk of money laundering or the financing of terrorist activities, in tax havens or in companies whose policies are against the Church’s social doctrine.

The crackdown follows that of 19 May 2020 when Pope Francis promulgated the new regulations regarding procurements. This was necessary, the Pontiff explains, because corruption “can be manifested in different manners and forms even in various sectors other than that of procurement. Because of this, internationally accepted regulations and best practices require transparency from those holding key roles in the public sector for the purpose of preventing and combatting conflicts of interest, patronage practices and corruption in general”. Therefore, the Holy See, which has adhered to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), “has decided to conform itself to these best practices to prevent and combat” this phenomenon “in its various forms”.

Along these lines, the Pope has decided to add some articles to the General Regulations of the Roman Curia, with a provision that concerns all those whose roles fall under the categories C, C1, C2 and C3 (that is, from Cardinal heads of Dicasteries to deputy directors holding five-year contracts), and all those who carry out administrative, judicial or supervisory functions. They will have to sign a declaration when they are hired, and every two years thereafter.

They will be required to declare that they have never been convicted either in the Vatican or in another country, that they have never received a pardon or amnesty, and that they were never pardoned due to statute of limitation; that they are not subject to a criminal trial or are being investigated for participation in organized crime, corruption, fraud, terrorism, laundering money from criminal activity, exploitation of minors, human trafficking or the exploitation of human persons, or tax evasion.

They will also be required to declare that they do not hold, even through third parties, cash or investments or stakes in corporations or companies in places included in the list of countries at high risk of money laundering (unless their relatives are residents or domiciled for valid reasons including family, work or study). They must ensure, that, to their knowledge, all asset or movable and immovable goods owned or held by them, as well as remuneration of any kind, originate from licit activity. Also significant is the requirement “not to hold” shares or “interests” in companies or businesses whose policies are contrary to the Church’s social doctrine.

The Secretariat for the Economy (SPE) will have the capacity to verify the veracity of the written declarations. The Holy See, in the event of false or mendacious declarations, can dismiss the employee and require the payment of damages incurred. Finally, something new concerning all employees working in the Roman Curia, Vatican City State and related entities, is the prohibition to accept gifts in connection to their employment, whose value is greater than 40 Euro.