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On Being with Krista Tippett is a public radio project delving into the human side of news stories + issues. Curated + edited by senior editor Trent Gilliss.

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The Feast of St. Catherine of Siena: She Spoke Boldly to Popes and Princes

by Susan Leem, associate producer

St. Siena receives the heart of ChristA chapel ceiling in Santa Sabina, Rome depicts St. Catherine receiving the heart of Christ, a sign of divine love and mercy. (photo: Lawrence Op/Flickr/cc by-nc-nd 2.0)

Amidst the fanfare for Prince William and Catherine Middleton, another Catherine was celebrated today during the couple’s wedding ceremony. Dr. Richard Chartres, Anglican Bishop of London, celebrated the Feast of St. Catherine of Siena by quoting her during the homily. 

After William and Kate exchanged their vows and her brother James gave a reading, the bishop shared this line from the saint, philosopher, and theologian:

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”

St. Catherine of Siena in Oxford

Saint Catherine was born the youngest (of a set of twins) of 25 children to an Italian family in 1397. She saw visions of Christ and experienced a “mystical marriage” with him that became the subject of art work from that period. She pursued a life of prayer, fasting, and penance as a Sister of Penance of St. Dominic despite her family’s objections.

St. Catherine is said to have “spoken boldly to popes and princes" and was brought to life in a one-woman play by Dominican nun Nancy Murray (sister of actor Bill Murray).

Sister Nancy has said:

“In reading her letters, I found this feisty, spirited woman who was both affectionate and straightforward.”

St. Catherine of Siena sounds like a wonderful example for Her Royal Highness Princess William of Wales, as well as all young women about to enter any relationship.

About the image: St. Catherine of Siena (photo: Lawrence Op/Flickr/cc by-nc-nd 2.0)

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