"Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire." (St. Catherine of Siena)
A lot of ink has been spilled covering the lives of history's most influential figures, but how much of the forest is lost for the trees? In Charles River Editors' Catholic Legends series, listeners can get caught up to speed on the lives of the church's most important men and women in the time it takes to finish a commute, while learning interesting facts long forgotten or never known.
As one of the two patron saints of Italy and one of six patron saints of Europe, it's immediately apparent that Catherine of Siena was one of Catholicism's most important figures, and possibly its most influential woman. Famous today for adhering to the tenets of the Dominican order and living a material-free life, Catherine worked in her day to help reunite the Catholic Church after a schism brought some of the base of power to Avignon, France. At the same time, she also sought to bring together the disparate Italian states that were constantly at war with each other.
However, Catherine's life after death has also been incredibly influential. Revived by the Risorgimento, repurposed into an instrument of Catholic nationalism by 19th century scholars, and eventually embraced by fascism as a symbol of Italian virtues and the embodiment of the idea of Romanita, Catherine of Siena's reputation is both blurred and strikingly sharp, depending on the function she is given by those who remember her. Recognized by the Catholic Church as a saint in 1461, as well as a Doctor of the Church and one of the patron saints of Italy in 1970, Catherine of Siena's life and actions have stimulated the imagination and piety of many since the early 15th century. More than 500 years after her death, her legacy was seized and even untowardly exploited during the early 20th century.