Catherine of Siena (1347 - 1380) was a Catholic mystic, theologian, teacher, and religious activist. Born the youngest child in a very large family, she became a nurturer, devoting much of her time caring for the seriously ill.

Catherine of Siena ranks high among Catholic mystics and spiritual writers. In 1970 Pope Paul VI named her and Teresa of Avila as Doctors of the Church. Her spiritual testament is found in The Dialogue.

This Italian saint was also honored as the Patroness of Italy for her tireless efforts to return the Pope to Italy after years of voluntary exile in Avignon, France. She died at the age of 33 from a heart attack.

In her book Speaking with Authority: Catherine of Siena and the Voices of Women Today, theologian Mary Catherine Hilkert describes this fourteenth-century woman as a "companion of hope" for all those who yearn for justice, gender equality, peace, and spiritual renewal.

Listening to the voice of Wisdom, Catherine of Siena came up with images of God as one who waits on us at table and nurses us at her breast. According to Hilkert and others, Christian feminism owes her a great deal of gratitude.

Here are two ways to name this day.

Catherine of Siena once asked: "What is it you want to change? Your hair, your face, your body? Why? For God is in love with all those things and He might weep when they are gone." Identify things about your body you would like to change; then say a blessing for them just as they are. Identify contemporary people who, like Catherine of Siena, could be considered a companion of hope. Consider saints, writers, filmmakers, or community leaders that you can always rely upon for truth, inspiration, and renewal.