I became acquainted with St. Catherine — who has become one of my favorite Catholic saints — in a slightly haphazard way, when, for either my high school or college graduation, I received a card from a relative with a few of St. Catherine’s words on it: ”Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”
What a wonderful message to receive on the occasion of a major young adult milestone, and they are words that I’ve carried with me since then. I’ve also taken some time in the ensuing years to learn a bit more about the life and legacy of St. Catherine, and I’ve discovered that beyond saying wise things, St. Catherine led an inspiring life.
Below, learn more about what makes St. Catherine and four of her sister saints fantastic role models for women in the faith.
St. Catherine of Siena
Living during the 14th century, St. Catherine of Siena played an impactful — and unusual, especially for women of her time — role in the life of the church. She served as an advisor to multiple popes (including influencing Pope Gregory XI to move from Avignon to Rome) and she negotiated peace treaties with political leaders. In both of these ways, St. Catherine was a true leader: not just doing good work herself but encouraging others to do the same. On top of this, St. Catherine was a mystic and a writer.
May St. Catherine, who used used her gifts, of vision, communication and persuasiveness to positively impact those around her, guide us to lead with courage, clarity and conviction.
St. Joan of Arc
At the young age of 13, St. Joan of Arc — who was born to a French Catholic peasant family in the province of Lorraine in the early 1400’s — is believed to have had visions of Saints Michael, Catherine and Margaret telling her to bring France to victory by driving the English from French territory. Several years later, St. Joan used her convictions and connections to gain an audience with King Charles VII, where she won his trust and gained permission to lead his army into battles against the English troops. After successes on the battlefront, Joan was eventually captured by Burgundian troops, sold to the English, and tried as a heretic and witch. Despite the unfair legal trial that she faced, Joan remained steadfast and brave — just as she had in battle — through her death by execution.
May St. Joan, who wrote the words, “I am not afraid. I was born to do this,” inspire us to know our callings and act on them without fear.
St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (St. Edith Stein)Edith Stein was born in Poland in 1891 to a large Jewish family, and after gaining an interest in Catholicism through her studies in philosophy, was baptized into the faith in 1922. About a decade later, she entered the Carmelite order in Cologne, though she was moved several years later to the convent in Holland, where it was believed that she would be safer from Hitler’s reign of terror. But when Holland was invaded, St. Edith (whose Catholic name was Teresa Benedicta) was arrested along with her sister Rose and led to her death in the gas chambers at Auschwitz. Few details are known about St. Edith’s final months — and even years — of life, and yet she lives in the memory and minds of the faithful as a source of light amidst the darkness of the Holocaust.
May St. Teresa Benedicta, who joined millions of others in suffering at the hands of evil, help us to remember that Jesus walks with us wherever we go.
Little is known about the life of St. Anne, but what we do know is that this oldest of saints — along with her husband, Joachim, she’s one of the two saints who predates Christ — struggled to conceive the daughter who would eventually become the Mother of God. She faced a challenge that countless women to this day have faced and continue to face: infertility. And after bearing the burden placed before her — disappointment, longing, frustration, unfulfilled desire, shame — with what we can only assume was patience and trust, she gave birth to a child who changed the world.
May St. Anne, patron saint of grandparents, mothers, married couples, and the infertile, guide us to a way of love in all of our relationships, amidst the ups and downs of family life.
St. Thérèse of Lisieux
St. Thérèse of Lisieux is one of the most beloved Catholic saints, likely in part because she is so relatable to so many of us. She grew up in a loving family and eventually entered the Carmelite order, and throughout it all knew that she would never complete great works like many of the saints before her. Instead, her calling was “To do small things with great love,” what has become known as her “Little Way.”
May St. Thérèse, who lived her faith in humble persistence amidst the ordinary trials of life, be with us as we face whatever challenges come our way, be they big or small.