May 05, 2016

St. Catherine

St. Catherine of Sienna's feast day occurred a week back. It's pretty miraculous what she did despite living only 33 years. Where else in world history do you have an unknown 25-year old, a woman in a society that was still patriarchal, become influential to the point of causing the pope to relocate from France back to Rome?

She later became one of only a handful of doctors of the Church despite having little formal education. There's the saying “only in America” but you could really say “only in the Catholic Church”.

Similarly, the story of Joan of Arc - is there anything similar to her story in Protestantism or Islam, that of leading a country to victory in battle on the strength of visions? Just as how in early Christianity women were prominent (i.e. Mary, the mother of Jesus and Mary Magdalen and then a couple hundred years later Christian martyrs like Lucy, Agatha, etc..), so too are women honored throughout Church history, St. Catherine in the 1300s to St. Therese of Liseux in the 1800s to Mother Teresa today.

It's hard for me to think of a single Protestant unofficial female “saint”, recognizing that they don't officially canonize people. An encyclopedia entry on women in the Protestant Reformation mention only Martin Luther's wife, whose role seemed to be that of what Luther himself taught, “the wife should stay home and look after the affairs of the household.” Protestant reformers shut down female convents for that reason.  Christian women have certainly played key roles played in political movements like temperance unions and suffrage, but that's not exactly on part with St. Catherine or Joan of Arc.

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