She was a Dominican but not a religious. She held no leadership position in the Church or society but was one of the most influential persons of the 14th century. She negotiated peace between City States of central Italy. She exhorted Pope Gregory XI to return to Rome after more than half a century of popes being exiled in Avignon. Who would have guessed that this 23rd of 24 children, born to Jacopo and Lapa Benincasa in Siena, would have such a great impact on the world in her lifetime and far more thereafter? All this she did as a lay person.
A Dominican Tertiary
Catherine of Siena was closely associated with the Dominicans, having become a member of the Mantellate, a Tertiary organization that assisted lay members to pursue holiness of life while remaining in the world and strengthened there by the charism, example and counsel of Dominican Sisters and Friars.
In this year of consecrated life, it is good not only to honor men and women religious but also the many laity who are closely associated with their charisms and apostolates. In this regard, followers of St. Francis include more than his Friars, Sisters and the Poor Clare Nuns; there are also lay associates known as secular order Franciscans. Similarly, the Benedictines have their Oblates, Carmelites their Third Order, Passionists their Associates, and so it goes. Moreover, the laity who associate themselves closely with a particular Institute of Consecrated Life are not called to holiness any less than those who belong fully to each Institute. Of this truth, St. Catherine of Siena is a prime example.
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