St. Catherine of Siena was born March 25, 1347. From an early age, she reported saw visions, starting when she was five or six. She became a tertiary Dominican when she was sixteen. The visions continued, and she underwent the “spiritual espousals” in 1366. Spiritual espousal is a mystical experience in which a person is mystically married to Christ and experiences his sufferings more intimately. After this experience, she moved back in with her family and cared for the sick and poor. She went for long periods of time with no food except for the Eucharist, which clergymen and her sisters warned her was unhealthy. In 1375, she received the stigmata.
People were enamored by her visions and warm personality. In 1370, she went into a long trance in which she had a vision of heaven, hell, and purgatory. After this vision, she got more involved in the politics of her region. She wrote to Pope Gregory XI, asking him to leave Avignon and reform the papal states; during a visit, she made such a strong impression on him that the pope did indeed return to Rome. She also supported a crusade, hoping it would unite Christendom and keep Italy from a civil war. Her letters and writing recorded her mystical experiences.
In 1378, she was summoned to Rome, where she spent the rest of her life working for Church reformation and helping the poor. As her strength drained, she prayed that her body bear the punishment of the world and serve as a sacrifice for the unity of the Church. For three days, she endured a mysterious pain but endured it with delight. She died April 29, 1380. She is a Doctor of the Church and the patron of firefighters, nurses, and those ridiculed for their piety.