The Letters of Catherine of Siena - Vol. 1

The Letters of Catherine of Siena - Vol. 1

The Letters of Catherine of Siena - Vol. 1

The Letters of Catherine of Siena - Vol. 1

Excerpt

Caterina di Iacopo di Benincasa (Catherine of Siena) was born in 1347 of parents neither wealthy nor poor, as the twenty-fourth of twenty-five children in that wool-dying household. One might have expected her life to take the same sort of obscure, unnoted path as did that of her sisters and brothers. She had no formal schooling and lived a mere thirty-three years, yet she now bears the titles of saint and doctor of the Roman Catholic Church and patron of Italy. The more than three hundred eighty letters of which this volume is the first installment represent the activity of approximately her last ten years.

After one of those moments of inspiration and insight that so confront an individual with the truth of things that one is forever changed, Catherine began to be a public figure, first in her native Siena and gradually in ever wider circles. Her dream from early childhood had centered in a life of quiet union with God. Even after she had been accepted (when she was about eighteen years old) as a member of the Mantellate, a group of Dominican laywomen committed to service of the poor and sick of the city, she was more than ever bent on prayer in silence and solitude.

It was a sudden and unexpected mystical experience (her so-called “mystical espousal” with Christ when she was about twenty-one) that culminated and brought to an end three years of this hermit-like living with the certain realization that love for God could not be faithful to truth if it

Also called Giacomo. Appendix Six provides brief biographical notes on the various persons mentioned in these volumes in connection with Catherine's life.

The total number of letters depends on how one counts the duplicates or close duplicates sent to more than one addressee or group of addressees, as well as one letter (T371), included in some manuscripts (and by Niccolò Tommasèo, Lettere di Santa Caterina da Siena, Firenze, Barbera, 1860) as a separate letter to Pope Urban VI but considered by others, including Dupré Theseider (Epistolario, Roma, Istituto stonco italiano per il Medio Evo, 1940, p. XXIII, n. 3), to be a continuation of Let. T373 to Raimondo da Capua.

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