Cloistered Dominican Nuns Corpus Christi Monastery

Saint Catherine of Siena: Mystic and Doctor of the Church

Saint Catherine of Siena. There’s no earthly reason we should know who this woman is. Born in Siena, she dedicated herself to God and a life of secluded prayer. For many years, she was happy to remain hidden in a room of her family’s home – her and God alone. Then, God gave her a commission. In a time when women venture too far from either home or cloister, God told her, she had work to do – work that would take traveling and advising governors and powerful men…even the pope himself.

Illiterate, yet now a doctor of the Church, her treatise, The Dialogue, and her letters and other writings are some of the most widely read and studied around the world. Most of her writings were dictated to scribes, though she reportedly learned to read and write, being miraculously taught by Christ Jesus Himself. She possessed in a high degree the spirit of St. Dominic and spent herself tirelessly for the salvation of souls, doing good for her country and the Church, including urging the pope to return to Rome after the papacy had spent 70 years in France.


At one point in her life, when the devil was particularly vicious in his attacks against her, she responded, “I have chosen sufferings for my consolation; not only will it not be difficult for me, but delightful, to undergo similar afflictions, and even greater ones, for the love of my Jesus, and as long as His Majesty wills!” Immediately the devil fled and Jesus appeared to her as when He hung on the Cross and consoled her with loving words. “Lord, where were You when my heart was so tormented?” “Daughter,” came the reply, “I was in the midst of your heart!”

St Catherine Siena in prayer

At the age of thirty-three, having utterly spent herself, she died.

St. Catherine of Siena’s feast is also very special to our community for another reason. On June 23, 1923, the Holy See published an Indult allowing nuns of those religious orders originally possessing the privilege of solemn vows to re-assume that sacred obligation. As soon as the indult came to the notice of Mother Mary of the Rosary, prioress of our community at that time, she took prompt measures to have the nuns of the community possess their age-old inheritance.

All the necessary communications and arrangements made, the decree received from the Sacred Congregation of the Religious, and the nuns having made a preparatory retreat, on the feast of St. Catherine of Siena in 1929, His Excellency, Archbishop Hanna , D.D. of San Francisco, arrived at Corpus Christi Monastery and read the official papers to the nuns at the grille. Then, Mother Mary of the Rosary made solemn profession into the hands of the Archbishop and each nun then made solemn profession into the hands of their prioress. The eventful ceremony closed with a full-hearted Te Deum.

The nuns of Corpus Christi Monastery, Menlo Park, have the unique honor of being the first in the United States to avail themselves of this indult and bind themselves under solemn vows.

St. Catherine of Siena, pray for us!

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