Some today think that the Church of the past always relegated women to second class roles. Today we celebrate the feast of a woman who proves that to be a lie.
While Catherine of Sienna is known for her holiness, she was also a woman who new well how to navigate the Church during one of its darkest periods, the time known as the Avignon Papacy. Without reviewing the entire history, due to conflict with the French Crown, beginning with the election of a Frenchman, Clement V, in 1305 the papacy was transferred from Rome to France. It was not until 1376, influenced by Catherine of Sienna, Pope Gregory XI, returned to Rome. It would not be until the Council of Constance in 1414 that the matter would finally be put to rest.
No one, however, can doubt the pivotal role that St. Catherine played in putting the Church back on track, and the physical and emotional pain her efforts cost her. In Matthew's gospel Jesus tells us, "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be you therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. "
We speak of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, but we can if we wish always focus on the sinful individuals who might attempt to damage the holiness of the Church. Providentially, God has always responded by sending holy men and women, like St. Catherine of Sienna, to keep the Church true to her mission.