Catherine of Siena 1347-80
Catherine was born in Siena and became the patron saint of Italy, known for her holiness and asceticism.
When Florence was placed under an interdict by the pope Catherine went to Avignon, France, to bring back the pope to Italy and to promote a crusade.
Her writings, known as the 'Dialogo', record her ecstatic experiences
and illustrate her doctrine of the 'inner cell' of the knowledge of God and of the self into
which she withdrew.
Later in her life, as a result of her visions, she took an active roll in urging the Pope, living in Avignon, to return to Rome. She wrote to church leaders about her visions urging them to end corruption and sin within the church hierarchy. From direction given to her in these visions, she started the Birgittine order of nuns which her daughter Catherine would later lead.
At the age of 41, she started a monastery,
made long pilgrimages, founded a hospice and gathered disciples.
At her death the
Brigittine Order had 80 convents across Europe.
Margery was an illiterate laywoman turned religious enthusiast who became prone to fits of crying and screaming during religious services. At about the age 60, she dictated her spiritual autobiography to two scribes. 'The Book of Margery Kempe' is the earliest known autobiography in English.
Accused by her contemporaries of fraud and heresy, Margery Kempe also had admirers, even among clergy, who defended her visions as genuine signals from God.
In 1621 the English Catholic leaders appealed to Pope Gregory XV to order the dissolution of the group, on the grounds that women were unsuited to pastoral work and that their visits to people's homes would cause scandal.
When Mary continued with her work she was
excommunicated as a heretic, but in 1877, with papal permission, her institute became the template for
modern Catholic Women's Institues.