Nearly eight years ago I was visiting Italy with a group of girlfriends. This was our second trip together, and we were excited to explore more cities in the Tuscan region. In preparation for the trip each of us researched cities that we wanted to explore, and I was extremely hyped up about visiting Siena after reading about the Palio horse race that are held twice a year. The city boasted 17 “contradas” or neighborhoods, and each had a distinct flavor. I wanted more than anything to explore Siena. I was also interested in seeing a fresco that was painted inside the Basilica of San Domenico, and I knew that would be my first stop. This was the church where St. Catherine was raised and eventually she would enter her order. As we drove into and parked near the Basilica, we broke into groups to explore the city with plans to all meet up again in the main square for dinner. As I approached the Basilica of San Domenico, I had no idea how much of an impact it would have on me. As I stepped across the threshold of the church, my body started to buzz. I had the oddest sensation that something was surrounding me. I even mentioned it my girlfriends, Jayne and Geri. We walked to the back of the church to view the fresco. It was absolutely beautiful depicting the life of St. Catherine and that buzzing feel just continued.
As we made our way around the church I felt peaceful and comfortable, which was a welcomed relief after driving the hills of Tuscany with seven passengers in tow. We made our way to the small gift shop that was behind the Sacristy and found plenty of items that we wanted to take home. I found myself wondering about St. Catherine and decided to purchase a book about her life. Geri bought a beautiful cross for her home and then we exited the shop back into the main portion of the church. We lit a few candles for family members, and decided to head on out. Again, as I stepped across the threshold to leave the church, the buzzing completely left my body. It seemed so very odd and almost as if now I was missing something. We continued our day exploring the home of St. Catherine and a few chapels before meeting everyone for dinner. We had a star filled night in the Piazza del Campo, joyfully sharing all the things we had seen.
Later that night as we were getting ready to turn in, I pulled out the small book about St. Catherine’s life. I was reading it while waiting for my turn in the bathroom. Geri and I were sharing a room, and as she came in, she asked why I had such an odd look on my face. I read the passage to her that I had just finished reading in the book. St. Catherine had twenty-two siblings who proceeded her (gives a whole new meaning to large Catholic family!). St. Catherine was the 23rd child in the Benincasa family and she was also a twin. Her twins name….Giovanna.
As soon as I read her sister’s name, I knew she was present in my life. The connection was immediate that day and so strong. So many times over the last eight years she is who I turn to when things go wonky. I believe wholeheartedly in connections, and for me, St. Catherine is the one. Today is her Feast Day and I celebrate the life of a Saint who became a Doctor of the Catholic Church for her prolific writings and her ability to persuade the actions of the Pope in the name of Jesus Christ.
And that as they say, is my story:-) Below is a photo of the Basilica of San Domenico