One of the greatest women of this period is Saint Catherine of Siena. She was a member of the Dominican Order of Nuns founded by Saint Dominic. She traveled to Avignon, France, where the pope was in residence due to the kidnapping of the papacy by the king of France. She pleaded with the pope to return to Rome, and under her influence Gregory XI left Avignon and reinstated the papacy in Rome. During the Great Schism, when there was more than one man claiming to be pope, she wrote to the cardinals and nobility who were the cause of the trouble and asked them to stop that terrible evil. Long regarded as one of the finest theological minds in the Church, Saint Catherine was given the title “Doctor of the Church.” She is also patroness of Italy (Saint Francis of Assisi is patron).
Saint Bridget of Sweden was the daughter of the prince of Sweden. Her parents instilled in her a great devotion to the Passion of Christ. She married Ulfo, prince of Nericia in Sweden, and raised eight children. Later, Bridget and Ulfo took upon themselves the vow of chastity. Ulfo entered the Cistercian monastery. Upon his death, Bridget renounced her rank as princess and became a nun, founding a new order, the Brigittines. She next undertook a pilgrimage to Rome and the Holy Land. She remained in Rome where she continued her great devotion to the Passion of Christ. It is here that Christ appeared to her from the cross to strengthen her during a severe illness. A collection of prayers that are attributed to her writing became part of everyday Catholic devotion. Her religious order, to this date, still runs pilgrimage centers in Rome for travelers.
Saint Joan of Arc was born to religious parents in France, and very early on she received allocutions from Saint Michael the Archangel, Saint Catherine of Siena, and Saint Margaret. At first, the messages were personal, but later they became more political. The allocutions told her to go to the king of France and help him reconquer his kingdom, which was being threatened by the English. She was given a small army and was victorious with a series of military successes. She was captured, sold to the English, and after months of imprisonment, was tried for heresy. Not sophisticated in theological terms, she was trapped by her captors into admitting things she did not believe. She was burned at the stake; however, her innocence was proven when it was made clear that the opposing side had spread calumnious rumors. In 1920 she was canonized a saint. She is considered responsible for saving France by uniting it.