In my travel blogs I often write about a destination or place with pointers and things to do at the destination. Sometimes though I write on a little more personal nature and this post will touch on a travel style where I make pilgrimages. This will be a little more personal and involve a lot of my own faith. So this is your disclaimer if this is something that does not appeal to you. It’s my personal reflection on my visit to see Siena and my pilgrimage journey to St. Catherine.
St Catherine was born in Siena one of the most beautiful places in Italy. Sienna is filled with museums, art, culture, and incredible culinary offerings. This was not the reason I chose to visit though. Many people come visit Siena for just those reasons but mine was a faith journey. A pilgrimage was the reason I was visiting. I travel quite often for pilgrimage reasons. It’s quite often the reason I choose a destination.
There are many reason’s for my pilgrimage to Siena but the one that is always in the forefront is I lost my daughter to suicide. It makes you feel powerless and strips you of everything you know. In my journey through suicide I refused to let this loss also be a loss of my own self into despair and downward spirals. I chose to trust Christ. So I journey and make pilgrimages to bring myself closer to Christ through prayer, travel, and closer to understanding my own faith.
She came from a large family and her parents had 25 children many did not survive. St Catherine was the youngest. She is most remembered for her ability to meet with the Pope in Avignon and help him to understand he needed to return to Rome. It was a miracle in itself she was able to meet with the Pope, this uneducated, woman, a nun much less convince him to return from exile to the seat of Rome.
There a rich history from this simple woman who was not educated and had not even learned to read or write. It is documented she was illiterate most of her life only learning later towards the end of her life how to somewhat read and right. She is a powerful example within my own faith and for the world as what can be accomplished in faith and trust in Christ. Saint Catherine of Siena pronounced as one of the doctors for the church in 1970 which is in my lifetime. Saint Catherine was canonized in 1461. Her feast day is April 29. She remains one of the most influential women in the Catholic Church.
Pope Benedict has a wonderful description of Catherine.
Pope Benedict explains:
Like the Sienese saint, every believer feels the need to be conformed with the sentiments of the heart of Christ to love God and his neighbour as Christ himself loves.
And we can all let our hearts be transformed and learn to love like Christ in a familiarity with him that is nourished by prayer, by meditation on the Word of God and by the sacraments, above all by receiving Holy Communion frequently and with devotion.
Catherine also belongs to the throng of Saints devoted to the Eucharist with which I concluded my Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis (cf. n. 94).
Dear brothers and sisters, the Eucharist is an extraordinary gift of love that God continually renews to nourish our journey of faith, to strengthen our hope and to inflame our charity, to make us more and more like him.
So, with each pilgrimage I make comes a blessing, some understanding, more trust, and a general love for life. In simple gesture that has often been used by countless Catholics through the ages I light a candle. It’s my own way to honor and remember the memory of my daughter. I present my prayers and offering’s for everyone I am praying for. I take with me all my friends and family who are struggling, in pain, sick, and those who feel blessed. I bring everything. I then leave it at some would say the foot of the cross.
It’s in these moments I find the greatest peace. I struggle to stay still or in place after Brianna so it is these moments in prayer I feel at peace. I find purpose. These are the moments that define my life now. Every parent who loses a child by suicide is different I can only say this is my journey. My path is towards blessings that remain in my life and my desire to travel is part of those blessings. My desire is to fill my world with prayer at the sights that pilgrims have visited for centuries.
I was able to visit the Basilica of St. Dominic which houses the sacred head of St. Catherine. Which has been at the Basilica since 1373 brought by Blessed Raymond of Capua. The Basilica contains many other treasures of St. Catherine including a portrait of her by Andre Vanni restored and 12 codices. For the Catholic Pilgrim these are complete gifts and treasures from our faith. There are so many rich blessings that come from just seeing these sites that I have trouble placing it into my own words.
Visiting Siena is to witness a beautiful city filled with medieval wonders and countless treasures. It is an amazing city and you could easily spend a week there. Most travel to Siena for a couple of days and make it one stop on their journey through Italy. It’s easy to get to by rail. I would recommend flying into Florence or Rome and taking a train.
Staying in Siena there are so many options. Hotel Athena has a great location, its just inside the city walls and a short walk to the Piazza. Hotel Duomo again centrally located, walk to everywhere and fantastic views. Palazzio Ravizza within the walls of Siena, walking distance to sites, views from the 3rd floor rooms are beautiful.
There are so many things to do and see in Siena it is truly one of my favorite cities. You can stay a few days and make it your base. You can then go out and perhaps spend an afternoon doing a wine tour, skip the line on your visit to the Duomo, and even catch a few day trips if you don’t want to leave your hotel in the region.
So whether you choose to visit Siena for the beautiful rich history, it’s gorgeous scenery, the amazing region, or on a pilgrimage you will not be dissapointed. All of the links if you use them go to help support my blog. I would love to help you plan your trip to Siena or a pilgrimage. Please contact me with any questions you might have.
Blessings in Travel