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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: April 2020

5 - Catherine of Siena, Auctor

Summary

Who while reading her letters … is not amazed by their high style, and their deep thoughts, so useful above all for the saving of souls? Although in them she speaks in her own vernacular, since she did not know letters, nevertheless she entered into the power of God using the key to his depths, so that to anyone who looks into them carefully they will seem to be by Paul rather than Catherine – by an apostle rather than some girl [cuiuscumque puelle]. She dictated these letters quickly, without the slightest delay, as if she was reading what she spoke from a book placed before her. I myself often saw her dictating at the same time to two different secretaries two different letters, addressed to different persons and on different subjects, and neither secretary ever had to wait even a moment for the dictation he was taking, nor did either of them hear anything except what was intended for him. If we then turn to the book that she composed in her own language, manifestly at the dictation of the Holy Spirit, who could imagine or believe that it was done by a woman? Its style is so lofty that one can scarcely find Latin expressions equal to the loftiness of its style, as indeed I myself have found in the Latin translation in which I am engaged at present. Her thoughts [sententiae] are at the same time so lofty and so profound that if you heard them read out in Latin you would think that they were the work of none other than Aurelius Augustinus.

– Raimondo da Capua, Legenda maior sive Legenda admirabilis virginis Catherine de Senis.

This assessment of Catherine of Siena's writings by Raymond of Capua, her confessor and (when he wrote his authoritative Legenda of Catherine) Master General of the Dominican Order, addresses directly the theme of this volume and the conference on which it is based. Raymond presents Catherine as an auctor on the level of the highest scriptural and Patristic authorities – in other words, as an intellectual leader.