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Saint Catherine originally named Caterina Benincasa was born in Siena a city in west-central Italy south of Florence She was born on March 25 1347 the feast of the Annunciation She had a twin sister who did not live long after her birth Catherine was the youngest of twenty-five children Her father Giacomo Benincasa was a wealthy dyer He lived with his wife Lupa the daughter of a then famous poet in a spacious house which is still standing today Catherine is described as having been a happy child She learned to read at an early age although she could not write until she became an adult Catherine led an extremely pious childhood devoted to prayer and penance despite her parents strong but intermittent opposition Sometimes on her way up or down the stairs she would kneel on every step and say a Hail Mary Catherine was six or seven years old when she had a remarkable experience She was returning with her brother Stephen from a visit to the home of her married sister Bonaventura when she came to a stop She stood spellbound in the middle of the road with her eyes to the sky When Stephen noticed she was not next to him he called out to her Catherine was oblivious to his calls Stephen went up to her and seized her by the hand awakening Catherine as if from a dream Upset that he had awoken her she burst into tears and told him she had a vision in which she saw the Lord seated with Saint Peter Saint Paul and Saint John He smiled upon her and extended his hand to bless her When Catherine reached the age of twelve her parents urged her to pay more attention to her personal appearance in hope that she would soon consider marriage She agreed to dress in the fashion and dress her hair only to please her mother and Bonaventura
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