Catherine of Siena vs. Emma of Hawaii

Today's match-up is fraught with intrigue as two popular women from fabulous vacation spots duke it out for the right to advance to the Round of the Saintly Sixteen. If you were smart, you conducted some intense personal research by traveling to both Siena, Italy, and Honolulu, Hawaii, before the start of Lent Madness. If not, now is the time to lobby your travel agent for a 2013 Lent Madness vacation package.

In recent action, John Cassian coasted to victory over James Lloyd Breck (55% to 45%), making you wonder why Nashotah House graduates aren't more passionate about Lent Madness. Perhaps all that Tebowing (what we used to call genuflecting) distracted them from the task at hand. In any case, view the updated bracket and the calendar of upcoming match-ups and enjoy today's Lent Madness all-female revue.
Catherine of Siena (1347-1380) was a 14th century mystic, visionary, Dominican tertiary, and theologian. She’s best known for being an articulate critic of political battles among clergy within the Roman Catholic Church. Appalled by factional fighting that resulted in the Avignon papacy, she persuaded Pope Gregory XI to return to Rome and reform the clergy. When the next Great Schism broke out in 1378, Pope Urban VI demanded that Catherine come to Rome as his advocate.

In the midst of all this, Catherine experienced a “mystical marriage” with Jesus, received the stigmata, and found time to dictate a book of meditations and revelations, The Dialogue of Divine Providence. More than 300 of her letters to confessors, royalty, and church officials have survived over the centuries. Interestingly, 1/3 of her surviving letters were written to women.

Catherine was drawn to faith at an early age, having her first vision of Christ blessing her when she was five and vowing chastity at the age of seven. She died in 1380 at the age of 33 (by tradition, the same age as her Lord). She was canonized in 1461 and received the title of Doctor of the Church in 1970, one of the few women to ever receive this honor.

Collect for Catherine of Siena: Everlasting God, you so kindled the flame of holy love in the heart of blessed Catherine of Siena, as she meditated on the passion of your Son our Savior, that she devoted her life to the poor and the sick, and to the peace and unity of the Church: Grant that we also may share in the mystery of Christ’s death, and rejoice in the revelation of his glory; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

-- Meredith Gould

Still revered by Hawaiians as “our beloved Queen,” Emma Kalanikaumakaamano Kaleleonālani Naʻea Rooke, or Queen Emma for short, was born to a royal family with direct lineage to King Kamehameha I. At 20 she married King Kamehameha IV with whom she shared a love for the Anglican church and its liturgy.  In 1860, shortly after the birth of their son, the couple petitioned the Bishop of Oxford to send missionaries to establish the Anglican Church of Hawaii.

The Church of England was happy to oblige and soon dispatched a bishop and two priests to those pleasant shores. Unlike monarchs before her, Emma was a hands-on royal who commenced building a school for Hawaiian girls and St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Honolulu. Her deep concern for the well-being of her people, who had been ravaged by smallpox, was seen in the establishment of what would become Queen’s Medical Center. Today it is the premiere medical facility for the Pacific basin.

The personal tragedy of losing both her four-year-old son and her beloved husband in a 15-month span did not stop Emma from endeavoring on behalf of her people. To assume the throne after her husband’s death, Emma was required to enter Hawaii’s constitutionally-mandated election process. Though the Hawaiian people supported her candidacy, her opponent won a landslide victory in the Legislative Assembly. In the wake of this upset, her supporters rioted but were quickly quelled by the presence of American warships in the harbor.

Over the next 22 years, to the end of her life at age 49, the dowager queen remained steadfast in her faithfulness to the Church of Hawaii and her people. Comfortable in her identity as a descendant of both Hawaiians and Europeans, she was multi-cultural before it was cool. Her holy example and legacy of charity live on across the islands and beyond.

Collect for Kamehamha IV and Emma: O Sovereign God, who raised up Kamehameha and Emma to be rulers in Hawaii, and inspired and enabled them to be diligent in good works for the welfare of their people and the good of your Church: Receive our thanks for their witness to the Gospel; and grant that we, with them, may attain to the crown of glory that never fades away; through Jesus Christ our Savior and Redeemer, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

-- Heidi Shott


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88 comments on “Catherine of Siena vs. Emma of Hawaii”

  1. I love the fact that Emma and Kamehameha are considered saints worthy of commemoration. But I preached my senior sermon on Catherine and visited her head on display in the Sienna Cathedral. She was probably as crazy as a loon, but she's got my vote.

    1. Nobody gave more to her people than Queen Emma - who even after her husband died - took to the streets of her city to raise money to establish the first real hospital in Hawaii. She always put others before herself and loved the Anglican/Episcopal Church!

  2. Your mention of "vacation spots" makes me wonder if there are any saints from Charlotte.

  3. This was really tough! I love Catherine and the fact that a women could play such a powerful role in a church that was (and is) so male dominated. I don't think women often get enough credit for the influence they had when women had no rights. On the other hand, I love the determination of Emma, who when everything was against her, stayed loyal to her Church and people. I've been to both places and truly was torn with this vote. But in the end, it was Emma who won my vote. I think because her efforts were a bit more modern.

  4. [The eternal Father to Catherine:] " You are she who is not, and I AM HE WHO IS."

    "You see this gentle loving Word born in a stable while Mary was on a journey, to show you pilgrims how you should be constantly born anew in the stable of self-knowledge, where by grace you will find me born in your soul."

    I admire Emma's dedication to her people, but I have to go with Catherine, who seemed to have really "gotten it".

  5. Catherine. She was a doctor of the Church when women weren't allowed to be leaders. She explained God in ways that resonate with others, including me.

  6. Both women seems ready to be sized for a GOLDEN HALO (heavenly choir sings a perfect chord of honor), but I liked Emma. I liked that she invited the church in.

  7. No real good reason for my Catherine vote except that the church I grew up in was Catherine of Siena....

  8. Those who manage to stay grounded and not waft like incense up into the rarified atmosphere seldom, if ever, receive their just desserts. But we do tend to revel in the aura given off by visions and stigmata and the cloistered life. Well, I'll have to cast my lot with Emma who stayed grounded, suffered for the Church at the hands uplifted against her and tested by the loss of those closest to her, yet was ever- faithful to her people and her God. She remained here with us....well...with them. I have a hard time dealing with anybody who has visions at the age of five. each his/her own Dulcinea.

  9. wow. Another tough call. But I often wonder it stigmata was some sort of weird festering boil thing...Emma it is, long live the descendants of King Kamehameha. Aloha.

  10. Emma seems a real flesh and blood saint to me. Being a mother myself, I'll go with the saintly mother every time.

  11. Emma - for sure. Catherine - the most well known anorexic IMO. and what was all the weirdness about being married to Christ with his foreskin as a ring?

  12. I went with Catherine only because of this statement: "She’s best known for being an articulate critic of political battles among clergy within the Roman Catholic Church." I feel as if we could use a bit of her spirit these days.

  13. Emma is great but Catherine....well isn't it obvious why I HAD to vote for her? Besides, she is the Patron Saint of Nurses (which my mother was one) as well as the against illness, sick people and miscarriages. What better advocate for women's health issues?!

  14. Close contest in these early hours.

    I voted for Catheirine. She (her writings, speifically the Dialogues) had a profound influence on my spiritual life. And I, too, saw her head when I visited Siena. Doctor of the Church. Vote Catherine.

  15. I thought this going to be a tough choice until I read an article yesterday about a Catherine of Siena church inVa attended by Rick santorun. Made Emma a lock for me.

    1. Thank you for a good laugh this morning. Your reasoning works for me too. Emma rules!

  16. A woman would have to be crazy as a loon to take on the Catholic hierarchy. That she succeeded in getting a pope to reform the clergy makes me suspect the diagnosis was bipolar II -- the diagnosis of most weirdly successful people. The stigmata - every culture creates its own manifestation of neurological difference. I haven't decided yet, but this trash talk about Catherine is tipping me in her favor. Us loonies need a few saints to remind us that our illness has a place in God's economy.

    1. a fox! (as grandma would say)
      Vote currently undecided but I do like Catherine for speaking truth to power. I'm fascinated that power listened!

      As an aside, the practice of putting saintly body parts on display grosses me right out (why not put THAT one up as her photo? Ew.) I wish Power would stop doing that. But what happened to her head post-mortem is not Catherine's fault, so I can't let that bias my choice.

  17. Been to Honolulu and Siena a couple of times. I love Siena and that area of Italy. I have visited Catherine's burial site(s). An interesting choice. While Emma is certainly a worthwhile choice, I think I will go with Catherine. Catherine in as interesting example of how a person with serious mental health issues (IMHO) can still make a significant contribultion.

  18. Hard choice--Catherine's disgust with church politics resonated, but Emma's gritty and steadfast devotion to God and to her people--and that beautiful, tough, resolute face gazing out from the photo--made her my choice. Besides...

    Saints depicted in
    photos, not icons--love that
    RECENT holiness!

  19. I had to vote for Catherine because she exhibited her sainthood so well and, of course, was stigmatized. However, to give credit where due, Emma gets my vote for best hat.

  20. Yeah, I know Catherine was pre-Reformation, and I love that she spoke truth to power, but in the end, the Anglican takes it for me! Besides, like Aleathia, "visions" at age 5 make me a tad uneasy. Aloha!

  21. Oops, I made a mistake about the stigmata; but Catherine is still my candidate. Just like our church leaders to wait 600+ years to award her with her her doctorate.

  22. Tough choice today. While I often go with the mystics, today I thought it was time for a more grounded choice and for an unfamiliar name to me, who keeps the faith day by day. Thanks Emma.

  23. Catherine has my vote, her voice for people in a time when women did not have
    a voice in the church speaks to me. She sees the problems in the church and
    says something about them.

  24. What a hard choice today! I finally went with Emma because she was so hands on, she invited the church AND remained faithful to her people. Not always an easy thing to do.
    I did, however, admire Catherine because, "She’s best known for being an articulate critic of political battles among clergy within the Roman Catholic Church. Appalled by factional fighting that resulted in the Avignon papacy, she persuaded Pope Gregory XI to return to Rome and reform the clergy." We could certainly use her around here today! (I am speaking about the Anglican church here.)