Blessed Dina Belanger was born in Quebec City, Canada, on April 30, 1897 (five months to the day before the death of St. Therese of Lisieux). She was the daughter of Octave Belanger, an auditor and accountant by profession, and his wife Seraphia Matte. She was baptized the same day in the Church of St-Roch in the Lower Town of Quebec, receiving the names Margaret-Mary Dina (the latter in honor of her paternal grandmother). She was an only child. A brother, Joseph-Simeon-Gustave, was born seventeen months after her, but lived only three months. Dina inherited from her family, in addition to their Norman French roots and deep Catholic Faith, a strong will and a love of order and precision (her father’s side) and a pious, reserved and unselfish character (her mother’s side).
Before she was born, her mother prayed earnestly each day at the Elevation of the Mass, that her unborn child, whether boy or girl, might be a holy religious, and she offered all her sufferings for the salvation of that soul. She lost no time in educating Dina once she was born. When Dina was six months old, her mother would take her tiny hand in hers and make with it the Sign of the Cross. And very soon the baby learned to do it when she was placed in her cradle for the night.
As she grew older she would say her prayers leaning against her father’s knee, her head bowed and her hands joined. She loved the ‘Angelus’ prayer, and whenever she heard the bell ring while playing outside she would run upstairs in time to say ‘Amen’, which was all the Latin she knew!Madame Belanger took her to church at an early age, not only to Mass, but also to sermons, novenas, and meetings of the ‘Ladies of the Holy Family’
She had a dream when she was five: she saw the Child Jesus at the foot of her bed. He stretched out His arms to her and asked with a smile, ‘What would you like?’ She exclaimed, ‘Oh! Will you give me Your picture?’ It was close to Christmas; and when she returned from Midnight Mass, she found near her bed a Nativity set made of colored cardboard. On the bed of straw was the Infant Jesus, looking up beseechingly and stretching out His arms, just as in her dream! On seeing this, Dina cried out, ‘I knew He would send me His picture!’
At age thirteen, she was admitted to the Sodality of Our Lady at Jacques-Cartier, and took as her personal motto ‘DEATH RATHER THAN DEFILEMENT’. This was her ‘ideal’ until she entered the Novitiate at Sillery Convent. At about the same time, she consecrated herself to Our Lady by means of the ‘True Devotion’ of St. Louis-Marie de Montfort (at this time only a ‘Blessed’). This consecration brought her great joy and peace.On March 25, 1908, which was Holy Thursday that year, Dina heard the ‘voice’ of Jesus for the first time. She says, ‘During my act of thanksgiving after Communion, Our Lord spoke to my soul by means of a new light. This was the first time I heard His voice so well; interiorly, of course, a soft melodious voice which overwhelmed me with happiness.’
She drew up a rule of life for herself: morning and evening prayers, daily Mass and Communion, Rosary; at least ten minutes of meditation in the morning, and weekly confession. She also included her duties towards her neighbor and herself. In addition, she examined her conscience each night.She also became a member of the ‘Apostleship of Prayer’, which spread devotion to the Sacred Heart. She helped to distribute the monthly prayer leaflets. Her mother was also a member. In addition, she continued to help her mother in visiting the sick and the poor, something that was done since her early childhood.When the First World War began in 1914, the seventeen-year-old Dina offered herself to Our Lord ‘in a spirit of reparation and love in order to give Him some consolation and save souls.’ She was especially distressed ‘at the moral evil threatening the world.’ And a little later, she offered herself as a ‘victim of Divine love.’
Our Lord instilled into Dina a great desire for contempt and humiliation. She made this prayer every morning: ‘My God, grant me the grace of being scorned and humiliated as much as You desire me to be, and may all who despise and humiliate me be in no way blameworthy. If You desire that I should taste no more joys on earth, I am willing to forego them.’ When she made this offering, Dina thought she was renouncing every earthly joy; but as soon as her soul desired nothing ‘but sacrifice’, she was filled with happiness. She says, ‘Such is the secret of Divine love.’
It was usually in church and on Friday that Our Lord enlightened Dina; especially during Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament (like St Gemma Galgani) , but there were other times too. One First Friday, as she prayed before the Blessed Sacrament, she seemed to see a great multitude of souls rushing to their eternal damnation. She was made to see that she should console Our Lord in His great grief, and pray for the conversion of their poor souls (like Sister Josefa Menendez).
Her thirst for martyrdom increased, and with it an intense thirst for self-denial. Under obedience, Dina relates some of these mortifications: never showing preference for any kind of food, taking what she liked least; turning her eyes away when passing by a confectionary shop (VERY prevalent in French-speaking Canada!); not drinking when thirsty; sleeping on a hard pillow; not crossing her feet at the ankles; accepting candy when offered but not touching it when alone. Are these childish? On the surface, maybe-but the scoffers and skeptics out there try for a single day what is most perfect in everyday circumstances, and how much strength of will it requires to endure what some spiritual writers call ‘a martyrdom of pinpricks’!
While all this ‘interior’ life was going on, Dina became a Third Order Dominican. After a year of probation, she made her profession, and took the name of St. Catherine of Siena. This name was granted her only after she said that her birthday was on the Feastday of St. Catherine (April 30 on the ‘Traditional’ Roman Calendar-now April 29 on the Modern Roman Calendar).
At this time she made a ‘pact’ with the Angels guarding the Tabernacles of the world to replace her everywhere and always in adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament in her place. Later on, as her mystical life deepened, she heard Mass in union with them in a special manner. She also ‘supernaturalized’ her meal times, imagining she was eating in the Holy Family’s presence and being served by Angels.In her annual retreat in August, she was haunted by the desire to make the ‘Vow of Greater Perfection’ after hearing that St. Margaret-Mary Alacoque (the visionary of the Sacred Heart) made such a vow in her lifetime. She aimed at making this vow later on (she was not permitted to make it during this time of her novitiate), trusting absolutely in God. She wrote these words to sum up this retreat: ‘I want to be a Saint! With the help of Your grace, O Jesus, I will become one.’
After she graduated in 1914, she moved to New York to study piano and composition, receiving her degree in 1918. She returned to her parents’ home and performed concerts to raise money for charity. During these years, she discerned that God was calling her to religious life and she entered the Congregation of Religious of Jesus and Mary in Quebec in 1922.Given the religious name “Sister Maria di Santa Cecilia Romana,” she professed religious vows in 1923.
Assigned to teach music in one of the order’s schools, she contracted tuberculosis and scarlet fever (the result of caring for a sick child). Her health began to deteriorate quickly, but during this time she wrote a spiritual autobiography and composed music intended to express her union with Jesus.
Having professed her perpetual vows in 1928, Blessed Dina Belanger died on September 4, 1929, in the Jésus-Marie Convent in Sillery. She was beatified in 1993.