Tag Archives: St Catherine of Siena

St Catherine of Siena

“The soul, who is lifted by a very great and yearning desire for the honor of God and the salvation of souls, begins by exercising herself, for a certain space of time, in the ordinary virtues, remaining in the cell of self-knowledge, in order to know better the goodness of God towards her. This she does because knowledge must precede love, and only when she has attained love, can she strive to follow and to clothe herself with the truth. But, in no way, does the creature receive such a taste of the truth, or so brilliant a light therefrom, as by means of humble and continuous prayer, founded on knowledge of herself and of God; because prayer, exercising her in the above way, unites with God the soul that follows the footprints of Christ Crucified, and thus, by desire and affection, and union of love, makes her another Himself.”

— St. Catherine of Siena, The Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena, p.1

Saint Catherine of Siena

St Catherine cuts hairAs the image shows, Saint Catherine of Siena cutting her hair and putting aside her beautiful clothing is interpreted as an act of modesty, chastity and a gesture of asceticism. Thus, she turns her eyes toward the Lord her Divine Spouse and away from man (the world).

Saint Catherine’s new and divine generativity is the result of her intense relationship with the Lord. More than her “speaking truth to power” which many today recognize in her, the key to knowing Saint Catherine and her place in the spiritual life is her ability to remain singular in her attraction to the things of God and his transformative Love. Concretely, this love centered on the Eucharist. As Pope Benedict XVI said,

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.

How much more ought we to follow this most beloved saint today: she indeed speaks to the heart of the matter. If you are serious, look at Catherine!

Virtue and love are interconnected

Saint Catherine of Siena: “You know that every virtue receives life from love, that is, by raising the eye of our intellect to consider how much we are loved by God. Seeing that we are loved, we cannot do anything except love. Loving God we embrace virtue out of love, and we despise vice out of hatred. So you see that it is in God that we conceive virtues, and in our neighbors that we bring them to birth. You know indeed that you give birth to the child charity that is in your soul in order to answer your neighbor’s need; and that you give birth to patience when your neighbor does you harm. You offer prayer for all your neighbors, and particularly for the one who has wronged you. That is the way we ought to behave; if others are unfaithful to us, we ought to be faithful to them, faithfully seeking their salvation and loving them gratuitously and not as a debt. In other words, take care not to love your neighbor for your own profit, for that would not be responding to the love which God has for you.”

Saint Catherine of Siena offers us a readjustment to our way of proceeding for the 30th Sunday of the Church Year (Mt 22:34-40). As we move closer and closer to the end of the liturgical year and the end of the civil calendar, our thinking, prayer and relationships take on a new intensity but only if we are aware of our humanity the holy desires of our heart.

Spy Wednesday

betrayal kiss judas jesusThe day before Holy Thursday is known by Catholics as Spy Wednesday. It is a day of profound aloneness. In the biblical and liturgical narrative of the Paschal Mystery we recall that the Apostle Judas played an essential part in our redemption, that sin and betrayal are at the heart of the Christian mystery of salvation just as grace, love and forgiveness.

The Biblical and theological roots of our faith gives us a striking opportunity to discern, to re-evaluate, re-direct our life. We call this the journey of conversion; we have the sacraments of Confession and Eucharist; we also have the tools of spiritual direction to see where God is leading us, or where we have not lived according to Catholic faith. This ability to think again, to have a metonoia, is a supreme grace because all of us have something of Judas in us.

How many of us think we are doing the right thing when in the final analysis our actions  were not. Judas’s betrayal of Jesus was in this category. The expectation Judas had hoped for was a Messiah who would liberate Israel from Roman rule thus creating a new Jerusalem, a new creation, a new people.  We know he was wrong, and that the devil presents bad things as good. The devil prevailed upon the freewill of Judas but twisting reality in his deception. The Apostle Judas failed to understand, as likely did the others, that Jesus wasn’t interested in earthly power.

The other important aspect of Judas and Spy Wednesday is our awareness of how evil works in the world. It is a reality and not fake. Evil has a real grip on our lives and can redirect our focus from God unto ourselves or materialistic tendencies that ultimately reject God. Pope Benedict spoke of a lack of awareness regarding evil when he said in one of his teachings, “Today there is a certain callousness of the soul towards the power of evil, an insensitivity to all the evil in the world: we do not want to be disturbed by these things, we want to forget, perhaps, we think, it is not important. It is not only insensitivity to evil, but also insensitivity to God.”

Spy Wednesday is an important day in our approach salvation. Hence, it cannot be treated as frivolous or disregard of the betrayal it points to. It is said that Saint Catherine of Siena worried about Judas’s fate but was told by the Lord that mercy was possible even for him.

Sometimes I am surprised how quickly we rush to rule the world with justice. Or, I should say some form of justice that is so harsh and decisive. I wonder if we are aware that our manner of being just is not God’s. For example, man and woman often determine who is and who is not in hell. Ours is a sentimental mercy. It is a common assessment that Judas is in hell. But, is this a matter of our business? Perhaps we ought to take Saint Catherine’s testimony as true. Biblical revelation tells us that only God determines the content of one’s heart. The Church’s teaching is that the Lord gave the power discern who is in communion, or not, with God (“the power of the keys”). I recall the famous line from Cardinal Avery Dulles who said we know hell exists but not the population of hell.

Today, Spy Wednesday, let us pray for those who have betrayed or been betrayed. As difficult as this is, praying for our enemies is exactly what Jesus would do. Let us pray for God’s mercy on Judas. Today, go to confession.

Saint Catherine of Siena

St Catherine of Siena cuts hair.jpg

Saint Catherine cut her hair and put aside her elegant clothing as an act of modesty, to shun the worldly attention of potential suitors and devote her life to Christ.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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