Skip to comments.Catholic Caucus - St. Catherine of Siena
Posted on 04/28/2002 12:28:00 PM PDT by history_matters
St. Catherine of Siena deliberately told popes, queens and kings how to behave. She was spontaneous, unafraid of authority and fearless in the face of death. She was a Dominican religious who corresponded with Popes and peasants alike.
Born in 1347, at Siena, Italy, Saint Catherine lived through the Black Death, famine and numerous civil wars. During her lifetime the papal residence moved from Rome to Avignon and back again, and the great western Schism pitted Pope against anti-pope.
Even at a young age, Catherine sensed the troubled society around her and wanted to help. Childishly she dreamed of dressing up like a man to become a Dominican friar; more than once she ran into the street to kiss the ground where Dominicans walked. l
Catherine's parents tried hard to discourage her from becoming religious, but eventually, when she was about sixteen-years-old, Catherine, with the help of the Holy Spirit, was permitted to enter the Third Order lay sisters of Penance of St Dominic, the Mantellate.
During her life in the Third Order, St. Catherine had numerous visions and long ecstasies, but she is most remembered for her writings, which eventually led to her being declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI in 1970.
Truth be known, she didn't learn how to write until the end of her life, but that never stopped her. She dictated her literary masterpieces, sometimes reciting three documents to three secretaries at the same time.
Her bold letters, even today, have a way of shocking the reader into reality. The style of her letters was lean and direct. She sometimes broke with polite convention. For example, during the Great Western Schism, in defense of Pope Urban VI, she rebuked three Italian cardinals who were supporting the anti-pope, writing to them, "what made you do this? You are flowers who shed no perfume, but stench that makes the whole world reek." 2
These words are strong, and it is not recommended that we imitate them. St. Catherine had a unique call from God, which Pope Paul VI referred to as her "charism of exhortation." 3 it was her great love and fidelity to the Pope and college of bishops that prompted her to respond to God's urgings that she be forthright with those who were against the Vicar of Christ.
Encouraging the Pope
Wanting Pope Gregory XI to leave his residency in Avignon and return to Rome, and knowing the Supreme Pontiff was afraid of being poisoned, Catherine wrote to him, "Be not a timorous child, but manly . . ." 4 she spoke to him as a loving daughter would. In other parts of her letters to the Popes she used an affectionate pet name for them: Babbo, which means Daddy.
Giving It To the Queen
To Giovanna, the Queen of Naples, who supported the anti-pope and was accused of murdering her husband, St. Catherine wrote, "You know that you do ill, but like a sick and passionate woman, you let yourself be guided by your passions." 5
Catherine risked death by sending such words to the authorities of her time. But she was not afraid. "I trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, not in myself" was one of her favorite prayers. 6
At the Block
There was a dramatic moment in St. Catherine's life, when she proved to the public that death, for her,had no sting.
Once, a young man, Nicolo di Toldo, sentenced to be beheaded, asked Catherine to come to his execution. The saint caressed his head as it lay on the block. Later, she wrote to Blessed Raymond of Capua about the event. "I have just taken a head into my hands and have been moved so deeply that my heart cannot grasp it . . . I waited for him at the place of execution. . . he arrived like a meek lamb and when he saw me he began to smile. He asked me to make the sign of the cross over him . . . I stretched out his neck and bent down to him, reminding him of the blood of the Lamb. His lips kept murmuring only "Jesus" and "Catherine," and he was still murmuring when I received his head into my hands . . . my soul rested in peace and quiet, so aware of the fragrance of blood that I could not remove the blood which had splashed onto me." 7
It was with this kind of courage that Catherine approached the Vicar of Christ. She succeeded in convincing Pope Gregory XI to return to Rome, but he soon died and Pope Urban VI took his place. Relentless, Catherine began to write to the new Pope. She was direct with him and told him he needed to control his temper. Pope Urban VI appreciated her forthright counsel. When an anti-pope was supported and the Great Western Schism began, Urban VI invited Catherine to Rome. He needed her support. She went to Rome in 1378 and from there wrote regular letters to state and Church leaders in defense of Pope Urban's sole right to the papal throne. Every day she walked to St. Peter's Basilica and prayed for church unity. After two years of this exhaustive work, she died in 1380 at age thirty-three.
St. Catherine's impact on her society was so profound that Europe was unable to forget her. Only eighty-one years after her death, she was canonized by Pope Pius II. Even now, Rome recalls her aptitude for unprecedented action. For example, Pope John Paul II recently honored her "impassioned liveliness" and "freedom of initiative," when he marked the 25th anniversary of her being named one of the FIRST women Doctors of the Church. 8
1. Raymond of Capua, The Life of Catherine of Siena, pp. 33-34.
2. St. Catherine of Siena, Letters of St. Catherine of Siena, Vida D. Scudder, (ed). P. 278.
3. O'Driscoll, Mary, O.P., Catherine of Siena, p. 38.
4. Ibid., Scudder. P. 185
5. Ibid., Scudder. P. 287
6. Raymond of Capua, The Life of Catherine of Siena, pp. 99-100.
7. O'Driscoll, Mary, O.P., Catherine of Siena: Selected Spiritual Writings, pp. 41-42.
8. Pope John Paul II, Oct. 1, 1995, Letter to Archbishop Gaetano Bonicelli of Siena, Italy.
© 1996 Blue Army of Our Lady of Fatima
Reprinted from March/April 1996 SOUL Magazine.
Monday the 29th of April is the Feast Day of St. Catherine of Siena. How perfect of the Lord to arrange it so that here feast should fall in the middle of this nightmare for the Church in America.
St. Catherine was God's gift to the Church in a time of trouble and schism, and this thread is for celebrating the deeds she did for love of Jesus Christ and to share the beauty of her writings.
BUMP for strong Italian girls;)
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 for ever. Amen.
-from On Divine Providence by Saint Catherine of Siena
"You are flowers who shed no perfume, but stench that makes the whole world reek." 2
There are perhaps some american Cardinals that need to hear this?
Dear Lord, please raise up a St. Catherine for us!
Vivono le donne (Italiane)!
As in "The Father of Orthodoxy"?
from The Bridge: A Treatise Of Discretion
How this Bridge is built of stones which signify virtues; and how on the Bridge is a hostelry where food is given to the travelers; and how he who goes over the Bridge goes to life, while he who goes under It goes to perdition and death.
"This Bridge is built of stones, so that, if the rain come, it may not impede the traveler. Do you know what these stones are? They are the stones of true and sincere virtues. These stones were not built into the walls before the Passion of My Son, and therefore even those who attempted to walk by the road of virtue were prevented from arriving at their journey's end, because Heaven was not yet unlocked with the key of the Blood, and the rain of Justice did not let them pass; but, after the stones were made, and built up on the Body of My sweet Son, My Word, of whom I have spoken to you, He, who was Himself the Bridge, moistened the mortar for its building with His Blood. That is, His Blood was united with the mortar of divinity, and with the fortitude, and the fire of love; and, by My power, these stones of the virtues were built into a wall, upon Him as the foundation, for there is no virtue which has not been proved in Him, and from Him all virtues have their life.
Wherefore no one can have the virtue given by a life of grace, but from Him, that is, without following the footsteps of His doctrine. He has built a wall of the virtues, planting them as living stones, and cementing them with His Blood, so that every believer may walk speedily, and without any servile fear of the rain of Divine justice, for he is sheltered by the mercy which descended from Heaven in the Incarnation of this My Son. How was Heaven opened? With the key of His Blood; so you see that the Bridge is walled and roofed with Mercy.
His also is the Hostelry in the Garden of the Holy Church, which keeps and ministers the Bread of Life, and gives to drink of the Blood, so that My creatures, journeying on their pilgrimage, may not, through weariness, faint by the way; and for this reason My love has ordained that the Blood and the Body of My only-begotten Son, wholly God and wholly man, may be ministered to you.
The pilgrim, having passed the Bridge, arrives at the door which is part of the Bridge, at which all must enter, wherefore He says: 'I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, he who follows Me does not walk in darkness, but in light.' And in another place My Truth says, 'That no man can come to Me if not by Him,' and so indeed it is.
Therefore He says of Himself that He is the Road, and this is the truth, and I have already shown you that He is a Road in the form of the Bridge. And He says that He is the Truth, and so He is, because He is united with Me who am the Truth, and he who follows Him, walks in the Truth, and in Life, because he who follows this Truth receives the life of grace, and cannot faint from hunger, because the Truth has become your food, nor fall in the darkness, because He is light without any falsehood. And, with that Truth, He confounded and destroyed the lie that the Devil told to Eve, with which he broke up the road to Heaven, and the Truth brought the pieces together again, and cemented them with His Blood. Wherefore, those who follow this road are the sons of the Truth, because they follow the Truth, and pass through the door of Truth and find themselves united to Me, who am the Door and the Road and at the same time Infinite Peace.
"But he, who walks not on this road, goes under the Bridge, in the river where there are no stones, only water, and since there are no supports in the water, no one can travel that way without drowning; thus have come to pass the sins, and the condition of the world. Wherefore, if the affection is not placed on the stones, but is placed, with disordinate love, on creatures, loving them, and being kept by them far from Me, the soul drowns, for creatures are like water that continually runs past, and man also passes continually like the river, although it seems to him that he stands still and the creatures that he loves pass by, and yet he is passing himself continually to the end of his journey -- death! And he would gladly retain himself (that is his life, and the things that he loves), but he does not succeed, either, through death, by which he has to leave them, or through my disposition, by which these created things are taken from the sight of My creatures. Such as these follow a lie, walking on the road of falsehood, and are sons of the Devil, who is the Father of Lies; and, because they pass by the door of falsehood, they receive eternal damnation. So then you see, that I have shown you both Truth and Falsehood, that is, My road which is Truth, and the Devil's which is Falsehood."
Holiness is to be found everywhere in the Church, not just the hierarchy. I have been praying for St. Catherine's intercession, especially in light of the scandals that are rocking the hierarchical boat.
I Tasted and I Saw
Eternal God,eternal Trinity, you have made the blood of Christ so precious through his sharing in your divine nature.You are a mystery as deep as the sea;the more I search,the more I find,and the more I find the more I search for you. But I can never be satisfied;what I receive will ever leave me desiring more.When You fill my soul I have an even greater hunger,and I grow more famished for your light. I desire above all to see you,the true light,as you really are.
I have tasted and seen the depth of your mystery and the beauty of your creation with the light of my understanding. I have clothed myself with your likeness and have seen what I shall be. Eternal Father, You have given me a share in your power and the wisdom that Christ claims as his own,and your Holy Spirit has given me the desire to love you. You are my Creator, eternal Trinity, and I am your creature. You have made of me a new creation in the blood of your Son, and I know that You are moved with love at the beauty of your creation, for You have enlightened me.
Eternal Trinity,Godhead, mystery deep as the sea, You could give me no greater gift than the gift of yourself. For You are a fire ever burning and never consumed, which itself consumes all the selfish love that fills my being. Yes, You are a fire that takes away the coldness,illuminates the mind with its light and causes me to know your truth. By this light, reflected as it were in a mirror, I recognize that You are the highest good, one we can neither comprehend nor fathom. And I know that You are beauty and wisdom itself. The food of angels, You gave yourself to man in the fire of your love.
You are the garment which covers our nakedness,and in our hunger You are a satisfying food, for You are sweetness and in You there is no taste of bitterness, O triune God!
Taken from the Office of Reading in the Divine Office today.