|St Catherine of Siena, 1347-1379. Doctor of Unity, Feast April 29th.What Catherine accomplished for Catholicism is unprecedented and perhaps the greatest milestone for the Catholic Church. To be graced with union and unity with God is the most ardent of Jesus’ wishes: “that all may be one .” This is the most blessed state of heaven on earth: “thy kingdom come, thy will be done.”
Our saint who was not a nun, but a laywoman, lived in the fourteenth century during the Crusades and the Great Schism. According to Father Christopher Rengers, O.F.M. Cap., in his book: The 33 Doctors of the Church that I have quoted extensively in all the doctors on this site, and found in the doctoral sources,
“St Catherine was born on Annunciation Day, March 25th, 1347, which in that year was also Palm Sunday. By the time she was weaned, Siena had lost 80,000 people in the Black Death, which was sweeping over Europe. Overgrown fields and empty houses were grim reminders to those who were left and to those of the new generation. During a later plague St. Catherine worked heroically, comforting, caring for and even curing the sick. It was then that she met Blessed Raymond Capua, (Dominican) who became her greatest confidante, her confessor and ultimately her biographer.”
This period in church history was most ignoble. She shines with brilliance for her accomplishments in bringing about needed changes and illumination, not only for the church, but, for all humanity seeking unity and reunification.
She is an exquisite model for all Third Order members and individuals who are single by choice or the providence of God. This extraordinary, holy lady is also an example for those who want to dedicate themselves to God and others for any just cause, regardless of their married or unmarried status.
No matter your job, profession or way of life, Catherine will lead you if you seek her support. She is great at establishing harmony, order and unity in your role and duties. If you are at odds with anyone, are adverse to certain people, or reluctant to be around troublemakers, you definitely want to know Catherine. She is a role model for charity. Explore reading and meditating with Catherine who was a great unifier and sought to unite disparities, differences, diverse opinions and divergent feelings.
The below link is a moving and humble international site to promote unity among all people and religions. It originated in Syria and is moving around the globe. It’s about a married couple and two children who bring us a message from Jesus and Mary and offer their home as a place for prayer. It has a powerful message that one will not easily forget. This site promotes what St Catherine stood for: Unity and prayer among all people.
Catherine is the first of the women doctors to be born. She is the last doctor during the Middle Ages and the first to bring about the union of the church back to Rome after nearly a century in France. What a stupendous feat! This division was more than a geographical rift and it caused great harm, embarrassment and scandal for the church.
All separations and isolations are painful. However, for the church to be in a state of ‘separation or divorce’ from Rome, was shocking. The institutional church was in an era of ‘darkness’. The Spirit would use Catherine to enlighten and help transform the people in the church to see with wisdom. Her achievements are perhaps the greatest changes in church history. They are great advantages for us today to learn from and esteem what holiness can contribute not only in spiritual manners but corporeal affairs.
There were five official popes during her brief lifetime and it was anyone’s guess who was in charge or how many popes claimed the papacy and exactly who was the one official pope at that time. Confusion reigned!
Father Leonard Foley’s book, which is used frequently and listed in the sources, states that one-third of the population and nearly forty percent of the clergy were wiped out by the Black Death during the 14th century. The Western Schism spit the church with two or three claimants to the Holy See at one time. St Catherine was the only doctor of the church born within the 14th or 15th century.
Her accomplishments in only thirty-three years on earth were achieved through her close union and unity with God. Her total surrender to God through virtue and not penances were instrumental in the church’s dramatic change. You can do the same for the church when your attitude, prayer life and loving faith are fully employed doing God’s holy will. Do you want to change the direction of the church? Read and reflect on Catherine’s life and Dialogue. Better yet, study and cry to her in holy prayer. She is a phenom!
Catherine is an example for us. We too can cause dynamic changes in the world today, and through the church, when we exercise God’s charity, hope, faith and trust. This is not easy and most challenging. Catherine was persecuted, accused and cleared of all charges by the church. The more anyone brings about changes, the more one is challenged, threatened and often persecuted. Often, the noblest history changers are murdered.
Compared to Catherine’s twin sister, who died suddenly after being born, she lived a long life. This Virgin-Doctor was the youngest of twenty-five children. God announced her birth to her parents, Lapa and Giacomo, in Siena, Italy exactly when the church was in dire need of a heroine. Today Catherine is the patroness of Italy.
As a child, Catherine was serious about God, cheerful, and intelligent. Her father was most sensitive to her. He allowed her to have extra space to pray. When God calls us to pray, and we cooperate, allowances are usually made for time, place and atmosphere. How Giacomo, with all his children, could give a room to her daughter for praying is an example of how man proposes but God disposes. Where there is genuine prayer, there is union, unity, harmony and accord.
The spiritual seeds bestowed in Catherine’s soul were being prepared for church unity. The church at this particular time was anything but united. Genuine prayer or loving union with God binds together everything as God is bound together by three Persons in one Godhead. It is a simple and profound mystery but what in life isn’t? Life is a challenge to love if one can because of hardships.
Catherine pursued God eagerly and vehemently. When she turned eighteen she was seriously called by God to prayer. She cooperated and spent the following three years in extra prayer time. She wanted seclusion. She chose to be committed to Christ. Christ was her interest, her life and her passion. It’s very simple. That’s what she begged God for and that’s what she got.
It is amazing what happens when we sincerely ask for God’s love and are prepared to receive it. Why? God is ever ready to bestow precious gifts most generously. Regardless of one’s profession, job or state of life, when love is received and shared with others, it will drive, guide and grace one enormously. It’s truly the force and energy of life. When one surrenders to the infinite Lover, God will often rev you up and keep you going without being conscious of getting tired. Allowing God to impress you with divine touches can easily turn ‘you on’. The process gets started by turning to prayer, sincerity and openness to God’s Spirit.
For this confident and wise woman, prayer had taken roots very early in her life. Later it began to have transforming effects. Exactly how this transforming took effect can be seen in the below link: Scroll down to the major heading entited: An Exchange of Hearts. Catherine is the first listed.
She spoke up and out for Christ. She was challenged. Opposition and slander toward her arose because of jealousy and other petty vices as envy, anger and a host of other pernicious attacks. Catherine was beginning to develop a following. God’s love is contagious and radiant. She became attractive because of her generous spirituality. It’s obvious men, especially Italian men, wanted to wine and dine her. Beauty attracts. If we have been gifted with God’s beauty physically, we readily have an attraction to want attention. If we have been gifted with God’s beauty spiritually, we readily have an attraction to give our attention to God. Prayer is focusing our attention on God regardless of how we feel.
Catherine preferred to belong totally to Christ. She was united to God intimately and she longed to maintain that unity even if it meant speaking out or saying things people didn’t necessarily like to hear. It did not matter if they were clergy. She reverently told the pope to return to Rome. She either wrote letters or dictated them. She spoke from her heart, strength, and soul. She poured herself out daily despite her position. A woman in the church during this time was a ‘nobody’. These were times when women were not typically outspoken especially publicly and certainly not in church circles. Her messages got through because it was God’s will and because she had tremendous confidence in God. She never said no to God. She was madly in love with God as a personal friend and everything she possessed was shared mutually for the love of the church.
Her public influence became widely known because of her holiness. She was obedient but outspoken, reverent, and docile. God called Catherine to pray, pray and pray. The last few years of her life she spent pleading for the unity of the church. The Papacy was in Avignon, France and Catherine told church officials where God wanted it. But who would listen? God would! God answered her prayers. God is bound to answer all prayers. Why is that? God told us so. What she asked from God was impossible. This was more incredible than moving a mountain. Catherine worked a trick on God. She duped God! She would offer herself as a victim to the Almighty and the Almighty would work an Almighty deed. The rest is history.
The church actually returned to Rome, Italy. Amazing? Prayer obtains all that is asked when one asks in faith and it is God’s will. Why is this so hard to believe or accept? Cynicism or disbelief or both? God used this woman in salvation history as the Almighty has used scores of other eminently holy women to help God’s people and the church to awaken unity and union of its members. The bible is loaded with God’s heroines. The literature in the sources and links abound with contemporary heroic figures.
God is a uniter. Goodness makes all things one for good. God blesses us and makes us holy joining us together in marriages, oneness and shared intimacy.
Catherine, it appears, was not a writer or reader. She wasn’t educated in the traditional manner. Whether she was ‘illiterate’ (as some suggest) or not, from an educational point of view, is insignificant or stupid to assume. Catherine was a spiritual giant with a powerful communication style and a genuine lover of Christ’s humanity. Everything that she asked of Christ in accordance with God’s will she got and more. The church greatly honors St Catherine with St Francis of Assisi as Italy’s main patroness and patron.
This noble lady was a doer. She was a doer of prayer. Prayer was her passion, her poise and her lifetime pursuit. Prayer nourished her and she nourished prayer. She was zealous for the Lord’s house. It was a love affair. People are more than body and soul. They are life and spirit, wrapped in clay, bulging with God’s talents and vision. Some people lift weights to build their body up. Others lift up their hearts and minds to strengthen their souls. Catherine allowed God to use both her body and soul to strengthen the “Mystical Body”, the Catholic Church, and claimed her in spiritual marriage. Even though she ranks among the greatest mystics and spiritual writers the church has produced, she got involved with others. In addition to prayer, she devoted herself to good works, distributing alms, caring for the repulsive and sick during the 1372 plague. She buried many of the victims with her own hands and labored tirelessly for others in need.
Because of Catherine’s great compassion for the dying under duress, she would be an excellent model as intercessor for the AIDS epidemic today. This might be compared to the Black Death plague in Catherine’s time. Disregarding the causes for AIDS, there are enormous deaths all around the world especially in third world countries. Millions of innocent victims of the AIDS sickness are devastated. Medical specialists say that the time range for AIDS may continue another ten years with no known cure to be in sight. Improvements are being made and hope is alive but it is a long way off before this epidemic will be wiped out, if ever. However, Catherine would advise us that with prayer all things could be achieved faster than imagined. What she achieved with prayer moving the church back to Italy could also be achieved toward another Herculean effort needed with the AIDS epidemic especially in Africa. Prayer, faith, religion, and medicine must be united and Catherine is a terrific unifier and one to intercede before God when humankind is in a most vulnerable state.
This is fact not fiction: Every day, at the present time, in Africa alone, 5 children die every minute of HIV or associated causes. 40,000 die each day worldwide from diseases and preventable causes. 15 million under the age of 5 die each year in developing countries. 10 million of the children in the developing world have no access to clean drinking water. 40% of children under age 5 suffer from malnutrition. 10 million of the world’s refugess, almost 70%, are children. And the list goes on…
Today there is nationwide effort to save Darfur. One effort is to increase US pressure on the UN for greater UN presence in Darful to protect the civilians and to assure humanitarian relief.
Join the million of voices postcard campaign and voice your concern. For more information on Darfur go to http://www.genocideintervention.net or http://www.hrw.org or http://www.savedarfur.org and firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also go to the website of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops which includes an endorsement of the Save Darfur Campaign and a statement by Pope Bendedict on the crises in Sudan. Over 400,000 have been killed and over 2 million are homeless.
Saint Catherine of Siena worked tirelessly to maintain peace and harmony between the Pope and Florence. She labored for the Crusade against hostile forces that weakened unity among people. Mystics, as Catherine, see God alive in people. In reality, that is where God dwells. God is obviously everywhere but especially hidden in souls. God is an amazing Hider. Because of God’s beauty and power, God subdues his majestic glory and awesomeness in order for us to cope with supernatural reality. We have to deal with our own visible human status and sometimes that is difficult enough.
Her book entitled, Dialogue, which was probably dictated, says it all: God talks and we listen. We then talk to God and then God listens. Now, that’s a dynamic, divine dialogue. Her counsels, wisdom and advice contained marvelous means on how to act charitable. Authentic merit is grounded in charity toward God and neighbor. That is the art of all religion and unity of humankind.
The Dominicans to which she was affiliated, founded by St Dominic, are an order of preachers among many ministries. As most religious orders they encourage 3rd order participation by men and women not in the order itself but committed to Christ through their own charisma and calling. Dominicans have contributed immeasurably to the growth of the Church. We should pray to their many holy personages. Some favorites for many include Catherine de Ricci, Rose of Lima, Martin de Porres, Margaret of Metola, Mary Bagnesi, Osanna Mantua, Lucy of Narni and Antoninus.
The Church honors three Dominican doctors: St Albert, St Thomas Aquinas and St Catherine of Siena. A favorite writer for many, who especially motivated me to explore writing, was Father Antonin Gilbert Sertillanges, O.P. The Dominicans, one of many religious institutes of men in the United States, were founded in the early 13th century by St Dominic de Guzman. General headquarters are in Sabina, Rome, Italy. In addition to preaching, they focus on teaching, missions, research and parishes. They have five provinces across the USA. Membership worldwide are over 11,000.
St Dominic at Prouille, France founded the Nuns of the Order of Preachers in 1206. They are comprised of cloistered and contemplative. They have two branches in the USA. First monastery was established in 1880 in Newark, N.J. from Oullins, France foundation. They have many autonomous monasteries in the USA employing perpetual adoration and perpetual rosary.
The rosary is a powerful and provocative prayer and is often associated with St Dominic receiving the gift from Our Lady. We reflect on the mysteries of the Jesus’ life as we verbally recite fifty hail-marys. The rosary is considered a compendium of the gospel. It includes the major events of Our Savior as they relate to our salvation and sanctification. The four major mysteries are the joyful, luminous, sorrowful and glorious. It is a prayer for all seasons. St Mary, our sister, down through the ages, quite frequently appears with the rosary in her hands as in the apparitions of Fatima.
For more specialized information on The Blessed Virgin and what each doctors said about Mary, please click on the below link:
Many Catholics frequent the first Saturday devotions in honor of Our Lady of Fatima. Louis de Montfort’s, (whose feast day was yesterday, 4/28,) books on the rosary and Mary are classics. They included True Devotion to Mary, The Secret of the Rosary and The Secret of Mary.
The rosary has the power to unite us to God as St Catherine advocated. Christ desires for all humankind to be one, mutual and have intimate knowledge of Him. All should have respectful relationship with each as all are God’s children.
God used Catherine to bring the church together in the mid fourteenth century. Today God is forever encouraging unity and goodwill among all people and nations. Unity in one church would be God’s more cherished wish from a human perspective. We could surmise that since God is one, the Trinity would want all to be one for everyone else. However, that might not be the case because our thoughts are not his thoughts nor are our ways God’s ways.
All creatures, God’s representatives and his seers throughout the world attempt this unity. We too must do our part. By acting charitable constantly, we will be able to act as God would act in us.
The below prayer of St Catherine of Siena reveals the depths and profundity of her love that she possessed toward Mary, Jesus and God.
O God, how inestimable and most sweet is the union You have effected with human beings! You have splendidly shown Your ineffable Love through many graces and benefits heaped on creatures, and especially through the benefit of the Incarnation of your Son; that is, the grace of seeing the Highest One come down to the lowest-which is our humanity.
Rightly should human pride be abashed on seeing God so abashed in the womb of the Virgin Mary, who was that sweet field in which was sown the seed of the Word Incarnate, the Son of God. Truly, most dear Father, in this blessed and sweet field of Mary God grafted this Word in her flesh like the seed that is cast on the ground, which by virtue of the sun’s heat germinates and brings forth flowers and fruits, while the pod remains in the earth.
This is what God truly did, by virtue of the heat and the fire of the Divine Love that He had for the human race, casting the seed of His Word in the field of Mary. O blessed and dear Mary, you have given us the flower of the sweet Jesus.
And when did this sweet flower produce its fruit? When there was grafted in her the wood by the most holy Cross: because then we received perfect life. And why did we say that the pod remains in the earth? What was this pod? It was the will of the Only-begotten Son of God, Who, as Man, was imbued with the desire to honor His Father and to bring about our salvation. So strong was this immeasurable desire that He hastened like someone enraptured-sustaining pain and shame and vituperation-to the opprobrious death of the Cross. Consider, then, venerable Father, that this same desire was in Mary, that is, that she could not desire anything other than the honor or God and salvation of creatures. Moreover, the Doctors declare-in manifestation of Mary’s immeasurable charity- that she was willing to become a ladder herself so as to place her Son on the Cross if there had been no other way to do so. And all this came about because the will of the Son had remained in her.
The year 1999 was designated for reflection on our Father.
Lastly, The Dialogue of St Catherine is about 107 pages long. It is the sixth link below. However, there is a brief summary of the entire book near the end on page 101. God told Catherine that mercy is God’s special attribute. This mercy is manifested in Jesus who is the Bridge through his divinity and humanity with our humanity to make us more divine. Catherine tells about the mystical body which is the church and its members. One special importance for us today is that God informs us that reverence toward God’s ministers should not be diminished on account of the sins of the ministers and that God is most displeased with irreverence in any manner. God promised reform of the church in her time and it was done.
Today, also, we are in need of reform within the church and outside the church. It will be our prayers, that renewal, conversion and change of heart will also be accomplished. It is the daily challenge for us to exercise our faith, hope and charity daily. It is through God’s Church, her sacraments, our prayers and the kind action toward others, who are in great need of his mercy, that we will obtain transformation, union and unity. This is what St Catherine did throughout her thirty-three years, in union with her beloved, Jesus Christ.
With thanks to http://www.doctorsofthecatholicchurch.com/C.html