Living for God Alone in the Spirit of St. Catherine

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St. Catherine of Siena

St. Catherine of Siena

I surveyed the newspaper quickly before heading out the door to work one morning. Disturbed by the headlines, I reminded myself that even when man gets off track, God is always there to lead us back. Because of Jesus, we know there is victory over evil in the world and great cause for hope.

Still, on that morning, I had to ask, “What is wrong with this world, Lord? What are people thinking? It seems like everyone is confused.”

One headline was about the Supreme Court taking up the gay “marriage” ban. The other was about a six year old boy who was transgendered to a girl. The parents had filed a civil suit to allow their girl to use the girls’ bathroom. Pretty heavy headlines to start your day.

Later, I found some relief, as I was going through The Prayers of St. Catherine of Siena, a book I turn to when I need to go deep to connect with God.

I read these words:

“Now I see the world lying completely dead, so dead that my soul faints at the sight. What way can there be now to revive this dead one once more? For you, God, cannot suffer, and you are not about to come again but to judge it. How then shall this dead one be brought back to life?” (Prayer 19, circa 1379)

In the 14th century, St. Catherine looked around her and wondered the same things we do today. She spoke the very words I was feeling. She, too, looked at the world in which she lived and questioned God about it. She prayed for a solution. In this prayer she expresses the answer she discovered. It is relevant for us today as well.

She writes:

“But, as I see it, you are calling your servants christs, and by means of them you want to relieve the world of death and restore it to life. How? You want these servants of yours to walk courageously along the Word’s way, with concern and blazing desire, working for your honor and the salvation of souls, and for this patiently enduring pain, torments, disgrace, blame—from whatever source these may come.”

What was her solution? People, whom she called christs. When God’s people follow God’s ways and listen to his plan, they can influence the world. St. Catherine was always praying on behalf of others (especially the pope.) She surely knew what it was to intercede in sacrifice for others.

While we call the movement in the church the New Evangelization, we cannot forget that it is not actually new. We can see this clearly in St. Catherine’s prayer, as she calls on followers of Christ to be courageous and endure whatever might come as a result of their work.

But, the key to all of this is found in the final words of her prayer, something we must not forget. Today’s “warriors of God” must be careful that they do not become so forceful in their convictions that they forget about love, for if we simply carry a banner of love, but do not act out of it, we become “a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal” (1 Corinthians, 13). Beautiful music is not made from either.

In her final words of the prayer, she said:

“For unless you see, you cannot love. The more you see, the more you will love. Once you love, you will follow, and you will clothe yourself in his will.”

We must learn to love purely, out of our knowledge of the love of Christ, which is never separated from the will of the Father. The love of Jesus on the cross shows us the connection between love and obedience. If we are unkind or rude or self-seeking, we are not acting out of love, nor following God’s will. Neither will we be fruitful. This is not God’s way.

When Saul (St. Paul) was persecuting the church and seeking out people of The Way (Christians) to imprison, he was sure he was doing God’s work. He later found out that his way was not God’s way at all.

If we are to become christs, in the spirit of St. Catherine, and impact the world in which we live, we must not overlook the way of love. She lived a short time (she was 33 when she died in 1380), but her insight and influence was great. Due to a visionary experience she had when she was about six years old, she decided to “live for God alone.”

Consider how different is the experience of today’s six year old.

God continues to call people today, uniquely, as he did St. Catherine, but it would really help if we were paying attention.

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