Feast of Saint Catherine of Siena, 2024

St. Catherine of Siena

Here is Sister Margaret Carey's reflection shared at mass on the Feast of Saint Catherine of Siena.

Catherina and Giovanna Benincasa were born prematurely in Siena on March 25, 1347, in the Tuscany region of Italy. Giovanna lived less than two years and Catherine lived 33 years and died on April 29, 1380.

The Precious Blood of Jesus was a favorite subject of meditation and a treasured spiritual theme for Catherine. For her, the shedding of Christ's blood on the cross was the most radical and undeniable proof of God's love for us. Catherine believed that salvation was a door opened with the keys of Christ's precious blood. Only Christ opens the door of love which leads to the Father.

The Eucharist motivated her actions and was the source of her supernatural joy. Catherine lived Jesus’ invitation found in John 7:37-38: "Let anyone who thirsts, come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture says: ‘Rivers of living water will flow from the believer’s heart.’”

Starting at age six, Catherine's life was filled with extraordinary spiritual phenomena such as visions, revelations, raptures, and a mystical marriage with Christ.

At sixteen, Catherine joined the Dominican Mantellate—women who wore a religious habit, lived at home, and worked with the sick and poor. As a Mantellate, Catherine's first few years were lived mostly in seclusion and prayer, akin to what we would call the process of formation in religious life.

Then Christ called her to embody the Truth of love in the world saying, "I need you to walk with two feet; love of God and love of all that God loves." At that point, Catherine's ministry became more active with the poor, sick, and imprisoned in Siena. With the return of the bubonic plague in 1348, Siena lost 30-50% of its population but Catherine and her companions remained hard at work caring for those infected and the dying. It is no wonder that Catherine is the patron saint of nurses.

Consider the recent pandemic in our country. It was the nurses as well as the entire medical staff who cared for the victims. How grateful we are to our nurses, staff members, and Sisters of Life who lovingly cared for our Sisters during that difficult period. The nursing and staff members continue their dedicated service to all in Siena Hall and throughout the Motherhouse today.

Catherine became involved in controversies burdening the Church of her time. She traveled to various city-states to plead for a restoration of peace. Later, she adopted an active letter-writing campaign. Have we not as a community followed Catherine's example with our peace and justice efforts?

In the spring of 1376, Catherine went to Avignon, France, as an ambassador of Florence to make peace with the Papal States. Although unsuccessful in that mission, Catherine convinced Pope Gregory XI to return to Rome.

Shortly thereafter, the divisions in the Church became so profound that Catherine engaged in severe penance and prayer. Despite counseling and advice from her companions, Catherine no longer ate or drank food, but lived solely on her daily reception of the Holy Eucharist. Catherine was now more than ever living Saint Paul's words to the Colossians: "Even now I find my joy in the sufferings I endure for you." (1:24) She sacrificed for the Body of Christ, the Church.

Has someone ever said, "Offer it up" when you experienced a setback or medical issue? At present, the world is filled with the suffering of people from war, starvation, persecution, and unrest. For whom shall we pray and offer our sufferings?

Catherine began writing the Dialogue of Divine Providence in the autumn of 1377 and completed it a year later. The Dialogue is a conversation between a soul (hers) and the Father in Heaven. The following excerpts are from entry 112, entitled, “The Benefits of the Eucharist.”

Dearest daughter, contemplate the marvelous state of the soul who receives the bread of life, this food of angels, as she ought...

When the appearance of bread has been consumed, I leave behind the imprint of my grace, just as a seal that is pressed into warm wax leaves its imprint when it is lifted off. Thus, does the power of the sacrament remain there in the soul; that is, the warmth of my divine charity, the mercy of the Holy Spirit remains there, the light of my only begotten Son's wisdom remains there, enlightening the mind's eye....

See then, how bound and obligated you are to love me in return since I have loved you so much, and because I am supreme eternal Goodness, deserving to be loved by you.

To which we say, AMEN!

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