God the Father to St. Catherine of Siena: Seven Lessons
In Rome, at the general audience on 24 November 2010, Pope Benedict XVI said, “Today I would like to talk to you about a woman who played an eminent role in the history of the Church: St Catherine of Siena. The century in which she lived — the 14th — was a troubled period in the life of the Church and throughout the social context of Italy and Europe. Yet, even in the most difficult times, the Lord does not cease to bless his People, bringing forth Saints who give a jolt to minds and hearts, provoking conversion and renewal. Catherine is one of these and still today speaks to us and impels us to walk courageously toward holiness to be ever more fully disciples of the Lord.” (Libreria Editrice Vaticana)
Wealth of writings exists about St. Catherine of Siena whose feast the Church annually celebrates on April 29, and thankfully so because her legacy is our treasure.
In the Introduction of the Dialogue, Suzanne Noffke comments, “Looking at a life so short yet so feverishly filled with activity one might legitimately ask, where is the space for the mystical? Yet were it not for her mystical experience, Catherine’s activity as it was would never have been.” Her spiritual director Fr. Raymond wrote, “Being so closely associated with her I was able to see at first hand how, as soon as she was freed from the occupations in which she was engaged for the work of souls, at once, one might almost say by a natural process, her mind was raised to the things of heaven.”
God the Father to St. Catherine: 7 Lessons (recorded in The Dialogue)
Discernment is that light, which dissolves all darkness, dissipates ignorance, and seasons every virtue and virtuous deed. It has a prudence that cannot be deceived, a strength that is invincible, a constancy right up to the end, reaching as it does from heaven to earth, that is, from the knowledge of me to the knowledge of oneself, from love of me to love of one’s neighbor. Discernment’s true humble prudence evades every devilish and creaturely snare, and with unarmed hand—that is, through suffering—it overcomes the devil and the flesh. By this gentle glorious light the soul sees and rightly despises her own weakness; and by so making a fool of herself she gains mastery of the world, treading it underfoot with her love, scorning it as worthless. (Pg.44)
As soon as the soul has received holy baptism, original sin is taken from her and grace is poured in. The inclination to sin, which is the trace that remains from original sin, is a weakness as I have said, but the soul can keep it in check if she will. Then the soul is a vessel ready to receive grace and to make it grow within her as much as she chooses to for herself, through affection and desire, to love and serve me. Or she can fit herself for evil instead; even though she has received grace in holy baptism. And when she is old enough to discern the one from the other, in her freedom she can choose good or evil as it pleases her. But such is the freedom of your humanity, and so strong have you been made by the power of the glorious blood, that neither the devil nor any other creature can force you to the least sin unless you want it. (Pg. 53)
Each of you has your own vineyard, your soul, in which your free will is the appointed worker during this life. Once the time of your life has passed, your will can work neither for good nor for evil; but while you live it can till the vineyard of your soul where I have placed it. This tiller of your soul has been given such power that neither the devil nor any other creature can steal it without the will’s consent, for in holy baptism the will was armed with a knife that is love of virtue and hatred of sin. This love and hatred are to be found in the blood. So you have this knife for your free will to use, while you have time, to uproot the thorns of deadly sin and to plant the virtues. This is the only way you can receive the fruit of the blood from these workers I have placed in holy Church. So if you would receive the fruit of this blood, you must first rouse yourself to heartfelt contrition, contempt for sin, and love for virtue. (Pg. 60)
Hell & Pride
There are three principal vices: the first is selfishness, which in turn gives birth to the second, self-conceit. From this conceit comes the third, pride, with treacherous injustice and cruelty as well as other evil filthy sins generated by these. So, also, I tell you, in hell there are four principal torments, and all the others are offspring of these. The first is that these souls are deprived of seeing me. This first suffering revives the worm of conscience, and this is their second torment. For when they see that their sinfulness has deprived them of me and the company of angels and made them worthy instead of seeing the demons and sharing their fellowship, conscience gnaws away at them constantly. The sight of the devil is their third suffering, and it doubles every other torment. At the sight of me, the saints are in constant exultation, overflowing with love and to their cost. But it is just the opposite for these wretched little souls. (Pg. 80)
Christ on earth, [“Christ on earth” is Catherine’s favorite name for the pope as Christ’s vicar] then has the keys to the Blood. …I wanted to teach you the respect laypeople ought to have for these ministers of mine, regardless of how good or evil they may be, and how displeased I am with disrespect. You know that I set before you the mystic body of holy Church under the image of a wine cellar. In this wine cellar was the blood of my only-begotten Son, and from this blood all the sacraments derive their life-giving power. Christ on earth stood at the door of this wine cellar. He had been commissioned to administer the blood, and it was his duty to delegate ministers to help him in the service of the entire universal body of Christianity. Only those accepted and anointed by him were to thus minister. He was the head of the whole clerical order, and he appointed each one to his proper office to administer this glorious Blood. (Pg. 216)
O my dearest daughter, as I have told you so often, I want to be merciful to the world and provide for my reasoning creatures’ every need. But the foolish take for death what I give for life, and thus are cruel to themselves. I provide, and I want you to know that what I have given humankind is supreme providence. It was providence that I created you, and when I contemplated my creature in myself I fell in love with the beauty of my creation. It pleased me to create you in my image and likeness with great providence. I provided you with the gift of memory so that you might hold fast my benefits and be made a sharer in my own, the eternal Father’s power. I gave you understanding so that in the wisdom of my only-begotten Son you might comprehend and know what I the eternal Father want. I gave you graces with such burning love. I gave you a will to love, making you a sharer in the Holy Spirit’s mercy, so that you might love what your understanding sees and knows. (Pg. 277)
Do you know dearest daughter, how I raise the soul out of her imperfections? Sometimes I vex her with evil thoughts and a sterile mind. It will seem to her that I have left her completely, without any feeling whatever. She does not seem to be in the world, because she is in fact not there; nor does she seem to be in me because she has no feeling at all other than that her will does not want sin. I do not allow enemies to open the gate of the will that is free. I do let the devils and other enemies of humankind beat against other gates, but not against this, which is the main gate guarding the city of the soul. I do not will the soul’s death as long as she is not so stupid as to open the gate of her will. They cannot enter unless her own will chooses to let them in. (Pg. 299)
Closing Prayer by St. Catherine of Siena
Thanks, thanks be to you, eternal Father, that you have not despised me, your handiwork, nor turned your face from me, nor made light of these desires of mines. You, Light, have disregarded my darksomeness; you, Life, have not considered that I am death; nor you, Doctor, considered these grave weaknesses of mine. You, eternal Purity, have disregarded my wretched filthiness; you who are infinite have overlooked the fact that I am finite, and you, Wisdom, the fact that I am foolishness. For all these and so many other endless evils and sins of mine, your wisdom, your kindness, your mercy, your infinite goodness have not despised me. No, in your light you have given me light. In your wisdom I have come to know the truth; in your mercy I have found your charity and affection for my neighbors. What has compelled you? Not my virtues, but only your charity. Thanks, be to you. Amen.
St. Catherine of Siena, The Dialogue, Paulist Press, New York, 1980, pg. 364
St. Catherine of Siena, pray for us please.
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