St. Catherine calls us to be on the lookout for God. Each person will discover God in a unique way—an experience of beauty, love, forgiveness, generous sacrifice—the smile of a child, the first glimpse of the Grand Canyon, a donated organ, betrayal, persecution. In such circumstances, we stand in awe and feel infinitesimally small and unworthy. Life then truly becomes gift. Such experiences give access to Catherine’s theology. For her, God is great not simply because of God’s unimaginable goodness, but because God has chosen in love to share that goodness with creation and the human race. God pours out Godself in creation, incarnation, and Eucharist. God gifts us with every breath in every fiber of our being.
— from Accidental Theologians: Four Women Who Shaped Christianity
by Elizabeth Dreyer
Saint Catherine of Siena’s Story
The value Catherine makes central in her short life and which sounds clearly and consistently through her experience is complete surrender to Christ. What is most impressive about her is that she learns to view her surrender to her Lord as a goal to be reached through time.
She was the 23rd child of Jacopo and Lapa Benincasa and grew up as an intelligent, cheerful, and intensely religious person. Catherine disappointed her mother by cutting off her hair as a protest against being overly encouraged to improve her appearance in order to attract a husband. Her father ordered her to be left in peace, and she was given a room of her own for prayer and meditation.
She entered the Dominican Third Order at 18 and spent the next three years in seclusion, prayer, and austerity. Gradually, a group of followers gathered around her—men and women, priests and religious. An active public apostolate grew out of her contemplative life. Her letters, mostly for spiritual instruction and encouragement of her followers, began to take more and more note of public affairs. Opposition and slander resulted from her mixing fearlessly with the world and speaking with the candor and authority of one completely committed to Christ. She was cleared of all charges at the Dominican General Chapter of 1374.
Her public influence reached great heights because of her evident holiness, her membership in the Dominican Third Order, and the deep impression she made on the pope. She worked tirelessly for the crusade against the Turks and for peace between Florence and the pope.
In 1378, the Great Schism began, splitting the allegiance of Christendom between two, then three, popes and putting even saints on opposing sides. Catherine spent the last two years of her life in Rome, in prayer and pleading on behalf of the cause of Pope Urban VI and the unity of the Church. She offered herself as a victim for the Church in its agony. She died surrounded by her “children” and was canonized in 1461.
Catherine ranks high among the mystics and spiritual writers of the Church. In 1939, she and Francis of Assisi were declared co-patrons of Italy. Pope Paul VI named her and Teresa of Avila doctors of the Church in 1970. Her spiritual testament is found in The Dialogue.
Though she lived her life in a faith experience and spirituality far different from that of our own time, Catherine of Siena stands as a companion with us on the Christian journey in her undivided effort to invite the Lord to take flesh in her own life. Events which might make us wince or chuckle or even yawn fill her biographies: a mystical experience at six, childhood betrothal to Christ, stories of harsh asceticism, her frequent ecstatic visions. Still, Catherine lived in an age which did not know the rapid change of 21st-century mobile America. The value of her life for us today lies in her recognition of holiness as a goal to be sought over the course of a lifetime.
Saint Catherine of Siena is the Patron Saint of:
“You must first have peace in your own soul before you can make peace between other people. Peaceable people accomplish more good than learned people do. Those who are passionate often can turn good into evil and readily believe the worst. But those who are honest and peaceful turn all things to good and are suspicious of no one. … It is no test of virtue to be on good terms with easy-going people, for they are always well liked. And, of course, all of us want to live in peace and prefer those who agree with us. But the real test of virtue and deserving of praise is to live at peace with the perverse, or the aggressive and those who contradict us, for this needs a great grace. … in this mortal life, our peace consists in the humble bearing of suffering and contradictions, not in being free of them, for we cannot live in this world without adversity. Those who can best suffer will enjoy the most peace, for such persons are masters of themselves, lords of the world, with Christ for their friend, and heaven as their reward.”— Thomas á Kempis, p.72-73
“While the world changes, the cross stands firm.”
— St. Bruno
Hostility toward Christians is increasing.
Ex-vangelicals are redefining god to accommodate popular sins. Others are abandoning their faith altogether. Some of our loved ones are walking away from their faith, and it breaks our hearts.
But Christ’s true followers will never abandon God’s loving principles because we aren’t standing firm in our own power. We need God’s courage, and He is eager to give it.
Joshua had just lost his mentor Moses when he entered the Promised Land facing the greatest challenges of his life, and God assured him with these words:
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
Throughout Scripture God assures His people that we can be courageous because He will never forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6; Isaiah 41:10; Hebrews 13:5).
He gives us a spirit of “power, love and self-discipline,” so we can “be strong and take heart” as we wait for His plans to be fulfilled (2 Timothy 1:7; Psalm 27:14).
Yes, hostility toward Christians is increasing, and as God’s faithful soldiers, we can put on our “full armor” and courageously join our Lord in the battle (Ephesians 6:10-18)!
Let these passages inspire you. Why not memorize one this week?
Deuteronomy 31:6: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Isaiah 41:10: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Hebrews 13:5: “God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'”
2 Timothy 1:7: “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”
Psalm 27:14: “Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.”
Ephesians 6:10-18: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”
1 Corinthians 16:13: “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.”
Proverbs 28:1: “The wicked flee though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.”
Psalm 31:24: “Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.”
Philippians 1:27-30: “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.”
Psalm 16:8: “I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”
Psalm 27:1: “The LORD is my light and my salvation– whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life– of whom shall I be afraid?”
Psalm 56:3-4: “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise—in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”
Isaiah 12:2: “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.”
Daniel 3:16-18: “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.'”
Sacred music isn’t required for a valid Mass, so why is it so important?
For a Mass to be valid, there must be a priest, candles, a crucifix, bread and wine to consecrate, and various other objects that you see at every Mass you’ve been to. Music is not absolutely necessary for a valid Mass, which is why there isn’t always music at a daily Mass. However, the Church places a huge value on music in the liturgy because music adds so much to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
In her book Music and Meaning in the Mass, Annamaria Cardinalli shares her love for music and how it enhances the Mass. She explains that there is a certain level of mysticism that liturgical musicians bring to the sacred liturgy. According to Cardinalli, musicians help prepare the souls of the congregation for communion.
Since the graces that we receive from the Mass rely on our openness to accepting those graces, Cardinalli emphasizes that sacred music helps Catholics raise their minds to holy realities. Cardinelli encourages liturgical musicians:
When your music at Mass influences the readiness of our souls, by stirring within us a deeper grasp of what is taking place on the altar, your welcoming of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament has glorious repercussions! Imagine the increase in His grace that could be poured out on the whole world through those souls your music prepares to receive Him with love!
Sacred music plays a vital role in the Mass because it helps us focus on God’s gift to us—His Son in the Eucharist.
//The Catholic Company//