On this Feast of St. Catherine of Siena, in the Year for Priests, I was going to post some more of her commentary on the Priesthood and the dignity of Priests. But I couldn't write that post today.
Instead, in her spirit, in honor of her life and her charism, I direct you, my readers, towards those she served most often, and to whom she dedicated her life: The Unloved. The Forgotten. The Sick and Infirm.
Many think of the GREAT things St. Catherine did, including her role in ending the Avignon Captivity and the restoration of the true Pope.
Many try to misuse her name in favor of the laughable efforts of the "womynpryst" crowd in abusing her image for themselves with regard to their assessment of "speaking truth to power.". Methinks St. Catherine would have something quite severe to say to such a crowd that does so much to taint the face of the Bride. Being a Catholic has nothing to do with "power": it has to do with service, and more importantly, our Vocation to Holiness.
The very moment "Power" enters into the conversation, holiness and salvation are no longer relevant. Oh, do I wish St. Catherine could speak today!
But, as usual, I digress.
Tonight....tonight, I speak to something dear to St. Catherine's heart. It has nothing to do with politics, and everything to do with humanity and God's holiness...and therefore, her holiness.
Many don't know that St. Catherine was cloistered in her own home for three years, serving as Anchoress to those who came to her for spiritual direction. God Himself called her to this cloister, wherein He spoke to her through mystical experiences, but finally directed her Himself to leave the cloister to help her mother and to serve the poor.
St. Catherine was obedient, left the cloister of her room and like our modern Blessed Mother Teresa, went to serve the worst of the worst, and to great criticism. She was never without both physical and personal persecution in her response to God's will.
She was not a feminist. She was not a politician. She was simply and purposefully a willing instrument of God in a world desperate for His Divine Love. As such, all she did was done according to God's will, and from what I know of her, she may well have been privy to the Divine Processions, and as such, to abuse her charism for political or ideological gain is an outright blasphemy. Let God be the Judge.
We are ALL called to holiness!
We are ALL called to grow in holiness!
St. Catherine shows us all by her own example that before we can truly serve others and bring them to Christ, we must first be formed ourselves, and yes, that might be a very painful process! For some (dense people like me) we need more advanced intellectual formation to feed our spiritual growth. Others are in more need of solid formation in prayer, which require, as a foundation, the basic tenants of our faith...such as the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Unfortunately, for the last 50 years + (even beyond, far beyond the Second Vatican Council) that formation has been absent. This is one of the reasons for the Council; to answer this deprivation of formation.
The fact is this: If we go out to serve the poor and unfortunate out of a natural desire to help them, that is a good thing. But without a foundation in Christ, it is mere secular social work and has no eternal merit for either our spiritual growth or that of those we serve.
We can't give what we don't have, and if we don't take the time for supernatural formation, then all we have to offer is the spiritual equivalent of "Gov'mint cheese and powdered milk." **
This is one of the greatest messages of the life of St. Catherine; like Christ, she lived by example. She spent time in deep prayer, and in her extraordinary case, was supernaturally formed by God Himself.
Most of us, no matter what our Vocation, don't have the benefit of such a grace of mystical marriage with God, but that does not excuse us from our own foundational spiritual formation in accordance with our proper state in life. At a minimum, we MUST attend Mass every Sunday and Holy Day, we MUST, if we really want to serve God, attend more often as we are able, and seek to cultivate a life of prayer. The prayer of a wife or husband is not the same as a contemplative nun or monk, and the prayer life of a child usually doesn't match that of a priest. Yet we are all called to make Our Lord the center of our lives, through the Sacraments, thorough ongoing conversation with God...without which we can NEVER attain holiness and salvation.
We, all of us, as Catholics, are called to be formed, not just for ourselves, but to go out and form others. To serve others, to be Christ to others, leaven to the world, salt of the earth. To bring loved to those who are not loved.
There are no exceptions to this. There are different callings...but no exceptions.
Who Around You Subsists on Gov'ment Cheese & Powdered Milk?
Do you even know?
Who is your brother? Who is your sister?
Many years ago, when I was a rookie police officer, still in Field Training, I was sent to my first Death Investigation. We were called to "check the welfare" because the person's newspapers were piling up outside his door. The landlord was present with us when he keyed in and we discovered the resident of that apartment was dead. He'd been there for a few days....and no one noticed.
Only the newspapers piling up outside his door gave a cue only the Landlord...that something was wrong.
No one else called. Not family. Not friends.
The Landlord. The guy he paid to live in that building, in that place. And when a payment wasn't due, he wasn't noticed. Think about it: the only person who noticed something was the person being paid to notice, and he barely knew him.
We checked the dead man's phone. Nothing on the answering machine.
This guy was invisible to everyone but his landlord, who noticed his stack of unread newspapers.
This guy is your brother, and he died alone, and it took DAYS for someone to notice.
To St. Catherine, he would not have been invisible. To St. Catherine, he would have been noticed. He would not have died alone.
If we learn anything from St. Catherine it should be that our love for our neighbor flows from our love for God, and if we do not love God, we cannot properly love our neighbor.
Look around you. Take a hint from St. Catherine, and if there are any near you who are unloved, hard to love, or invisible, reach out to them.
Maybe your effort to reach out to one soul won't change the world, but it might save a soul, or at the very least, ensure that maybe that soul won't die alone and forgotten.
Those of you who, like me, grew up on Commodities will understand this reference to "Gob'ment cheese and powdered milk". Outside the US...leave a comment and one of us will define.)