April 29, 2008

Catherine of Siena

Giovani's Catherine of Siena
This is the day I remember aspects of Catherine of Siena's story. With many of my posts being Saint Days, you'd think I'm Catholic. I'm not, and didn't grow up knowing anything of church history, and to tell you the truth, I never read the Bible for myself till I was 19, though I grew up in a 'Christian home'.

At a desert place in my life, I wanted to strengthen my knowledge of the past. I began with Jewish history, realizing their history is retold rhythmically each calendar year. As my reading took me into early Christian history I started reading stories of people who had days on the calendar that the church had set up. I see it as a carrying on of the first and second Testament stories into the Third Testament.

Why not carry on the many verses in Old Testament scriptures telling us to "tell the children". It's a great way of knowing myself, that my identity is in this larger drama than me, myself, and I.

Several years ago, when other people were filling out a questionnaire, that asked who your hero/heroine is, with people like Dr Phil and Oprah ... I filled the blank in with Catherine of Siena.

When you read saint hagiography there's so much we, looking back on, think is ridiculous and weird. It sometimes takes a lot of wading through before you find the real person.

Catherine was the 23rd child born in her family and was very religious from a young age. At 16 she rebelliously cut off her hair and cloistered herself in a room of her home. When 18 her family let her join the Dominican order where she spent another 3 years in seclusion.

It was an era when people desired visions and the stigmata and many women betrothed themselves to Christ. Many too lived with harsh asceticism.

The part of her story that really spoke to me was when after the three years of seclusion Jesus said, "Enough. The only way you can serve me is in the service of your neighbor"! I could easily be a hermit or contemplative and just read and putter around my home.

Catherine, along with Teresa of Avila are the only women Doctors of the Church. She died in 1380 at the age of 33. She lived through Europe's Famine and the Plague of 1374 nursing people. People called her "Mama". She also wrote many letters to kings and popes (unheard of by women of her time). She lived during the Church's Great Schism when there were two popes and then three - divided between France and Italy. She worked tirelessly to help heal the Church.

Her spiritual testament is found in her book The Dialogue. The last two years of her life she spent praying for church unity.

In one of my books I wrote (but don't know where it's from) -
"Athletes of the Spirit usually start out in physical inactivity and mystical exercise."

Post a Comment
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...