Today is the great Feast of our sister in St Dominic, St Catherine of Siena. It is providential that the Church places before us for imitation this great Saint in the season of Eastertide. The Lord Jesus truly alive and risen was the source of her strength and faith. Catherine initially desired a life of seclusion and lived for many years in a small bedroom in the family home; yet, there came a time when God would call her out to spread the Gospel of Christ to the sick and infirmed of Siena and even to counsel Popes. What was the secret of her spirituality? In the Dialogue God the Father says to Catherine: “Do you know daughter, who you are and who I am? If you know these two things you have beatitude in your grasp. You are she who is not, I AM HE WHO IS.”
This is the secret of her sanctity. Catherine allowed this truth to truly take root within her and in it she could never be overcome by the enemy, because she knew that she was totally dependent on God. The saints are those who tread this path of humility and recognize their weakness in the sight of God and allow themselves to be transformed by Him. This is the pearl of knowledge hidden in that ocean of God’s love which we must discover if we are to progress in the spiritual life in the way that the Father desires. How radically different the virtue of humility is to the values of modern society which divinizes the exercise of self will, encourages self-promotion, and self-sufficiency.
Every single one of us has been created by a God who desires union with us, not only in the life to come but even now as we journey in grace through this life. Catherine knew the path that leads to this union. She walked the narrow path of humility; a path that would lead her ultimately into the heart of Christ who is ‘meek and humble of heart’ (Mt 11:29). From this heart which was burning with the fire of love for mankind Catherine drew her strength when she labored far and wide for the Kingdom of God. Catherine participated to such a great degree in the life of Christ she was able to say, “My nature is fire.” It was her desire that this fire of love would consume all who came into contact with it.
What can St Catherine teach us today? She is a Saint for the New Evangelization in that she lived the contemplative life and the apostolic life, teaching us that all apostolic efforts must be watered with the grace that comes from a life of prayer. She teaches us that the humble recognition of our nothingness gives much more glory to God than the great efforts of a proud soul.
Let us all make that space within us to be silent before God amidst the busyness of our daily lives, so that He may teach us the science of self-knowledge. St Catherine tells us that we cannot give what we do not have, therefore, may all our evangelizing efforts, all our external activities as Christians be an overflowing of a life which is first and foremost rooted in Christ.