St. Catherine of Siena
During my morning blog perusing, I found out it is St. Catherine of Siena's Feast Day. For a few years now, she has been popping up in my life, so much so I feel I have something to learn from her, more than I ever considered before.
Now, saints like St. Catherine of Siena have always intimidated me, to a degree. She is a mystic, I am not. I didn't think I could really glean much practical assistance from someone so far removed, spiritually speaking, from my own experience. After these two years of being made aware of her more and more in my own life, I realize how immature that idea is.
It all began, during a semi-regular confession, when my confessor mentioned St. Catherine to me, in a non-specific way. As a matter of fact, he said, "I am thinking clearly of St. Catherine of Siena in regard to your spiritual health, but I have no idea why. But I think you should look into it."
Then, shortly thereafter, an unrelated acquaintance gifted me a first class relic of St. Catherine. I read a bit about her life after that, but still didn't understand what I was supposed to learn from her. She was rather "extreme", I thought, "unusual", to put it lightly. I have always wanted to be "normal", although the longer I live, the more I realize that is unlikely.
So, I kept an ear open, but went on with my life. This summer, it was recommended to me to read Catherine of Siena, by Sigrid Undset. This is a phenomenal book, and I have great hopes of finding the "thing" St. Catherine is trying to teach me.
I came across a prayer of hers today, and one phrase jumped out at me.
From the dialogue On Divine Providence by Saint Catherine of Siena, virgin and doctor I tasted and I saw Eternal God, eternal Trinity, you have made the blood of Christ so precious through his sharing in your divine nature. You are a mystery as deep as the sea; the more I search, the more I find, and the more I find the more I search for you. But I can never be satisfied; what I receive will ever leave me desiring more. When you fill my soul I have an even greater hunger, and I grow more famished for your light. I desire above all to see you, the true light, as you really are.I have tasted and seen the depth of your mystery and the beauty of your creation with the light of my understanding. I have clothed myself with your likeness and have seen what I shall be. Eternal Father, you have given me a share in your power and the wisdom that Christ claims as his own, and your Holy Spirit has given me the desire to love you. You are my Creator, eternal Trinity, and I am your creature. You have made of me a new creation in the blood of your Son, and I know that you are moved with love at the beauty of your creation, for you have enlightened me.Eternal Trinity, Godhead, mystery deep as the sea, you could give me no greater gift than the gift of yourself. For you are a fire ever burning and never consumed, which itself consumes all the selfish love that fills my being. Yes, you are a fire that takes away the coldness, illuminates the mind with its light and causes me to know your truth. By this light, reflected as it were in a mirror, I recognise that you are the highest good, one we can neither comprehend nor fathom. And I know that you are beauty and wisdom itself. The food of angels, you gave yourself to man in the fire of your love.You are the garment which covers our nakedness, and in our hunger you are a satisfying food, for you are sweetness and in you there is no taste of bitterness, O triune God!
For you are a fire ever burning and never consumed, which itself consumes all the selfish love that fills my being.
This is the desire of my heart. It has been for so long ~ to love without selfishness. It seems to me this is impossible on earth. Like the wheat and the chaff, love and selfishness, fear, pain, are all so intertwined, we can only wait until the purifying fire of God's presence burns off the chaff, and leaves us the pure Love that we have been looking for all along.
I think that is what made Catherine of Siena so "unusual" and "extreme". She experienced that pure love, through God's gift alone, that helped her to see Reality in a way that most of us can not. She was able to endure suffering without losing her peace, because she could see that suffering was feeding the flames of the chaff being burned, that in turn purified the love present in us all.
My weak attempts at comprehending St. Catherine are just that. Weak and feeble. But I am hoping and praying that she will pray to God for me, that He will assist me in my desire to love purely. And to keep my eye on the one thing that will never be burned away, His eternal Love, and my share in it.