St. Catherine of Siena
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 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. 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.
Catherine's book Dialogue contains four treatises—her testament of faith to the spiritual world. She wrote: "No one should judge that he has greater perfection because he performs great penances and gives himself in excess to the staying of the body than he who does less, inasmuch as neither virtue nor merit consists therein; for otherwise he would be an evil case, who for some legitimate reason was unable to do actual penance. Merit consists in the virtue of love alone, flavored with the light of true discretion without which the soul is worth nothing."
Patron Saint of:
St. Pius V
This is the pope whose job was to implement the historic Council of Trent. If we think popes had difficulties in implementing Vatican Council II, Pius V had even greater problems after Trent than four centuries earlier.
During his papacy (1566-1572), Pius V was faced with the almost overwhelming responsibility of getting a shattered and scattered Church back on its feet. The family of God had been shaken by corruption, by the Reformation, by the constant threat of Turkish invasion and by the bloody bickering of the young nation-states. In 1545 a previous pope convened the Council of Trent in an attempt to deal with all these pressing problems. Off and on over 18 years, the Church Fathers discussed, condemned, affirmed and decided upon a course of action. The Council closed in 1563.
Pius V was elected in 1566 and was charged with the task of implementing the sweeping reforms called for by the Council. He ordered the founding of seminaries for the proper training of priests. He published a new missal, a new breviary, a new catechism and established the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD) classes for the young. Pius zealously enforced legislation against abuses in the Church. He patiently served the sick and the poor by building hospitals, providing food for the hungry and giving money customarily used for the papal banquets to poor Roman converts. His decision to keep wearing his Dominican habit led to the custom of the pope wearing a white cassock.
In striving to reform both Church and state, Pius encountered vehement opposition from England's Queen Elizabeth and the Roman Emperor Maximilian II. Problems in France and in the Netherlands also hindered Pius's hopes for a Europe united against the Turks. Only at the last minute was he able to organize a fleet which won a decisive victory in the Gulf of Lepanto, off Greece, on October 7, 1571.
Pius's ceaseless papal quest for a renewal of the Church was grounded in his personal life as a Dominican friar. He spent long hours with his God in prayer, fasted rigorously, deprived himself of many customary papal luxuries and faithfully observed the spirit of the Dominican Rule that he had professed.
In their personal lives and in their actions as popes, Pius V and Venerable Paul VI (d. 1978) both led the family of God in the process of interiorizing and implementing the new birth called for by the Spirit in major Councils. With zeal and patience, Pius and Paul pursued the changes urged by the Council Fathers. Like Pius and Paul, we too are called to constant change of heart and life.
"In this universal assembly, in this privileged point of time and space, there converge together the past, the present, and the future. The past: for here, gathered in this spot, we have the Church of Christ with her tradition, her history, her councils, her doctors, her saints; the present: we are taking leave of one another to go out toward the world of today with its miseries, its sufferings, its sins, but also with its prodigious accomplishments, values, and virtues; and the future is here in the urgent appeal of the peoples of the world for more justice, in their will for peace, in their conscious or unconscious thirst for a higher life, that life precisely which the Church of Christ can give and wishes to give to them" (from Pope Paul's closing message at Vatican II).
Look In The Mirror:
Let us ask all of the heavenly saints to pray for us that we might acquire the necessary virtues to be the face of God in the midst of our world as they were in theirs.
Quote by S. Padre Pio:
May God accept the homage of (our) gratitude.