Thursday, April 29, 2010

St. Catherine of Siena, virgin

(Acts 13:13-25; John 13:16-20)

Some may think St. Catherine of Siena arrogant. She did not hesitate to tell the pope to stop hiding in Avignon and return to Rome. She was equally forthright with everyone else. Although she was a young virgin, she befriended a condemned man in prison and moved him to repent of his crime. When his head was chopped off, she caught it in her arms and, I imagine, gave it a proper burial.

But Catherine was more likely sublimely humble than supremely arrogant. She thought of herself as nothing except for the Lord whom she worshipped and received in the Eucharist. As long as she carried him in her heart, she knew that she was anybody’s equal. She took seriously Jesus’ words in the gospel, “Whoever receives the one I send, receives me.” Her close association with Jesus in prayer assured her that she was his messenger.

Catherine is the co-patron of Italy and, indeed, for all Europe. She could easily serve as patron of our democracy as well. Her life testifies to the equality of everyone before God – whether man or woman, king or beggar, cleric or lay. In thirty-three years she achieved a lifetime of accomplishments through determination of will and purity of virtue but, much more to the point, through dependence on God. She was largely unlearned, yet she still has much to teach all of us.