Memorial of Saint Catherine of Siena, virgin and doctor of the Church
(Acts 15:22-31; John 15:12-17)
A painting hanging in the Dominican headquarters in Rome shows Jesus and St. Catherine of Siena walking side-by-side. The two are not talking to each other directly but rather meditating on the words of a book that each one holds. Catherine’s red-colored book is probably the Book of Gospels with their accounts of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection. Jesus’ white-colored book is likely Catherine’s masterpiece, The Dialogue, a summary of her spirituality.
The painting seems to portray a spiritual relationship between Jesus and Catherine, but neither feels it in that way. Jesus gave Catherine, as he gives all of us, his body to eat and his blood to drink. He got inside her to draw her closer to himself. For her part Catherine did not hesitate to speak of Jesus as her spouse with the most intimate of terms.
Catherine’s love for the Lord was demonstrated with deeds. Although she is rightly considered one of the great Christian mystics, she exhausted herself working for the Church, the Body of Christ. She is famous for her ministry to the condemned, for her exhortation to the Bishop of Rome to preside at the see’s center, and for her efforts to make peace between warring states.
Catherine’s life was extraordinary but not inimitable. We too can and should carry on a dialogue with Jesus. We should delight in his physical presence to us as we receive his body and blood. And we should respond to his love by our efforts to bring peace wherever we go.