St. Catherine of Siena | Setting the World Ablaze – Week 1
Week One: Euphrosyne
In a famous story of the Desert Fathers, Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and said to him, ‘Abba as far as I can I say my little office, I fast a little, I pray and meditate, I live in peace and as far as I can, I purify my thoughts. What else can I do?’ then the old man stood up and stretched his hands toward Heaven. His fingers became like ten lamps of fire and he said to him,
‘If you will, you can become all flame.’
A little bit of history…
This study begins with this sentence: “In 1347, Saint Catherine of Siena was born into a dying world.”
In our own day, Pope Francis has said that “what we are experiencing is not simply an epoch of changes, but an epochal change” echoing his predecessor Pope Benedict when he observed that “our century is characterized by an entirely new phenomenon: the appearance of people incapable of relating to God.”
This phenomenon is something I often liked to remind my students of when I taught high school. There was a time and a place, namely Christendom, when Faith was the starting point for an entire culture. During that time we weren’t the “different” ones. But now we are no longer the norm. A Christian worldview is not what captures the imagination of our current culture.
For this reason, despite the vestiges of a Christian influence, we are once again in apostolic territory and this demands an attention beyond what has often been called “institutional maintenance.” Our times do not call for business as usual. Not in the Church and certainly not in the world. If ever there was a saint to help us in these difficult times, it is St. Catherine, because she too was called to be a saint and an agent of renewal in a culture that was dying.
A little bit of theology…
Section 3 of the first chapter discusses God’s revelation to Catherine that Jesus not only reconciles God and man but also is the “bridge” between the infinite and the finite. While it is true that the Passion of Jesus atoned for our sins and merited for us the grace of justification, it also merited for us the grace of sanctification. We are not only capable of truly believing in God but also truly loving like Him. (For more explanation about justification and sanctification, please see Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part III, Section 1, Chapter 3, Article 2)
A little bit of spirituality…
In its worship of wealth, pleasure, power and honor, the world is dying. But Jesus is the bridge! When we inevitably fall into distraction, doubt or discouragement, the Church, which is His Body, helps us to begin again in a divine way through the sacraments and in a human way through friendship with each other. Without community, “we are a collection of pious individuals.” So, let me echo Fr. Roberto Rueda when I say: Do not dedicate yourself to the things of God. Dedicate yourself to God!
Oremus pro invincem, (Let us pray for each other)
St. Catherine of Siena, pray for us.