“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” —St. Catherine of Siena
Today is the feast of one of the Church’s greatest saints, Catherine of Siena (1347-1380), a true history maker:
“[CatholicSaints.info] Youngest of 24 children; her father was a wool-dyer. At the age of seven she had a vision in which Jesus appeared with Peter, Paul, and John; Jesus blessed her, and she consecrated herself to Him. Her parents began making arranged marriages for her when she turned 12, but she refused to co-operate [which led to abuse initially], became a Dominican tertiary at age 15, and spent her time working with the poor and sick, attracting others to work with her. Received a vision in which she was in a mystical marriage with Christ, and the Infant Christ presented her with a wedding ring. Some of her visions drove her to become more involved in public life. [Had the stigmata, the wounds of Christ’s passion.] Counselor to and correspondent with Pope Gregory XI and Pope Urban VI. Stigmatist in 1375. Lived in Avignon, France in 1376, and then in Rome, Italy from 1378 until her death [as she convinced the pope to return to his seat of Rome from a long period of papal residency in France. She ultimately offered her life to God in exchange for Church unity and the end of warring anti-popes]. Friend of Blessed Raymond of Capua who was also her confessor. Proclaimed Doctor of the Church on 4 October 1970.”
It is very hard to love other people as God loves them, to love our enemies as Jesus told us we must do (Matt. 5:44). And yet that is what Saint Catherine did, which is how she transformed the lives of so many people. She once converted a convicted criminal while he was about to go to his execution, she inspired people from the poor to the most powerful nobles in Italy, and she did what so many others tried and failed to do—she brought the papacy back to Rome. Saint Catherine’s love was not the sappy, emotional type which many seem to believe in today. She told hard truths to those who didn’t want to hear them, and she spoke truth to power, in a way that few men, let alone women, have dared to do. She never lied to make someone feel better, or refrained from a warning about serious sin to avoid offense. But her motives were always from love, from a desire to bring people to our God Who is Truth. Her love for God and her confidence in the right were so powerful that it could not but affect others. She was born a dyer’s daughter, not poor but certainly not of the ruling class, illiterate for much of her life until God miraculously gave her the ability to read and write.
Without God, we are nothing. With God, we can even work miracles. We have only to surrender to God’s will and let Him guide us, and be willing to take on evil that seems too powerful for us. As our world is increasingly controlled by very powerful but very evil men, we would do well to have the confidence, love, and trust in God of St. Catherine of Siena. Then we, too, might set the world on fire.
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