Reflection on the Gift of Counsel in St Catherine of Siena
From ‘The Gifts of the Holy Spirit in Saint Catherine of Siena’, taken from ‘Que Dijo Dios al Volver’ of Dominican Nuns of Olmedo, Spain; transl by Dominican Nuns of Buffalo, New York.
St Catherine of Siena may well figure within Christian hagiography as a magnificent director of souls, thanks to the Gift of Counsel.
There were many that drew near to her. Some with rectitude of intention, to seek her light and her advice. Others, on the contrary, went with perverse intentions, with the purpose of confounding her, or at least discrediting her before everyone. Among these last we have the greatest figure of Francisco Malavolti. It is perhaps the most impressive conversion. After supreme efforts, he has finally been caught in the net. Many times he had escaped her hands, but she always brought him back until he finally became an exemplary monk, precisely through the saint’s influence.
Malavolti is not content in coming alone. He has brought his friends. Afterwards, these friends became doubly so, by the new fraternity that united them, since Catherine was to be the common Mother of all.
Her direction was strong, energetic, but understanding and human. She knew how to wait for God’s hour; and for each she had a particular way. They were not general directives, but with proper and individual mould.
With this same Malavolti, she showed maternal compassion and that tenderness of soul together with extraordinary strength of will. All of Catherine’s friends had had enough of Malavolti. They constantly advised her to give him up. He continued to play with the virtues. He came and went. He made strong resolutions of virtue and just as quickly would throw everything out the window and would go back to his friends and sin.
Everyone was exasperated at Catherine’s patience. Nevertheless, she continued to wait and would only say ‘He is my savage bird’, but she assured them that one day she would throw out a line from which he would never be able to escape. That moment came, and Malavolti never escaped again and his final end proved the prophecy.
She had a penetrating look. It went to the depths of souls. She helped everyone and she understood them. For the fallen, she had the tenderness of a Mother.
Many wrote to her in despair. She answered and gave solutions for all their ills. She brought them out of their anguish and placed them on a new road of love.