Sunday, April 28, 2013

Novena to St Catherine - Day 9


The theme of ‘newness’ is woven into the Mass Readings for this 5th Sunday of Easter – ‘a new heaven and new earth; the new Jerusalem, a new creation’ and in the Gospel Jesus speaks of a ‘new commandment’.  At the Episcopal Ordination of our new coadjutor Archbishop on Sunday last, both he and Cardinal Brady commented on Archbishop Eamon’s motto: ‘Sing a new song to the Lord.’  To quote Archbishop Eamon “the new song is a song of love, that God unconditionally loves each one of us, despite our sinfulness and imperfections, and that the Lamb of God, who suffered and died to take away the sins of the world, has mercy on us.” But we must ensure that “it is the Lord’s song that we are singing, and not simply our own composition” and “we must sing in harmony with one another”  and our “new song must never dilute the strength of Christ’s message but must capture faithfully the timeless truth of the Gospel. And that can only happen if we live in communion with Christ and with one another”

 In The Dialogue, Chapter 64 Catherine outlines what the Heavenly Father taught her about love of God and love of neighbour and provides us with a recipe for putting into practice this new commandment of love.  I quote:

“If you have received my love sincerely without self-interest, you will drink your neighbour’s love sincerely. It is just like a vessel that you fill at the fountain, if you take it out of the fountain to drink, the vessel is soon empty. But if you hold your vessel in the fountain while you drink, it will not get empty; indeed it will always be full. So the love of your neighbour, whether spiritual or temporal, is meant to be drunk in Me, without any self-interest.

I ask you to love Me with the same love with which I love you. But for Me you cannot do this, for I loved you without being loved. Whatever love you have for Me you owe Me, so you love Me not gratuitously but out of duty, while I love you not out of duty but gratuitously. So you cannot give me the kind of love I ask of you. This is why I have put you among your neighbours: so that you can do for them what you cannot do for Me – that is, love them without any concern for thanks and without looking for any profit for yourself. And whatever you do for them I will consider done for Me.

So your love should be sincere, you should love your neighbours with the same love with which you love Me. Do you know how you can tell when you spiritual love is not perfect? If you are distressed when it seems that those you love are not returning your love or not loving you as much as you think you love them. Or if you are distressed when it seems to you that you are being deprived of their company or comfort, or that they love someone else more than you.

From these and from many other things you should be able to tell if your love for Me and for your neighbours is still imperfect and that you have been drinking from your vessel outside of the Fountain, even though your love was drawn from Me. But it is because your love for Me is imperfect that you show it so imperfectly to those you love with a spiritual love.

All this comes from a failure to dig out every bit of the root of spiritual selfishness. That is why I often permit you to form such a love, so that you may come through it to know yourself and your imperfection in the way I have described.”

Novena to St Catherine - Day 7

On this 7th day of our Novena, I would like to share an extract from “The Life of St. Catherine of Siena by Raymond of Capua”.  Blessed Raymond was St. Catherine’s Confessor and Spiritual Director. It illustrates St. Catherine’s love of the Blessed Eucharist and her frequent reception of it at a time when that was not common practice in the Church.

“All who knew Catherine were well aware of her profound and characteristic reverence and devotion towards the Blessed Sacrament of the Body of our Lord.  She received the Sacrament so frequently that it was popularly reported that the “maiden Catherine receives Holy Communion every day,” and that she lived and kept up her strength on it without taking any other food.  Although in saying this they were not quite correct, still I believe they spoke in good faith, and to the honour of God, who always shows himself wonderful in his saints.  The fact was that Catherine did receive Holy Communion with heartfelt devotion, not indeed every day, but frequently.  For this reason certain people whom I must refer to in the biblical phrase as “satraps of the Philistines” rather than as Christian believers in this regard, murmured against the frequency of  her communions.  But I took up her defence against them and they could not rebut the arguments I gave.  I routed them with the words and the actions of the holy Fathers and of holy Church herself.”

“So great sometimes was her longing for Communion that, on occasions on which she had to go without it, her frail body went through more suffering than if she had been suffering intense pain or fever for days at a time.   All that bodily distress came from anguish of soul.  And this was a suffering that was inflicted on her again and again, over a long period of time, by all kinds of people:  sometimes by misguided superiors of the friars, sometimes by the Prioress of the Sisters of Penance, sometimes even by men or women belonging to the closest circle of her friends.  This was the one reason  why my spiritual direction brought her more consolation than that of any of her previous directors.  No matter what obstacles were raised by those who wished to prevent her from receiving Holy Communion, I always did my utmost to let her have the consolation she sought and found in it.  In this way she got into the habit of saying to me sometimes, if I happened to be present when her soul was stirred with a longing for Holy Communion: ‘Father, I am hungry; for God’s sake give my soul its food.’  For this reason, too, it was arranged, and granted her by a Bull of His Lordship Pope Gregory XI of happy memory, that she could have with her every day a priest to give her absolution and administer Holy Communion to her, with the right to use a portable altar, so that she could hear Mass and receive Holy Communion daily, without let or hindrance from anyone.”





Thursday, April 25, 2013

Novena to St Catherine - Day 6

In this Year of Faith, St. Catherine’s teaching on faith in the following letter can be helpful to all of us as we ponder her words:

Letter T 31 to Madonna Mitarella

March 1373

In the name of Jesus Christ crucified and of gentle Mary.

Dearest and very loved mother and sister in Christ gentle Jesus, I Caterina, useless servant of Jesus Christ, send you greetings and encouragement in his precious blood. I long to see you a faithful servant in God’s sight, firm in the faith that gives joy and happiness to our soul. We must have the sort of faith our Saviour spoke of: “If you had faith as small as a grain of mustard seed and you commanded this mountain, it would move.” I beg you, dearest sister, to keep living in this faith.

You wrote me that because of what has happened, you are placing your faith and confidence only in the prayers of God’s servants. I beg you then, in the name of God and of our gentlest love Jesus Christ, to stand firm in this sweet holy faith. Oh sweet life-giving faith! If you persevere in that faith, sadness will never overtake your heart. For sadness comes only from putting our trust in creatures. But creatures are frail, lifeless things that sooner or later fail, and our heart can never rest except in what is stable and secure. When we set our heart on other people it is not set on anything stable, for a human being is alive today and tomorrow is dead. So, if we wish to have peace we must rest our heart and soul with faith and love in Christ crucified. Only then will our soul find complete happiness. O Jesus, dearest love! 

If you want to give life to this holy faith, I ask you to keep two things in mind. The first is that God cannot will anything but our good. To give us that true good – because through sin we had lost it – he gave himself even to the shameful death of the cross. Graciously he humbled himself to restore that grace to us and to do away with our pride. How true it is then that God wills only our good! The second thing to keep in mind is this: I want you to believe that truly nothing happens to us except by God’s will and permission –death or life, sickness or health, riches or poverty, even the wrongs done us by friends or relatives or anyone else. Not a leaf falls from a tree without his consent. God gives us what we can bear and no more.

If you believe that God wants only our good, you will stay perfectly happy. Be comforted in Christ crucified, and don’t be afraid.

Gentle God, give us death rather than let us offend you!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Novena to St Catherine of Siena - Day 5

The Prayer of St. Catherine on which I am reflecting  today, is a typically Trinitarian one, calling on the Father as Power the Son as Wisdom and the Holy Spirit as Mercy.  Its concerns reflect St. Catherine’s pre-occupation:  Peace and unity for the Church, mercy for the world and the people to whom she was ministering, and strength for herself in the tension under which she found herself working.



Power of the eternal Father, help me!

Wisdom of the Son, enlighten the eye of my understanding!

Tender Mercy of the Holy Spirit,

enflame my heart and unite it to yourself!

I proclaim, eternal God, `

that your power is powerful and strong enough

to free your Church and your people, to snatch us from the devil’s hand,

to stop the persecution of Holy Church,

and to give me strength and victory over my own enemies.

I proclaim that the wisdom of your Son,

who is one with you, can enlighten the eye of my understanding

and that of your people,

and can relieve the darkness of your sweet bride.

And I proclaim, eternal gentle goodness of God,

that the mercy of the Holy Spirit, your blazing charity,

wants to enflame my heart and everyone’s

and unite them with yourself.

Power of you, eternal Father,

wisdom of your only begotten Son in his precious blood;

mercy of the Holy Spirit,

fire and deep well of charity

that beheld this Son of yours fixed and nailed to the cross-

you know how to

and you can

and you want to,

so I plead with you:

have mercy on the world and restore the warmth of charity

and peace and unity to holy Church.

O me!      I wish you would not delay any longer!

I beg you, let your infinite goodness force you

not to close the eye of your mercy!

Gentle Jesus!     Jesus love!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Novena to St Catherine of Siena - Day 4

Reflection on Charityfrom the Dialogue of St Catherine of Siena, Chap. 148

Enlarge your heart, daughter, and open your mind’s eye to the light of faith. See with what great love and providence I have created and ordained humankind to rejoice in my supreme eternal reward. I have provided everything in soul and body, for the imperfect and the perfect, for the good and the bad, spiritually and temporally, in heaven and on earth, in this mortal life and in the immortal.

In this mortal life, so long as you are pilgrims, I have bound you with the chain of charity. Whether you want it or not, you are so bound. If you should break loose by not wanting to live in charity for your neighbors, you will still be bound by it by force. Thus, that you may practice charity in action and in will, I in my providence did not give to any one person or to each individually the knowledge for doing everything necessary for human life. No, I gave something to one, something else to another, so that each one’s need would be a reason to have recourse to the other. So though you may lose your will for charity because of your wickedness, you will at least be forced by your own need to practice it in action. Thus you see the artisan turn to the worker and the worker to the artisan: Each has need of the other because neither knows how to do what the other does. So also the cleric and religious have need of the layperson, and the layperson of the religious; neither can get along without the other. And so with everything else.
Could I not have given everyone everything? Of course. But in my providence I wanted to make each of you dependent on the others, so that you would be forced to exercise charity in action and will at once. …

Look up into me, everlasting Life; look up to the angels and the citizens of this everlasting life who have won eternal life by the power of the Lamb’s blood. I have so ordered their charity that no one simply enjoys his or her own reward in this blessed life that is my gift without its being shared by others. This is not how I have willed it to be. Rather, their charity is so well ordered and perfect that the great find joy in the reward of the small, and the small find joy in the reward of the great. I mean small in the sense of capacity, not that the small are any less full than the great. As I have told you elsewhere, each has his or her own measure.

Oh, how intimate is this charity! How united they are with me and with each other! For I am the source of what they have and they acknowledge this with holy fear and due reverence. When they see this they immerse themselves in me, and in me they see and know the dignity that I have given them. The angelic communicates with the human, that is, with the souls of the blessed, and the blessed with the angels. Thus all of them in this joyous charity rejoice in each others’ reward and exult in me in jubilation and mirth without any sadness, sweet without any bitterness, because while they lived and died they enjoyed me in loving charity through charity for their neighbors.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Novena to St Catherine of Siena - Day 2

Today is the 2nd day of the novena to St Catherine. It is also Vocation Sunday. So during the week as I was reflecting on St Catherine I had the theme of Vocations in mind also and today’s Gospel-‘I know my own and mine know me’. Somehow these converged for me in a single Gospel text-‘This is Eternal Life to know you the one true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent’.

This is the reason for our existence. This is why God created us, why He sent His Son to redeem us- so that we might know God, might participate in the very life of God, might experience being utterly and completely taken up into God’s love and be endlessly happy. The vocation of every human being is to fulfil this purpose for which we were brought into being. Our personal vocation is to discover and to follow the path marked out for us, to follow that path until we reach our destination and are one with God forever.

Catherine with this end always in view, travelled the way with single minded resolution, and in doing so brought many with her. The rest of us-well sometimes our eyes get heavy, our vision falters, we become somewhat short sighted and the things around us seem more attractive than the distant scene. We let our gaze roam, the bye ways beckon and we leave the way to explore alternative routes. Sometimes we even get lost.

On this vocation Sunday let us listen to Catherine reminding us of what we are about. Let the fire of her love set us alight, that aglow with the love of God, we might light up the way for others.

Catherine was utterly convinced, without the slightest shadow of doubt, that she was loved by God. That realization directed every moment of her life.  She just couldn’t stop talking about it so real was it for her.

The madness of God’s love bowls her over. How incessantly she returns to this theme as if to draw life from it, to draw love from it, to have the memory of it evoke a response in her- a response of love for God and of zeal for the salvation of all.

In her prayers we hear her pray:

‘O my miserable soul, arise from the darkness, arouse yourself, open the eye of your mind and contemplate the abyss of God’s love’

She sees God’s love manifested in Creation and Redemption. In one of her letters she speaks of “that perfect charity which God gave you and showed you before the creation of the world, being in love with you before you existed, for had he not been in love with you he would never had created you. By the love which He had for you, seeing you in Himself He was moved to give you being”

But this expression of God’s love is far surpassed by the abyss of love made manifest through Redemption. In prayer XI she tries to give voice to this incredible revelation :

“Just as love constrained you to draw us from yourself, so the same love constrained you to redeem us when we were lost. You indeed showed that you loved us before we existed when you willed to draw us from yourself solely through love, but you showed greater love towards us when you gave yourself, enclosing yourself in our humanity. And what more could you give than yourself? Because of this you cauld truly say ‘what should I have done or what could I have done that I have not done’”.

This is the truth that Catherine has come to know and is ever realising more clearly as she dwells continually in God’s presence. Her one desire, her sole mission in life is to bring others to the knowledge of this truth and to help them respond to it.

 And so she says to us this evening “I urge you to gaze into the abundance and abyss of his charity”  She urges us to gaze, not just to give a passing glance but to become totally absorbed, to look long and steadily until we have really seen what is to be seen, not just with our physical eyes but with the eyes of our souls. It is only in this kind of gazing, wonder struck, that we will be able to perceive in some small way the unfathomable mystery of Divine love and in perceiving be empowered to respond to it.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Novena to St Catherine of Siena, 2013 - Day 1

During the Novena to St Catherine, each evening before Vespers a sister shares a reflection or some extracts from her writings. We are happy to share these with our readers during the coming days.

Day 1
Recently we experienced the great joy of the Election of Pope Francis following the Retirement of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, and as today we begin our Novena in preparation for St. Catherine’s Feast day, I was reflecting on her deep concern and zeal for the Papacy in her particular time of the Church’s history.

For many eras, the Church has been truly blessed with wonderful Popes, each with his own personality and God given gifts has been one hundred per cent dedicated in responding to his high calling from God.   Pope Francis, no less than his predecessors faces  so many difficulties in our own particular historical situation both in the Church and in our world.  Surely we can with great confidence invoke the powerful intercession of St. Catherine to plead for the guidance and strength of the Holy Spirit which our Holy Father Francis, needs in his daily ministry.. 

Each successive Pope has had to face much criticism not only by the media but sadly at times from his own flock for what he has or has not done, or what some people think he has or has not done..  Yet at the same time, I think it is true to say, that the Popes of our own times have been deeply appreciated and looked up to by a great majority of people of all races, colours and creeds.  They have been very prayerful Shepherds whose hearts have bled for suffering humanity, for the peoples suffering war, violence of so many kinds, abuse, disease, poverty, grief  – the list is endless – they have ministered to bring God’s healing love to every anguished situation

Whilst St. Catherine was called upon to admonish the Pope of her time, she also gave firm but gentle encouragement.  I quote just part of a letter she wrote to Pope Gregory XI in 1377 when he was on his way back to Rome from Avignon in France..

'Most holy Father’, she writes, ‘open the eye of your understanding and see that if virtue is so very necessary to all peoples so that each may save his soul, how much more does one in your position, whose responsibility is to feed and care for the mystical body of holy Church, your bride, stand in need of such constancy, fortitude and patience – now you are Christ’s Vicar , you must toil and struggle for the honour of God, the salvation of souls and the reform of holy Church; all these mean pain and suffering for you’. 

Well you know, holy Father, that when you took holy Church as your bride, you took on the task of toiling and striving on her account and of facing up to many cross-winds, much pain and suffering.  Go out to meet these dangerous winds with fortitude, patience and long-suffering    Let your heart rejoice, for the many adverse situations that have and will come about, God’s work was never done in any other way.  Imitate the meekness and patience of Christ, sweet Jesus, whose Vicar you are.  I am confident in our Lord Jesus Christ, that in this and in other things he will be so much at work in you.  Be comforted and trust in the prayers of God’s good servants who are praying for you.  Abide in the sweet and holy love of God.  Sweet Jesus, Jesus love’

How applicable this reflection is to our own times – let  us be among those ‘good servants’ of whom St. Catherine speaks, and support Pope Francis  untiringly with our prayer and any sacrifice we can make for him, let us really listen to his teachings and put them into practise in our daily lives, and as far as we can, with God’s ever present Grace, imitate his humility and simplicity of life.

St. Catherine pray for the Church, pray for Pope Francis, pray for his world-wide flock.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Happy Easter

We wish all our readers of this blog the peace and joy of our Risen Saviour during this Eastertide.
You are daily in our prayers.