Thursday, April 29, 2010

Feast of Saint Catherine of Siena

Today is the feast of Saint Catherine of Siena. An extraordinary woman, a Dominican tertiary, visionary, mystic and died at the young age of 33. In 2000, she was proclaimed co-patroness of Europe (the others being Saint Teresa Benedict of the Cross and St Brigid of Sweden). On the occasion of her proclamation of co-patroness of Europe, the then Master General of the Dominican Order, fr Timothy Radcliffe wrote of Catherine:

"How can we grow as men and women who are touched by Catherine's passion for God? How can we be liberated from smallness of heart and contentment with little satisfactions? Perhaps it is through discovering, as did Catherine, that God is present in the very centre of our being and identity. The passion for God is not a taste to be acquired, like a love of football. It is there in the core of my being, waiting to be discovered. Our world is marked by a deep hunger for identity. For many people today the urgent question is: `Who am I?' This was Catherine's question.

The contemporary search for self knowledge is often a narcissistic preoccupation with self, an
introverted concentration on one's own well being and fulfilment. But for Catherine, when I finally see myself as I am, I do not discover a little nugget of lonely selfhood. In what Catherine called `the cell of self knowledge' I discover myself being loved into existence. She described herself as `dwelling in the cell of selfknowledge in order to know better God's goodness towards her'. If I dare to make that journey towards self knowledge, then I shall discover how small, flawed and finite I am, but I shall also see that I am utterly loved and valued. God told Catherine: `It was with providence that I created you, and when I contemplated my creature in myself, I fell in love with the beauty of my creation.'

So Catherine offers a liberating answer to the contemporary quest for identity. It takes us far away
from a false identity based on status or wealth or power. For at the heart of our being is the God
whose love sustains us in being. This is the place of contemplative prayer, where one meets the God
who delights in loving and forgiving, and whose own goodness we taste. Here we discover the secret
of Catherine's peace and her dynamism, her confidence and her humility. This is what made this
young woman, with little formal education, a great preacher. This is what gave her the freedom to
speak and to listen. This is what gave her the courage to dive in and address the great issues of her
time. With the help of her prayers we may do likewise."

Saint Catherine, pray for us and for vocations to the various branches of the Dominican family.
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