Today we celebrate the feast of St. Catherine of Siena, the first woman named as a doctor of the Catholic Church and a mystic “whose plunge into God plunged her deep into the affairs of society.” She cared for lepers in a local hospital, baked bread for the poor in Siena, served as a mediator of feuding families and helped broker a peace agreement between the city of Florence and the government of the papal states.
Most of what we know about her prayer life comes from a work titled The Dialogue, which Catherine started writing two years before her death. One of the recurring themes of the book, which records a series of questions she put to God and God’s responses to her, is God’s deep love for humanity. In words reminiscent of the beginning of the Book of Jeremiah, God tells Catherine, “I loved you before you came into being.”
Read God’s words to Catherine, recognizing that God says these words to each of us:
“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. It pleased me to create you in my image and likeness with great providence. I provided you with the gift of memory so that you might hold fast my benefit and be made a sharer in my own, the eternal Father’s power. I gave you understanding so that in the wisdom of my only-begotten Son you might comprehend and know what I the eternal Father want, I who gave you graces with such burning love. I gave you a will to love, making you a sharer in the Holy Spirit’s mercy, so that you might love what your understanding sees and knows. All this my gentle providence did, only that you might be capable of understanding and enjoying me and rejoicing in my goodness by seeing me eternally.”
Good words to ponder as we celebrate Catherine’s feast.