Today is the feast day of St. Catherine of Siena, Doctor of the Catholic Church and Patroness of Europe. She has long been among my favorites of the mystics of the Catholic Church. Catherine was a laywoman associated with the Dominican order who lived during the 14th century.
Catherine had a deep and intimate friendship with God and she was open to hearing God’s voice. When she spoke about prayer, she said that the humble soul waits patiently for the flame of love. When asked how the soul waited, Catherine said, “not lazily, but in watching and constant humble prayer.”
She also compared prayer to filling our cup at the fountain of love. She writes:
Even simple folk know this…If you have received God’s love sincerely without self-interest, you will drink your neighbor’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.
Most of what we know about the fruits of Catherine’s prayer life comes from a work titled The Dialogue (or The Dialogue of Divine Providence), which Catherine started writing two years before her death, and which is now hailed as a classic of Western spirituality.
One of the recurring themes of The Dialogue is God’s deep love for humanity. In words reminiscent of the beginning of the Book of Jeremiah in the Hebrew Scriptures, God tells Catherine, “I loved you before you came into being.” Here is how God expounded on tht love to 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. 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.
All of us are made to rejoice in God’s love forever. And so these words are written to each us. Today, let us hear them as Catherine did.
St. Catherine of Siena, pray for us!