We spent more time with St. Catherine of Siena today.
Catherine entered the lay order of Dominicans when she was 16 years old. Because she was in the lay order she could stay at home, rather than being cloistered. Catherine spent time in solitude and intense meditation. She lived some of the time as an ascete, denying herself food and sleep. She had profound experiences of a relationship with Christ. So much so that she believed that she was mystically betrothed to Jesus, receiving a ring that only she could see. So intense was her relationship with Jesus that later in life she experienced the stigmata. Again, only she could see the wounds.
Lest we think that Catherine spent her life in solitude and mysticism, her faith drove her to service and action. Her world was chaotic. The plague was devastating, the political scene was war, and the church was deeply divided between Rome and France. She wrote Pope Gregory XI to leave the palace in Avignon and return the papacy to Rome. She admonished him that he was not using the authority that God had given him. She told him that, if he wasn’t going to use his power, he might as well resign. She even wrote”Cursed be you, for time and power were entrusted to you and you did not use them!”. Strong words for a laywoman!
One piece of Catherine’s advice is, “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”
Today, taking the advice given by Catherine in the1300’s, to speak strongly and with courage, the pilgrims wrote letters to their elected officials. They let them know exactly what they felt that person needed to hear.
My own reflection is that deepening our relationship to Jesus, being in solitude and having a practice of meditation gives one the grounding in faith and the courage to take the next crucial step to action.
We visited the cathedral of Siena, a very large, grand edifice faced with black and white marble. Check out the website for the Duomo. www.operaduomo.siena.it . This will give you a sense of the lushness of the art and richness of this holy place, which was consecrated in c. 1215.