Saint Catherine of Siena: Suffering With Joy
Thomas A. Droleskey
Saint Catherine of Siena, the Third Order Dominican whose feast we celebrate today, Tuesday, April 30, 2013, was truly a victim-soul, favored by God as early as the age of six years old with Heavenly visions and gifts. Saint Catherine of Siena suffered much within her wealthy family as she sought the things of Heaven and eschewed the pleasures and riches of this passing, mortal vale of tears. She was very misunderstood and very harshly treated at times by her own mother, who reduced her to the status of a family servant when she, Catherine Benincasa, announced at the age of twelve that she would not marry and that she desired a life of solitude in prayer. Saint Catherine of Siena preferred God to creatures, accepting all manner of calumnies and sufferings as the price she had to pay for her mystical espousal to Christ the King at the age of twelve.
Yes, it is difficult to "kick against the goad" in the world. It is hard, humanly speaking, for many to realize that we must be confessionally Catholic at all times and in all places and to all people no matter the consequences that might befall us in this passing, mortal vale of tears. However, we must indeed come to accept the simple truth that all will be confusion and chaos and disorder and rot in the lives of individuals and their nations unless each person absent a due subordination to the Deposit of Faith and a due reliance upon the supernatural helps available only in and from the Catholic Church, now found in the catacombs. Saint Catherine of Siena wanted only to please God. Her heart was on fire for love of Him as He has revealed Himself to us exclusively through the Church that He Himself founded upon the Rock of Peter, the Pope. And she was quite willing to "kick against the goad" to be faithful to her Beloved.
We must, therefore, persevere in defense of the Faith in the spirit with which Saint Catherine of Siena persevered in the face of that fierce opposition, sometimes bordering on mockery, within her own family that she accepted with such serenity and joy. We must accept suffering and misunderstanding and rejection and ridicule with that same sort of serenity and joy as our sins imposed suffering, misunderstanding, rejection and ridicule upon Our Divine Redeemer, Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, during His Passion and Death. Who are we to be exempted from the same kind of suffering and rejection and ridicule and mockery? We deserve far, far worse than anything we are privileged to suffer in this life as we make reparation for our sins to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus through the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary. Suffering is the path to salvation. There is none other.
Saint Catherine of Siena understood this. She was given infused knowledge by Our Lord Himself, which made her so suspect in the eyes of some that she was called before a general chapter of the Order of Preachers to defend herself. Her examiners were astounded at the clarity and theological precision of her answers. It was from that point forward in her brief thirty-three years of life that she became, in effect, a spiritual director to priests and learned theologians, reconciling enemies to each other and serving the plague-stricken, including several of her priest-followers, when Siena was in the grip of a severe outbreak of the plague. Saint Catherine's holy name even suffered after her death as she, whose body was incorrupt, was blamed for precipitating the Great Western Schism in 1379 by having convinced Pope Gregory XVI to return to the seat of the Holy Faith, Rome, from exile in Avignon, France, a move that made her hated among many within the papal curial, most of them being French themselves, did not want to leave the creature comforts of Avignon for the grime and filth of Rome at the end of the Fourteenth Century. It is most likely the case that Saint Catherine knew that she would be excoriated many after her death as she had been in life. This did not matter at all. Right was right, no amount of "strategic considerations" could ever cause her to veer from the course that she knew to be correct.
It was, as mentioned just above, in her home as a child that Catherine Benincasa learned how to carry her cross and to accept without complaint the cruelties visited upon her by her mother and siblings. Just consider this brief passage from an account of the life of the saint who lived on nothing other than Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in the Eucharist for weeks on end and who considered it be a singular privilege to suffer with Him for the sake of souls:
Back home, Catherine began to make penances for the love of Jesus. She began to eat less and less, and to sleep less and less. She spent her nights praying fervently, keeping up straight on the hard floor.
Catherine's parents and relatives were puzzled. Why was she such a strange girl? Why didn't she like fine clothes as the other girls did? Why didn't she want to be admired? Why didn't she like boys? She was entering her teens, and since she was charming and had a winning personality, her relatives thought it was time for her to be married.
But Catherine had vowed her virginity to God at the age of seven; she wished to be only His, and refused to listen to talk of boy friends and marriage.
"Let us put her to doing the housework," her parents decided. "Then she won't be able to spend all her time praying."
So Catherine took care of the house, doing each and every duty well. She was serving God with her hands, while she kept Him in her thoughts and in her heart. Instead of lessening, her thoughts and in her heart. Instead of lessening, her love for Him and union with Him grew. A great resolve was forming within her: she wanted to become a sister.
When her parents found out her hopes, they said, "No." But Catherine did not let that stop her. She kept on begging her mother to let her mother to let her enter the Dominicans, and paid no attention at all when friends told her mother, "Catherine is too pretty to be a sister!"
Too pretty? Would such a human motive come between Catherine and her spiritual desire? "Send me a sickness, my Lord," the girl prayed. Make me ugly, but grant me my desire."
The sickness came, and Catherine's beauty faded. At last she was permitted to enter the Third Order of St. Dominic. As a religious, she continued to live in the world, and went about doing good. Her father let her spend part of the family's income in helping the poor. (Fifty-Seven Saints for Boys and Girls, Daughters of Saint Paul, Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, 1963, pp. 282-283.)
Mary Fabyan Windeatt had this description of Saint Catherine of Siena's confrontation with her mother about being a Third Order member of the Order of Preachers:
"I want to be a Dominican," she announced. "Not a nun in a convent, but a Dominican Tertiary."
"Why can't you be like other people?" sighed her mother, when she heard the news. Lapa knew that Tertiaries were very holy people, men and women, who wore the habit of a friar or a nun and yet lived in their own homes. Usually they were middle-aged folk, not sixteen-year old girls like Catherine.
Catherine wondered if her mother were going to be angry. "I think God wants me to be a Tertiary, not a nun," she said. "It is really a wonderful thing to be called to be Tertiary, Mother."
Lapa shook her head. "Why do you want to dress like a nun and yet not really be one? Oh, Catherine, you are always causing me trouble! First you must cut off your hair. Then you must live in the worst room in the house. Now you want to go and be a Dominican Tertiary! Oh, dear ! I never had such trouble with my other children!"
"I have promised not to leave my little room," said Catherine. "Please, Mother, go to the Dominican Tertiaries and tell them I want to be a Tertiary, too."
Lapa shrugged her shoulders. "I will not," she said. "I have no use for being different from other people. Besides, the Tertiaries will never have you. They are all older women--widows, too. The would not want to take in a young girl."
"Oh, please go and ask them!" begged Catherine. "If you only knew how much I want to wear the blessed habit of Saint Dominic!"
"There is no arguing about it," said Lapa. "I will not have you in my house, wearing a religious habit and looking like a nun. Don't bother me again."
Catherine knelt down in the middle of the her little room. She was very sad. How could she go to become a Tertiary when she had promised to remain at home to pray for sinners?
"Dearest Saint Dominic, you will have to help me," she said. And then a little of her sadness left her when she offered her disappointment for the conversion of a certain man who had sworn he would never go to church again.
The same year that Catherine was sixteen, a smallpox plague swept through the town. The dyer's young daughter caught the terrible disease and for a time it seemed as though she would die of it. She lay on her hard bed, her face and body covered with sores, her thoughts far away from this world. Poor Lapa was terribly worried.
"Oh, dear! Isn't there something you would like, Catherine? Perhaps I could make you a pudding or something. Or maybe you would like a little fruit . . ."
But Catherine shook her head. "The only thing I want is to be a Dominican Tertiary," she said sadly.
Lapa realized that she could hold out no longer. "All right," she said. "I will go to the woman in charge of the Tertiaries and see what can be done." (Mary Fabyan Windeatt, Saint Catherine of Siena, published originally in 1941 by Sheed and Ward. Republished by TAN Books and Publishers in 1993, pp. 32-34.)
Saint Catherine of Siena suffered for the Faith throughout her entire life, including bearing Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ's stigmata. Tormented by terrible demonic visions now again, something that is not uncommon for genuine mystics to experience, Saint Catherine was also given many consolations in the gifts bestowed upon her by Our Lord and the spiritual intimacy that she had with her Beloved, Christ the King.
Although formally unschooled and for a time completely illiterate, unable to read or write until she asked for the gift to do so (asking later that the same gift be taken away from her), she wrote her famous Dialogue, which many masters of the interior life consider to be one of the most brilliant expositions of the the deepest secrets of Divine Intimacy. She also composed this eloquent letter to Pope Gregory XVI to urge him to return to the seat of the legitimate successors of Saint Peter, Rome:
In the name of Jesus Christ crucified and of sweet Mary: Most holy and most reverend my father in Christ Jesus: I Catherine your poor unworthy daughter, servant and slave of the servants of Christ, write to you in His precious blood; with desire to see you a good shepherd. For I reflect, sweet my father, that the wolf is carrying away your sheep, and there is no one found to succor them. So I hasten to you, our father and our shepherd, begging you on behalf of Christ crucified to learn from Him, who with such fire of love gave Himself to the shameful death of the most holy cross, how to rescue that lost sheep, the human race, from the hands of the demons; because through man's rebellion against God they were holding him for their own possession.
Then comes the Infinite Goodness of God, and sees the evil state and the loss and the ruin of these sheep, and sees that they cannot be won back to Him by wrath or war. So, notwithstanding they have wronged Him-for man deserves an infinite penalty for his disobedient rebellion against God-the Highest and Eternal Wisdom will not do this, but finds an attractive way, the gentlest and most loving possible to find. For it sees that the heart of man is in no way so drawn as by love, because he was created by love. This seems to be the reason why he loves so much: he was created by nothing but love, both his soul and his body. For by love God created him in His Image and Likeness, and by love his father and mother gave him substance, conceiving and bearing a son.
God, therefore, seeing that man is so ready to love, throws the book of love straight at him, giving him the Word, His Only-Begotten Son, who takes our humanity to make a great peace. But justice wills that vengeance should be wrought for the wrong that has been done to God: so comes Divine Mercy and unspeakable Charity, and to satisfy justice and mercy condemns His Son to death, having clothed him in our humanity, that is, in the clay of Adam who sinned. So by His death the wrath of the Father is pacified, having wrought justice on the person of His son: so He has satisfied justice and has satisfied mercy, releasing the human race from the hands of demons. This sweet Word jousted with His arms upon the wood of the most holy Cross, death fighting a tournament with life and life with death: so that by His death He destroyed our death, and to give us life He sacrificed the life of His body. So then with love He has drawn us to Him, and has overcome our malice with His benignity, in so much that every heart should be drawn to Him: since greater love one cannot show-and this He himself said-than to give one's life for one's friend. And if He commended the love which gives one's life for one's friend, what then shall we say of that most burning and perfect love which gave its life for its foe? For we through sin had become foes of God. Oh, sweet and loving Word, who with love hast found Thy flock once more, and with love hast given Thy life for them, and hast brought them back to Thy fold, restoring to them the Grace which they had lost!
Holiest sweet father of mine, I see no other way for us and no other aid to winning back your sheep, which have left the fold of Holy Church in rebellion, not obedient nor submissive to you, their father. I pray you therefore, in the name of Christ crucified, and I will that you do me this grace, to overcome their malice with your benignity. Yours we are, father! I know and realize that they all feel that they have done wrong; but although they have no excuse for their crimes, nevertheless it seemed to them that they could not do differently, because of the many sufferings and injustices and iniquitous things they have endured from bad shepherds and governors. For they have breathed the stench of the lives of many rulers whom you know yourself to be incarnate demons, and fallen into terrible fears, so that they did like Pilate, who not to lose his authority killed Christ; so did they, for not to lose their state, they maltreated you. I ask you then, father, to show them mercy. Do not regard the ignorance and pride of your sons, but with the food of love and your benignity inflict such mild discipline and benign reproof as shall satisfy your Holiness and restore peace to us miserable children who have done wrong.
I tell you, sweet Christ on earth, on behalf of Christ in Heaven, that if you do this, without strife or tempest, they will all come grieving for the wrong they have done, and lay their heads on your bosom. Then you will rejoice, and we shall rejoice, because by love you have restored the sheep to the fold of Holy Church. And then, sweet my father, you will fulfill your holy desire and the will of God by starting the holy Crusade, which I summon you in his name to do swiftly and without negligence. They will turn to it with great eagerness; they are ready to give their lives for Christ. Ah me, God, sweet Love! Raise swiftly, father, the banner of the most holy Cross and you will see the wolves become lambs. Peace, peace, peace, that war may not delay that happy time!
But if you will wreak vengeance and justice, inflict them on me, poor wretch, and assign me any pain and torment that may please you, even death. I believe that through the foulness of my iniquities many evils have occurred, and many misfortunes and discords. On me then, your poor daughter, take any vengeance that you will. Ah me, father, I die of grief and cannot die! Come, come, and resist no more the will of God that calls you; the hungry sheep await your coming to hold and possess the place of your predecessor and Champion, Apostle Peter. For you, as the Vicar of Christ, should abide in your own place. Come, then, come, and delay no more; and comfort you, and fear not anything that might happen, since God will be with you. I ask humbly your benediction for me and all my sons; and I beg you to pardon my presumption. I say no more. Remain in the holy and sweet grace of God-Sweet Jesus, Jesus Love. (As found in an article about Saint Catherine of Siena's life:
As we draw inspiration from the holy life and saintly example of Saint Catherine of Siena, we need to remember that we must love suffering as she did.
We must remember that will be hated by relatives and friends and acquaintances for making no concessions to the false religion of conciliarism, which itself makes all manner of concessions to false religions that are hated by God, worship the devil and are thus harmful to souls and to social order and the cause of genuine peace, that of the Divine Redeemer Himself, in the world.
We must remember that will be hated for attempting to defend the honor and majesty of God as a prideful Modernist handles with his own priestly hands the symbols of false religions in direct violation of the First Commandment. We will be hated for pointing out the evils of a synthetic "liturgy" that incorporate elements of Protestantism and is designed to propagate a Judeo-Masonic spirit of naturalism by means of the "inculturation of the Gospel." We will be hated for reminding our associates that to attack the very nature of dogmatic truth itself, as Joseph Ratzinger has done throughout the course of his priesthood, is to attack the very nature of God Himself.liic
None of this matters, however. Our sins deserve us to be punished by means of humiliation and calumny, among so many other ways. Following the example of Saint Catherine of Siena, we should consider it a joy to suffer justly for our sins as we attempt to make reparation for them in some small manner as the consecrated slaves of Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ through His Most Blessed Mother's Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart, especially at those times when we have been given the opportunity to defend the truths of the Faith against the attacks of the fomenters of the novelties of our own day.
No matter the opposition that befalls us, my friends, we must be about the business of planting a few seeds for the restoration for the Social Reign of Christ the King, of making possible the restoration of the Catholic City that was so near and dear to the heart of Pope Saint Pius X.
We help to restore the Catholic City every time we receive Holy Communion worthily in a true offering of the Immemorial Mass of Tradition by a true bishop or a true priest.
We help to restore the Catholic City as we spend time each day in prayer before Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ's Real Presence in the Most Blessed Sacrament, especially on First Friday into the morning hours of First Saturday.
We help to restore the Catholic City with each Rosary we pray.
We help to restore the Catholic City with each good, sincere, humble, integral Confession we make of our sins.
We help to restore the Catholic City with each blessed Green Scapular we pass out to a lost soul who has been abandoned to the ways of the world by the counterfeit church of conciliarism.
We help to restore the Catholic City by consecrating ourselves to Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ through the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, offering up all of our prayers and penances and sacrifices and mortifications and humiliations to His Most Sacred Heart through her Immaculate Heart.
We help to restore the Catholic City by enthroning our homes to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
We help to restore the Catholic City by fulfilling Our Lady's Fatima Message in our own lives as best we can.
We help to restore the Catholic City by remembering that this is the time that God has ordained from all eternity for us to live in, seeking therefore to cooperate with the graces He won for us by the shedding of every single drop of His Most Precious Blood on the wood of the Holy Cross and that flows into our hearts and souls through the loving hands of Our Lady, the Mediatrix of All Graces, to persevere to the point of our dying breaths in states of Sanctifying Grace as members of the Catholic Church with Perfect Contrition for our sins.
Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B., provided an inspiring prayer of this mystic who lived such a life of total self-denial in service to her Espoused, Christ the King:
Holy Church, filled as she now is with the joy of her Jesus' Resurrection, addresses herself to thee, O Catharine, who follwest the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. Living in this land of exile, where it is only at intervals that she enjoys his presence, she says to thee: Hast thou seen him upon whom my soul loveth? Thou art his Spouse; so is she: she there are no evils, no separation, for thee; whereas for her, the enjoyment is at rare and brief periods, and even so there are clouds that dim the lovely light. What a life was thine, O Catharine! uniting in itself the keenest compassion for the sufferings of Jesus, and intense happiness by the share he gave thee of his glorified life. We might take thee as our guide both to the mournful mysteries of Calvary, and to the glad spendours of the Resurrection. It is these latter that we are now repsectfully celebrating: oh! speak to us of our Risen Jesus! Is it not he that gave thee the nuptial ring, with its matchless diamond set amidst four precious gems? The bright rays which gleam from thy stigmata tell us that when he espoused thee to himself thou sawest him all resplendent with the beauty of his glorious Wounds. Daughter of Magdalen! like her, thou art a messenger of the Resurrection; and when thy last Pasch comes--the Pasch of thy thirty-third year--thou takest thy way to heaven, to keep it for eternity. O zealous lover of souls! love them more than ever, now that thou art in the palace of the King, our God. we too are in the Pasch, intercede for us, that the life of Jesus may never die within us, but that we strengthen its power by loving him with an ardour like thine own.
Our God used thee as his instrument, O humble virgin, for bringing back the Roman Pontiff to his See. Thou was stronger than the powers of this earth, which would fain have prolonged an absence disastrous to the Church. The relices of Peter in the Vatican, of Pual on the Ostian Way, of Lawrence and Sebastian, of Cecily and Agnes, exculted in their glorious tombs when Gregory entered with triumph into the Holy City. It was through thee, O Catharine, that a ruinous captivity of seventy years' duration was brought on that day to a close, and that Rome recovered her glory and her life. In these our days, hell has changed its plan of destruction! men have deprived its Pontiff-King of the city which was chosen by Peter as the See where the Vicar of Christ should reign to the end of the world. It is this design of God, this design which was so dear to thee, O Catharine! is it now to be frustrated? Oh! our aid--and through they divine Spouse, in his just anger, permits us to sufer these humiliations, pray that at least they may be shortened.
Pray, too, for unhappy Italy, which was so dear to thee, and which is so justly proud of its Saint of Siena. Impiety and heresy are now permitted to run wild through the land; the name of thy Spouse is blasphemed; te people are taught to love error, and to hat what they had hitherto venerated: the Church is insulted and robbed: faith has long since been weakened, but now its very existenced is imperiled. Intercede for thy unfortunate country, dear Saint! oh! surely, it is time to come to her assistance, and rescue her from the hands of her enemies. The whole Church hopes that thou mayest effect the deliverance o this her illustrious province: delay not, but calm the storm which seems to threaten a universal wreck! (Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B., The Liturgical Year: Paschal Time: Book II, pp. 389-391.)
May Saint Catherine of Siena, who suffered much for the good of Holy Mother Church, help us to cleave to the same unadulterated and immutable Faith as she cleaved to and defended in word and in deed with every beat of her humble, suffering heart.
Four hundred fifty-two years after the death of the great defender of the good of Holy Mother Church, Saint Catherine of Siena, Pope Gregory XVI explained in Mirari Vos, August 15, 1832, that true popes adhere to Catholic teaching without any novelties. So must we:
These and many other serious things, which at present would take too long to list, but which you know well, cause Our intense grief. It is not enough for Us to deplore these innumerable evils unless We strive to uproot them. We take refuge in your faith and call upon your concern for the salvation of the Catholic flock. Your singular prudence and diligent spirit give Us courage and console Us, afflicted as We are with so many trials. We must raise Our voice and attempt all things lest a wild boar from the woods should destroy the vineyard or wolves kill the flock. It is Our duty to lead the flock only to the food which is healthful. In these evil and dangerous times, the shepherds must never neglect their duty; they must never be so overcome by fear that they abandon the sheep. Let them never neglect the flock and become sluggish from idleness and apathy. Therefore, united in spirit, let us promote our common cause, or more truly the cause of God; let our vigilance be one and our effort united against the common enemies.
Indeed you will accomplish this perfectly if, as the duty of your office demands, you attend to yourselves and to doctrine and meditate on these words: "the universal Church is affected by any and every novelty" and the admonition of Pope Agatho: "nothing of the things appointed ought to be diminished; nothing changed; nothing added; but they must be preserved both as regards expression and meaning." Therefore may the unity which is built upon the See of Peter as on a sure foundation stand firm. May it be for all a wall and a security, a safe port, and a treasury of countless blessings. To check the audacity of those who attempt to infringe upon the rights of this Holy See or to sever the union of the churches with the See of Peter, instill in your people a zealous confidence in the papacy and sincere veneration for it. As St. Cyprian wrote: "He who abandons the See of Peter on which the Church was founded, falsely believes himself to be a part of the Church." (Pope Gregory XVI, Mirari Vos, August 15, 1832.)
When was the last time you heard those who have severed their relationship with the true Church by means of their embrace of one condemned notion after another as they regard with public esteem and respect false religions quote from Pope Saint Agatho on the simple fact that "nothing of the things appointed ought to be diminished, nothing changed, nothing added; but they must be preserved both as regards expression and meaning"? Not lately, I can assure you. Not lately. It is the conciliar "pontiffs" who have abandoned the See of Peter by changing and adding and diminishing the things appointed by Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ to His true Church, which is why the forces of Modernity in the world have been able to do their nefarious work with the help of so many Catholics who are attached to the structures of the counterfeit church. It is the conciliar "popes" who must return to the Faith just as Pope Gregory XVI had to return to the seat the Faith, Rome.
May it be our privilege to plant a few seeds for the day when the enemies of the Immaculata in the world and the counterfeit church of conciliarism are defeated for all to see as glory is given to the Most Holy Trinity through her Immaculate Heart that was pierced with Seven Swords of Sorrows because of our sins. And may we rely every day upon the holy patronage of Saint Catherine of Siena, who should inspire us to love God with a purity of intention that will inspire us to the heights of personal sanctity, praying as many Rosaries each day as our state-in-life permits.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, triumph soon!
Viva Cristo Rey! Vivat Christus Rex!
Saint Joseph, Patron of Departing Souls, pray for us.
Saints Peter and Paul, pray for us.
Saint John the Baptist, pray for us.
Saint John the Evangelist, pray for us.
Saint Michael the Archangel, pray for us.
Saint Gabriel the Archangel, pray for us.
Saint Raphael the Archangel, pray for us.
Saints Joachim and Anne, pray for us.
Saints Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, pray for us.
Saint Catherine of Siena, T.O.P., pray for us.
See also: A Litany of Saints
Isn't it time to pray a Rosary now?