When we reflect on the life of St. Catherine of Siena, we are struck by the depth of her contemplative prayer united with her unbelievable apostolic zeal amid her own personal spiritual and physical suffering. Having lived a solitary life of contemplation for some years, the Holy Spirit led Catherine to understand that the love of God cannot be separated from serving others.
In the ‘Dialogue’ God says to Catherine ‘when you see yourself so ineffably loved by me, you should understand that you are to love as you are loved – that you are bound to love everyone of my creatures with the same love with which you see yourself loved by me’.
Leaving her solitary life, she laboured in the streets and around the sick beds and the prisons of the city. In addition she laboured relentlessly and tirelessly until her dying breath for the dire needs of the Church and the Papacy of her time, but at no time did she leave her interior cell or her life of contemplation and union with God. This was the secret of the extra-ordinary fruitfulness of her life given for the salvation of souls.
‘I give you all my creatures’ God says to her ‘whether distant or close, minister to them with the same pure love with which I have loved you’.
Surely God makes the same plea to each of us, each day whatever our circumstances in life may be.
In this context, I quote the following profound words of the great Jesuit Missionary Fr. Walter Ciszek, who in the midst of excruciating suffering and in solitary confinement and in concentration camps in Russia in world war II, was inspired by God’s Holy Spirit to grasp the truth which surely echo the spirit of St. Catherine in all its depth – he tells us:
‘the thought that actions otherwise worthless in themselves could somehow be redemptive and could serve the growth of God’s Kingdom on earth because they were undertaken in loving obedience to His Will - that Grace sustained me in joy and drove me on to work ever harder to achieve a more perfect union with God and His Will.That simple truth, that the sole purpose of our life on earth is to do the Will of God, contains enough inspiration for a lifetime’.
Surely these are true sentiments of St. Catherine’s own deep inner spirit.
I conclude with St. Paul’s enthusiastic outburst in his second letter to the Corinthians :
‘With us Christ’s love is a compelling motive’. Cf 2 Cor.5:1
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