During the Novena to St Catherine, each evening before Vespers a sister shares a reflection or some extracts from her writings. We are happy to share these with our readers during the coming days.

Day 1

Recently we experienced the great joy of the Election of Pope Francis following the Retirement of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, and as today we begin our Novena in preparation for St. Catherine’s Feast day, I was reflecting on her deep concern and zeal for the Papacy in her particular time of the Church’s history.

For many eras, the Church has been truly blessed with wonderful Popes, each with his own personality and God given gifts has been one hundred per cent dedicated in responding to his high calling from God.   Pope Francis, no less than his predecessors faces  so many difficulties in our own particular historical situation both in the Church and in our world.  Surely we can with great confidence invoke the powerful intercession of St. Catherine to plead for the guidance and strength of the Holy Spirit which our Holy Father Francis, needs in his daily ministry.. 

Each successive Pope has had to face much criticism not only by the media but sadly at times from his own flock for what he has or has not done, or what some people think he has or has not done..  Yet at the same time, I think it is true to say, that the Popes of our own times have been deeply appreciated and looked up to by a great majority of people of all races, colours and creeds.  They have been very prayerful Shepherds whose hearts have bled for suffering humanity, for the peoples suffering war, violence of so many kinds, abuse, disease, poverty, grief  – the list is endless – they have ministered to bring God’s healing love to every anguished situation

Whilst St. Catherine was called upon to admonish the Pope of her time, she also gave firm but gentle encouragement.  I quote just part of a letter she wrote to Pope Gregory XI in 1377 when he was on his way back to Rome from Avignon in France..

‘Most holy Father’, she writes, ‘open the eye of your understanding and see that if virtue is so very necessary to all peoples so that each may save his soul, how much more does one in your position, whose responsibility is to feed and care for the mystical body of holy Church, your bride, stand in need of such constancy, fortitude and patience – now you are Christ’s Vicar , you must toil and struggle for the honour of God, the salvation of souls and the reform of holy Church; all these mean pain and suffering for you’. 

Well you know, holy Father, that when you took holy Church as your bride, you took on the task of toiling and striving on her account and of facing up to many cross-winds, much pain and suffering.  Go out to meet these dangerous winds with fortitude, patience and long-suffering    Let your heart rejoice, for the many adverse situations that have and will come about, God’s work was never done in any other way.  Imitate the meekness and patience of Christ, sweet Jesus, whose Vicar you are.  I am confident in our Lord Jesus Christ, that in this and in other things he will be so much at work in you.  Be comforted and trust in the prayers of God’s good servants who are praying for you.  Abide in the sweet and holy love of God.  Sweet Jesus, Jesus love’

How applicable this reflection is to our own times – let  us be among those ‘good servants’ of whom St. Catherine speaks, and support Pope Francis  untiringly with our prayer and any sacrifice we can make for him, let us really listen to his teachings and put them into practise in our daily lives, and as far as we can, with God’s ever present Grace, imitate his humility and simplicity of life.

St. Catherine pray for the Church, pray for Pope Francis, pray for his world-wide flock.