Posted by: fvbcdm | April 29, 2015

Feast of Saint Catherine of Siena (29 April 2015)

Those of us who are my age have lived through a new era within Church history. When I was born, there were no female Doctors of the Church all down the nearly twenty centuries of Church history. Now, less than 80 years later, we have three of them, and I suppose that in the future, there will be more. The three whom we now have are, in order of their being declared Doctors of the Church, Saint Teresa of Avila, a Carmelite nun of 16th century Spain; Saint Catherine of Siena, a Dominican laywoman in 14th century Italy, and then Saint Therese of Lisieux, another Carmelite nun in 19th century France. We Dominicans are proud of the fact that in terms of chronology, Saint Catherine of Siena, the Dominican was the earliest to be given the great honor of being declared a Doctor of the Church even though that honor was given to her only a few years after it had been conferred upon Saint Teresa of Avila.

I speak of this today because we are celebrating Saint Catherine’s feast today. When she was a small child of six, she saw a vision in the sky above her home town of Siena in central Italy. In the vision Our Lord appeared to her dressed in the robes of the Pope, and for the rest of her life, Catherine always loved the connection with the Bishop of Rome—the Pope—and our Divine Lord Jesus Christ.

She often referred to the Pope as “our sweet Christ on earth,” and she spent the rest of her life serving the Papacy and the individual Popes who occupied the chair of Saint Peter during her lifetime. Because of the complicated politics of the Church in Europe at the time, the Popes had gone to live in Avignon, a city in what is now southeastern France. This condition of having the Bishop of Rome living in Avignon created problems for the Church, and Saint Catherine did her best to get the Popes back to Rome where they belonged. It finally came to pass, but only after tremendous effort on the part of this remarkable woman.

Her personality was so strong and her appeal so great over those who met her and came to know her that they were often called the “caterinati”—the “Catherinated ones” who had fallen under her spell and took their cues from her in terms of their great love for God, our Lord Jesus Christ, his Church, and the Popes.

Today, let us imitate Saint Catherine, the earliest woman to be declared a Doctor of the Church, in her great devotion to our Lord, His Church, its Popes, and in particular the present pope. If we are Catholics worthy of the name, we must imitate Saint Catherine in her devotion to these various elements in the true Church which Christ has built upon the Rock of the Papacy. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This message was composed some years ago.

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