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The Christophers: A Saint’s World-Changing Influence

Fr. Ed Daugherty, M.M.

 

As the month of April draws to a close, we celebrate the feast day of a truly amazing saint who remains a model for us all. April 29 is the Feast of Saint Catherine of Siena, whose writings have earned her a place among only 37 people ever named Doctor of the Catholic Church.

In her major treatise, The Dialogue of Divine Providence, written between 1377 and 1378, Catherine draws a simple yet profound analogy regarding the relationship between God and man, saying that God is like “a sea, in which we are the fish.” This image helps us understand that God is not our adversary, but rather the infinite being that holds everything in existence and the source of all the good in our lives.

Saint Catherine’s ability to arrive at such beautiful insights came through years of prioritizing her relationship with God above all things. Though her family could provide her comfort and she had opportunity to marry, she chose a life of poverty and chastity so that she could devote herself to serving God and others.

After a period in her young adult life in which she spent most of her time serving her family, Catherine had an experience that she later described as a mystical marriage to Christ. It left her with the certainty that she was called to enter public life in service to others. She began with an outreach to the poor and sick, visiting hospitals and the homes of those in need. She soon attracted others who wanted to join her mission, so she was able to grow this outreach and have a major impact on people’s lives.

Catherine’s mission in the world grew exponentially when she began to travel and felt called to evangelize, encouraging people to focus their lives completely on love for God and neighbor. She promoted reforms within the Church aimed at greater fidelity to the Gospel, and she became an advocate for the Pope, promoting loyalty to the Church among Italian city states during a time of political tumult.

Catherine was also instrumental in convincing Pope Gregory XI, who was the last Avignon Pope, to return to Rome, furthering her efforts to bring stability to the Church. Later, when the Western Schism broke out under Pope Urban VI, Catherine was summoned to Rome by Urban to help him convince nobles and cardinals not to go into schism. She worked tirelessly towards this end, meeting with influential figures at court and embarking on a letter-writing campaign on the Pope’s behalf.

It is astounding to contemplate the immense impact Catherine of Siena had on her time period, and that impact began with a simple outreach to those in need. The trajectory of her life—from charity worker to world influencer—is not uncommon among the saints. Consider the life of Saint Francis of Assisi or Mother Teresa, whose calls from God began as simple ones, then grew into something larger.

It’s a lesson to us all as we set about to change the world for the better. Don’t be afraid to start small and stay focused on the things of the heart that transform ourselves and those around us. It is from this type of humble starting point that God tends to grow our efforts beyond what we ever imagined. May Saint Catherine of Siena intercede for us as we set about to change the world so that we place God first and attend to the life-giving things of the heart and soul.

 

For a free copy of the Christopher News Note APPLY DIVINE PURPOSE TO YOUR LIFE, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail: mail@christophers.org 

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