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Based on a reflection by Sister Joan Delaplane, OP
This past week, our Dominican community celebrated the Feast of St. Catherine of Siena (1347-1380). Catherine: Dominican preacher, teacher, healer, reconciler, writer, mystic, and all in a mere 33 years; first woman named as Doctor of the Church! A woman whose times were like our own in many ways: upheavals, insecurity, fear, wars, natural calamities, lost faith, and scandals in the Church. And how did our sister Catherine face these challenges? As Suzanne Nofke summarized it: “The Truth and Love that is God possessed her, and she laid her whole being on the line with his for the life of the world” (Catherine of Siena: Vision Through a Distant Eye. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1996).
Yes, Catherine’s “mad lover” God was Truth and Love. As I reflected on Catherine and our own time, however, two phrases grabbed hold of me and wouldn’t let go: Truth of Love and Love of Truth. Catherine’s grounding in the Truth of Love, who is God, impelled her to take the love of truth to others. Perhaps you’ve seen the cover of Time magazine earlier this month: “Is Truth Dead?” Alternative facts and fake news seem acceptable; some don’t even care, or even echo Pilate: “What is truth?” It’s as though there’s a cloud over us, making it difficult to perceive the light of truth.
And what does this Truth of God’s Love look like? Jesus embodies the truth of God’s love as a caring, tender washing feet of those who had betrayed him, denied him and abandoned him. The Truth of God’s Love is a forgiving of those who had abused him, hated him, and left him to suffer the throes of an agonizing death. Jesus shows us the truth of God’s love as a trusting in God to be with him when all he felt was abandonment, pain, and the seeming failure of his mission. The Risen Christ shows us the Truth of God’s Love that transformed locked up, fearful disciples into fearless preachers speaking the truth in love.
Like those first disciples, Catherine heard Christ calling her to embody the Truth of Love in her world: “I need you to walk with two feet; love of God and love of all that God loves.” We, too, are called to be the Truth of Love for our world. Like the small groups of people who traveled this past weekend to walk on two feet in Washington, D.C. with others for love of the Truth of Climate Change. They will witness to the call of all people to be part of healing and preserving God’s beloved creation.
What are some of the ways that you will embody the Truth of Love and the Love of Truth? Let us know in the comments section what occurred to you in your reflection.
“Work, then, my daughter in the field you see God calling you to work in, and don’t trouble or weary your spirit over what is said to you but carry on courageously. Fear and serve God selflessly, and then don’t be bothered by what people say except to have compassion for them.”
These are the words of St. Catherine of Siena to a young woman who was struggling with discerning her call. Tomorrow is Catherine’s Feast Day. She was born in the tumultuous time of 1347 when the plague was raging through Europe. She cared for the sick, poor, and prisoners. She became a well known preacher and reconciler whom many followed. She even advised Popes. She responded to her times.
Mary Catherine Hilkert, OP, in her book, Speaking with Authority: Catherine of Siena and the Voices of Women Today, explains how much Catherine has to say to those in discernment:
“…as Catherine’s letters to others make clear, our unique gifts, circumstances, and relationships, as well as the specific needs of others and the concrete situations in which we find ourselves, disclose more specifically the unique vocation to which each of us is called. Further, the dimensions of one’s vocation unfold and shift during the course of a lifetime….The plague victims, the poor of the city of Siena, and political prisoners [Catherine] came to know made a claim on her and helped shape her concrete response to the gospel.” (Pg. 28-29)
How do the elements of your life disclose your unique vocation?
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