St. Catherine of Siena

St. Catherine of Sienna envelopes you in love, warming and enlightening you so much that you’re bound to love her. She magnifies every effort you make, just as your mother loved you into continual growth. No wonder, she is so popular, over seven centuries, with folks who see past distractions. She reaches out to you. If you take her hand, she will take your heart. There’s no better place for your hand and heart to be.

Join St. Catherine as she soars forth into Jesus. With love beyond telling, her heart becomes His. So she shares her Christ-heart with everyone who opens to Love. Our videos and texts trace so much of her flowing love, that you will delight in them, and even more in St. Catherine’s inspiring writing. Once introduced, you will be so much in love that she will be your “dear Kate,” leading you to Jesus. Who leads you home. Saint Catherine of Siena was an Italian Third Order Dominican. Born in Siena in 1347, she died in 1380 in Rome. Although without formal schooling, she is considered a brilliant theologian for having written a treatise called Dialog, and for a large collection of letters. St. Catherine of Siena Saint Catherine also helped to bring the papacy of Gregory XI back to Rome from  exile in Avignon, France, and to establish peace among the Italian city-states. Declared a Doctor of the Church in 1970, she is only one of four women to be so recognized by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. 

In fifteen talks given as part of the SFIS Summer Program of  2011, Brother Brian Dybowski describes how divine love flowed from St. Catherine as she opened her heart so completely to Jesus. Her most famous written expression of love is Dialogs, recording her conversations with God.  Especially powerful are the symbols she used, described below in some excerpts from Brother Brian Dybowski’s commentary titled St. Catherine of Siena’s Spiritual Secrets.

“Catherine uses many symbols. Her writings are loving chatter about many things. But her images are nuggets of pure gold… for example she describes wood becoming fire as it accepts love. She symbolizes Christ as the bridge that unites us to God across the chasm of sin. (page 6) 

Catherine uses a fine symbol to express our bodily existence. It is the cell… This is the cell of separation from mad dashes around creation. As we dash we seek God where he is not. If we retire within the cell, or house of our body, to find God at our center, then we find the One we love. This cell, or house separating us from distractions, is exactly what the soul needs… (page 17)

 Prayer is looking into the mirror of God. Here we find our own dignity. It is not something we earn but a free gift from God. That’s why Catherine says that we are dignified “through no merit of our own”. A moment of reflection reminds us that prior to God creating us, we did not exist at all. After God created us, we sinned, so we lack merit even after we exist. Still, He created us like him, or in his image. This image is the mirror… So our inner being, our spirituality, reveals God’s image to us. (page 13)

 The bridge is probably the best known of Catherine’s many images. [This Christ bridge] reaches the infinite distance from heaven to earth “joining the earth of your humanity with the greatness of the Godhead.” During her many years of prayer, Catherine reflected mightily on the bridge that Jesus is, and rejoices in its span across infinity. Her symbol enable us to expand our reflections, tacking on the details of our own redemption. Our amazement about this magnificent span across infinity sustains us in daily struggles to cross the bridge. It is ‘darksome’ down below!” (page 34) 

[In describing the bridge] God refers to three stairs, which are also stages of spiritual development… The first step is to climb up to Jesus’ feet. Notice that because His feet are nailed down, he must wait for us. The whole point of his coming to us from heaven is to be available for us. He anchors Himself to the earth on the cross for love of us. As the bridge from us to God, the cross reaches infinitely far. So we struggle to emerge from the turbulent waters of sin onto the bridge. This represents our free efforts to cooperate with Christ… He moved to save us, and we second that motion by accepting salvation. Catherine represents this spiritual journey as crawling out of the river onto the first step. When we have attained the nailed feet of Jesus, we have a foothold on the bridge. (page 46) ”  

 See also Bro. Brian Dybowski’s interview on St. Catherine of Siena on Spirituality TV.

Among a number of available translations, the Paulist Press edition of Saint Catherine’s major work is recommended. This excellent translation by Suzanne Noffke is titled The Dialogue.

St, Catherine's statue, Basilica of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, Rome

St, Catherine’s statue, Basilica of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, Rome