History repeats itself

You may know about how St. Catherine of Siena wrote Pope Gregory XI in 1376 when he was in Avignon, telling him to go back to Rome. It’s a famous story. It gives people a glimpse of how bold Catherine was in the face of power. She was a voice of truth in her own generation and was willing–indeed, was compelled–to speak the truth to anyone and everyone who needed to hear it.

Some time around 1373, when St. Catherine of Siena was just beginning her ministry of service to those around her, she also began a life of correspondence with a variety of people in all walks of life. Born in 1347, Catherine was only 26 at the time. Yet from the beginning of her correspondence, Catherine’s bold nature comes out. We could use more of it today.

And Catherine spoke boldly to popes and peasants alike. In 1373, she wrote a letter to Madonna Mitarella, the wife of a Senator in Siena. I found it appropriate for all of us today who are looking for Church leaders–mere creatures–to step up and do something. But perhaps we’re putting our hope in the wrong people. Perhaps we need to get back to basics and focus on the Lord, for He is the only one who will be able to help us in the end. St. Catherine recognized this when she was a child and speaks from that understanding:

I beg you then, in the name of God and of our gentlest love Jesus Christ, to stand firm in this sweet holy faith. Oh sweet life-giving faith! If you persevere in that faith, sadness will never overtake your heart. For sadness comes only from putting our trust in creatures. But creatures are frail lifeless things that sooner or later fail, and our heart can never find rest except in what is stable and secure, for a human being is alive today and tomorrow is dead. So if we wish to have peace we must rest our heart and soul with faith and love in Christ crucified. Only then will our soul find complete happiness. Oh Jesus, dearest love!

(Excerpt from The Letters of St. Catherine of Siena (Vol. I) (trans. Suzanne Noffke, OP))

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