Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Staned Glass, Stained Hearts in our Suffering

Back in the mid 1980's while I was still a Protestant, a friend of mine had a sister who was a nun. We went and visited her at her convent and she took us on a tour of the chapel. When she came to the window which depicted St Catherine of Siena, she paused dramatically and said with a flourish of her wrinkled hand, "...and here we have OUR doctor of the Church, St Catherine of Siena." Funny thing, she wasn't Dominican, and yet she felt such a strong kinship with one of the few women doctors of the Church. "OUR Doctor."

I suspect there was more kinship here than meets the eye. "Strong" women in the Catholic Church have found themselves advocating for womens' ordination for years. They point to the gifts of women like Catherine of Siena as evidence of the validity of womens' priestly calling. I won't go into the arguments pro and con here today. Nor can I hide the fact that I support the Church's practice or ordaining only men to the ministerial priesthood.
However, I'd like to look deeper.... from the stained glass to the stained hearts of those who experience the suffering a delayed or denied vocation can cause.
Bitterness, disallusionment, listlessness.... My own experience is that this agony itself becomes the fount of a deeper identification with our Lord in his suffering. The old Catholic adage of "offer it up" stands up against the worst tests we can put to it.
Bloodied hands and side and the interior bloodied hearts, need not be signs of weakness, victimization, or defeat. If, in the citadel of our souls, we bend to accept God's will, whatever that might be, we can join our sufferings to the One who made Himself as nothing for us. It is the way of the inward stigmata, the way in which Catherine of siena walked. It is the sword which pierced our Blessed Virgin's heart also, all unseen and unknown by any but her most intimate Confidant, the Holy Spirit.

This hold true for almost any unchangeable circumstance in our lives. Here are some relevant quotes from St Catherine, well worth meditating on for this her Feast Day:

"It is not the hour to seek one's self for one's self, nor to flee pains in order to possess consolations; nay, it is the hour to lose one's self." -----Letters of St. Catherine

"I turn me and lean against the most Holy Cross of Christ Crucified, and there I will fasten me." -----Letters of St. Catherine "What hast Thou taught me, O Love Uncreated? Thou hast taught me that I should bear patiently like a lamb, not only harsh words, but even blows harsh and hard, and injury and loss." -----Letters of St. Catherine

"To the servant of God . . . every place is the right place, and every time is the right time. -----Letters of St. Catherine
"I have no other desire in this life save to see the honor of God, your peace, and the reformation of Holy Church, and to see the life of grace in every creature that hath reason in itself." -----Letters of St. Catherine of Siena

St Catherine of Siena asked for the privilege of receiving the pain of the stigmata without the outward marks thereof. May we do so also and happily pray as St Paul did (Colossians 1:24-29):
"Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church, of which I am a minister in accordance with God's stewardship given to me to bring to completion for you the word of God,

the mystery hidden from ages and from generations past. But now it has been manifested to his holy ones, to whom God chose to make known the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; it is Christ in you, the hope for glory.

It is he whom we proclaim, admonishing everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. For this I labor and struggle, in accord with the exercise of his power working within me."

St Catherine of Siena, pray for us!

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