Catholic Church  •  Rootstown, Ohio

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Tuesday - Friday: 8:30 am

Saturday: 4:00 pm

Sunday: 10:00 am

Holy Days: 8:30 am, 7:00 pm

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2nd & 4th Saturdays: 3:15 pm, or by appointment.

Household of God

LEARN FROM THE SAINTS

What Saint Catherine of Siena Would Say
If you've ever dipped into the letters of St. Catherine of Siena, you know she is forever encouraging holiness. She wants people inflamed with "blazing charity" and bathing "in the blood of Christ crucified." She wants to see people be who God made them to be and she wants his Church seeking to be worthy of her identity as the bride of Christ. So, she would urge sisters and cardinals and the pope and lay people alike to "keep living in God's holy and tender love" and go on in some detail about how that might look in their specific lives.

Her letters were written during a time when the Church was in serious trouble. While the Black Death ravaged Europe, the papacy had relocated to Avignon, France, and several of the republics and principalities of Italy, including the Papal States, were at war with one another. Many clergy had fallen into corruption.

But Catherine's letters are as relevant today as ever, exuding universally applicable wisdom that makes it easy to see why she is recognized as a Doctor of the Church. As we have only begun to enter another season of scandal in the Church in the U.S. and in other places around the world – beginning with retired Washington, D.C. Archbishop Theodore McCarrick's resignation from the College of Cardinals – Catherine, who died in 1380, seems to offer in her letters both diagnosis and solution.

More than 380 of her letters exist today, according to Sister Suzanne Noffke, OP, who edited a four-volume translation for Arizona State University (from which all quotes from her letters that follow rely on).

"She would write, it seems, to anyone she thought she might influence, whether for their personal good or of that of the larger Church," says Sister Noffke. "Her purpose was always deeper than the merely social or informational. She was primarily interested in the eternal dimension of personal lives and societal affairs." Take, for example, one 1379 letter to a layman who would later become king of Naples – it could apply to every soul there is – then and now. In her typically encouraging style she opens:

"Dearest brother in Christ gentle Jesus … I long to see you a courageous knight, fighting bravely for the glory and praise of God's name and the advancement and reform of holy Church." But be aware … that you cannot do this well –you cannot be courageous and come to the help of holy Church – unless you first fight and make war against our three chief enemies, the world, the devil, and our weak flesh. These are the three chief tyrants that kill our soul so far as grace is concerned, no matter what our position, if we use the hand of our free choice to open the gate of our will and let them in."

It's a caution to all to never neglect a daily examination of conscience.

Scandals in the Church have everything to do with succumbing to evil, taking up the temptations of the world and forgetting the way of the Lord. And it's no wonder that our culture today has not found the way of the cross – or the Catholic moral teaching – compelling when a culture within some of the Church's highest ranks wasn't buying into it. Those making war against the tyrants in this way are not as liable to make the news, no doubt. But it is becoming increasingly and brutally clear that an evil rot needs to be rooted out of the life of the Church today. Writing in 1380 to Pope Urban VI, Catherine says:

"You cannot with a single stroke wipe out all the sins people in general are committing within the Christian religion, especially within the clerical order, over whom you should be even more watchful. But you certainly can and are obligated to do it, and if you don't, you would have it on your conscience. At least do what you can. You must cleanse the Church's womb – that is, see to it that those who surround you closely are wiped clean of fifth, and put people there who are attentive to God's honor and your welfare and the good of holy Church. …"

And she warns: "Do you know what will happen to you if you don't set things right by doing what you can? God wants you to reform his bride completely; he doesn't want her to be leprous any longer. If your holiness does not do all you can about this --- because God has appointed you and given you such dignity for no other purpose – God will do it himself by using all sorts of troubles. (To be continued next week)

--- Father David