Tuesday, April 29, 2008

St. Catherine of Siena


Father Mark Reflects:

A Mystic of the Blood

It is evident, I think, that today’s feast of Saint Catherine of Siena is a further invitation, a pressing exhortation, to fix our gaze on the Blood of the Lamb, to adore that Precious Blood, to yield every impurity and sin of ours to the torrent that gushes from Christ’s pierced side, and to drink of the Chalice of Salvation. Saint Catherine is one of the great blazing mystics of the Blood. One could also speak of Julian of Norwich and, again, of Blessed Marie of the Incarnation. The Blood of Christ is sprinkled over every page of Catherine’s writings. The Blood of Christ opens and seals her correspondence. The Blood of Christ is on her lips and in her heart.

Divine Fire

For Catherine, that Blood is a Divine Fire. It is the remedy for every ill: medicine for a Church in crisis, purity for a priesthood fallen into the filth of the world, strength for the weak, hope for the despondent, healing for the sick. For Catherine, the Blood of Christ is the power by which lives are changed, by which sinners become saints, by which monasteries are reformed.

Cleansed in the Blood of the Lamb

The Blood of the Lamb is given us in the sacraments. In the Sacrament of Penance, the Blood of Christ is applied to the wounds of the soul. “The Blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin” (1 Jn 1:7). The Blood of Christ bathes the soul, cleansing of it of every trace of sin and making it resplendent in the eyes of the Father.

Antidote for Every Poison

In the Most Holy Eucharist, the Blood of Christ is given us as the fountain of immortality, the antidote for every poison of body, mind, and soul, an infusion of divine joy in this valley of tears. This was the experience of Saint Catherine and, because it was her experience, it became her teaching. Even more, it became the cry of her heart to all who would listen.

The Mystery of the Precious Blood

The Precious Blood of Christ is among those heavenly mysteries “hidden from the wise and understanding and revealed to infants” (Mt 11:25). The mystery of the Blood is revealed to those who taste it with the palate of the soul, to those who approach the holy Chalice with the fear of God and with faith.

Take My Heart

One’s dying words are not improvised. They are the expression of a lifetime. Saint Catherine, having lived immersed in Blood of Christ, died with the Blood of Christ on her lips. On the January 30th before her death, she prayed for the Church, the Bride of Christ: “O Eternal God, accept the sacrifice of my life within this Mystic Body of holy Church. I have nothing to give but what you have given me. Take my heart, then, and squeeze it out over this Bride’s face.” For His Heart’s Blood, she gave her heart’s blood and, like her Bridegroom and Lord, she gave it for the Church.

Your Son's Most Sweet Blood

Her last recorded prayer, uttered three months later, is this:

Lord,
you are calling me to come to you,
and I am coming to you —
not with any merits of my own
but only with your mercy.
I am begging you for this mercy
in virtue of your Son’s most sweet Blood.
Blood!
Blood!
Father,
into your hands I surrender my soul
and my spirit
.

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