Today is the feast St Catherine of Siena. On this day she died in Rome, revered by the religious and civic leaders of all of Europe. She is so important that the entire Church still remembers her 636 years later. She is so important that she is named as a Doctor of the Church – that is, one of the top 36 expert teachers of theology, despite never having studied theology. She is also an official Patron of Europe – so the whole continent and culture of Europe has been entrusted to her care. To a young woman of the age of 33.
What made Caterina so special? I don’t have time to give you the long version: you can put her name into Google and look that up later. The short version is this: she was an utterly unselfish young woman. And she was able to be unselfish because she accepted one simple fact: that God loved her infinitely, and she needed to take time to receive that love, if she was to be who she truly was. Eternal Trinity, she writes, mystery deep as the sea, You could give me no greater gift than the gift of Yourself. For You are a fire ever burning and never consumed, which itself consumes all the selfish love that fills my being… This is why, every day, she spent time praying. Praying was the most important part of her day: it me-time, with her Beloved. We are of such value to God, she says, that He came to live among us… and to guide us home. He will go to any length to seek us, even to being lifted high upon the cross to draw us back to Himself. We can only respond by loving God for His love.
So: how are you going to be known in 636 years time? Most Popes and emperors are forgotten. But there are still new schools and churches and hospitals being named after Catherine of Siena. Catherine reminds us today of two things: not cleverness or power endures – only love; and that, if we want to be able to love, we need to pray every day. Because that is all prayer is: giving ourselves to our Lover to be transformed into love.