Elizabeth Sanna: A Reputation For Sanctity by Jan Korycki sac

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she died with a reputation for sanctity…

Elisabetta Sanna was born in 1788 in Sardinia. She died with a reputation of sanctity in Rome on 17 Feb 1857 and was buried in the Church of SS Salvatore in Onda. Soon afterwards the recognition of her holiness became very evident, so much so that in just four months, on 15 Jun 1857, her cause for beatification was initiated. St Vincent Pallotti had been her spiritual directer for 18 years and regarded her highly.

As an infant Elisabetta contracted smallpox when she was just three months old. The result of this was that she was never able to raise her arms. She was able to move her fingers and wrists but could not bring food to her mouth with her hands, nor could she make the sign of the Cross. Neither could she comb her hair, wash her face nor change her clothes. She could however knead bread, place things in the oven and remove them from it and raised five children.

Despite her physical disability marriage was proposed to her and it was a very happy marriage. Seven children were born to them, two of whom died soon after birth. Together with her own children Elisabetta educated other children of the town teaching them catechism and preparing them for the sacraments. Her house was open to all women who wanted to learn hymns and prayers. Her husband died at the beginning of 1825 after seventeen years of marriage and she assumed full responsibility for the family and the administration of the home.

While growing in the spiritual life, Elisabetta was influenced by a Lenten preacher and decided to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land together with her confessor, Fr Giuseppe Valle. Thinking that her absence would be a short one she entrusted the care of her children to her mother and her brother who was a priest. She also sought the help of a niece and some neighbours. The two pilgrims had difficulty in getting a visa for the Orient and had to abandon the planned journey in Genoa. They then went to Rome as pilgrims.

Because of serious physical ailments Elisabetta was unable to return to Sardinia. She entrusted herself to the spiritual direction of Vincent Pallotti who contacted her brother, Fr Antonio Luigi, to inform him that his sister could not undertake the journey by sea but would do so as soon as she was better. However her ailments increased year by year and Elisabetta was obliged to remain in Rome.

Elisabetta suffered greatly because of the separation from her family. She wept a great deal but was not discouraged. Instead she entrusted herself to God, accepted this new situation and served others while remaining faithful to the teachings of the gospel and of the Church. She was often to be found visiting the sick and bringing comfort to them in the Hospital for Incurables, and in private homes. She knitted and the money she received for her work and the gifts given to her were used to help the poor and also the orphans in the two houses founded by Pallotti. She sought to bring peace to families, to convert sinners, she prepared the sick to receive the sacraments, and she took care of the altar linens and decoration of the Church of SS Salvatore in Onda. She participated in several Masses each day, in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and would pray with visitors in her room as many people came to her for advice. St Vincent and the first Pallottines also sought counsel from her.

Pallotti often stressed the merits of Elisabetta with regard to the UAC. Fr Vaccari reports: “Our Institute has been carried forward up to now by two persons; a poor woman, Elisabetta Sanna, whom you have heard of many times from Fr Vincent Pallotti, and by Cardinal Lambruschini” (Summarium, Rome 1910, p. 145, par. 33). She witnessed the foundation of the UAC and followed its development for 22 years up to the time of her death.

The cause of her beatification continues. We wait in hope for a clear miraculous sign obtained through the intercession of Venerable Elisabetta which fulfils all the criteria requested by the Holy See. Recently a case of healing which has certain indications of being a miracle was examined. Numerous persons pray with trust that it be recognized as miraculous or that the Lord give another sign.

It is also important to make known the life and virtues of this Servant of God.

Jan Korycki sac – Rome – ITALY

jankorycki@sac.info

Help Us To Keep On Keeping On – Dr Patricia Heywood

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help us to keep on keeping on…

Dr Patricia Heywood, whose almost six decades in the Australian Pallottine Family included a term as inaugural Executive Officer of the UAC, died recently in Melbourne. Pat, as she was known in her many roles, was active in the UAC from her introduction to the charism of St Vincent Pallotti in the 1950s (!) until her death, from cancer, on 16 July.

Pat Heywood was one of many Australians who spent decades serving the UAC – before that acronym was recognised – after her introduction to Pallottine spirituality through apostolic groups that flourished in Melbourne in the 1950s and 1960s, fostered by priests such as Fr Walter Silvester sac.

In her last decade of life she instigated a free annual public lecture, named in honour of Fr Walter and held in conjunction with Australian Catholic University (ACU). This has developed since 2007 and attracted lecturers including Archbishop Mark Coleridge, then of Canberra-Goulburn; Dr Donna Orsuto, co-founder and Director of the Lay Centre at Foyer Unitas in Rome and Professor at the Institute of Spirituality of the Pontifical Gregorian University; former Australian Ambassador to the Holy See, Mr Tim Fischer; and Fr Frank Donio sac, Director of the Catholic Apostolate Center in Washington DC. This year’s event will include a tribute to her.

The establishment of this lecture, designed to make Pallottine spirituality more widely known in the Church, illustrated several of Pat’s qualities – inspiration, perseverance, a desire to educate and a keen sense of collaboration with others. She sought advice from Melbourne’s Office for Evangelisation, whose Helder Camara Lecture Series on Social Justice have been a well-established feature of life in the local church for almost 30 years and worked hard to make her own project a fixture in the Melbourne Catholic calendar.

The Walter Silvester Memorial Lecture was only one of Pat’s UAC apostolates. She was also a key figure in the St Vincent Pallotti Scholarship for Lay Ministry, which offers financial and prayerful support to people wishing to study or work in this area; the development of a formation program in the Australian SAC/UAC context; the establishment of a spirituality team; and Remember in November, an initiative to gather people, many of them with a long association with the Pallottines, in the month of the Holy Souls to pray for those who have died. It is centred on a celebration of the Eucharist, at which is featured a book recording those who have passed away.

Following a Catholic primary and secondary education she completed a Bachelor of Arts and Diploma of Education at Melbourne University and a Master of Education and Doctor of Philosophy in Education at Monash University. She majored in English and History, with theses on The Nature of Religious Belief and Its Bearing on Education in 1975 and Elementary Education in Port Phillip, 1836-1851, the latter exploring early schooling in the earliest days of colonial Melbourne. She then went on to teach at a girl’s school, followed by many years forming prospective teachers at Mercy College. As was noted in the days after her passing: “She was a born teacher … She had a desire and also the ability to transmit the message she wanted to.”

While her life was spent in Melbourne and its surrounds, she was a keen traveller, with a special affection for Japan. In recent years, she visited the Holy Land and also travelled widely within Australia.

Pat asked that there be no eulogy at her funeral Mass. Instead her last contribution to the Pallottine Family Newsletter was read, in which she recalled an advertisement for a paint company that used the slogan: “Keeps on keeping on”.

“According to Christians, each person’s basic design and materials are God-given, but maintenance and improvement are collaborative,” Pat wrote. “In our lives then, it’s good to check with the Maker and plan together for the future. What area(s) of my life need attention? Is there a special ‘colour’ I’m being asked to use?” She concluded with a prayer:

Lord of our lives, help us to keep on keeping on.

Thank you for different coloured blessings you give.

Grant us a share in Your faithfulness of love

That we too may renew the world

With all our sisters and brothers

Each day, every day praising and

Blessing, seeking and finding,

On and on.

Mark Brolly – Melbourne – AUSTRALIA

18.08.14

markbrolly@aapt.net.au

The Path Of Hope For Rwanda by Stanislas Filipek sac

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“The art ofmercyis toknow how to drawgood from evil” – JP II

– the path of hope for Rwanda

I experienced the atrocities of war and genocide in Rwanda. As we all shared in what was unfolding around us we said that hell had opened its doors and the devils were out! The genocide in Rwanda had been planned and well prepared despite the presence of UN peacekeeping troops already for a year.

As a consequence of those tragic events, of genocide and war, with so many physical and spiritual wounds, so much pain and suffering, so many crosses, the reconciliation process is very long and almost impossible.

Despite this we can use it as a stimulus for acts of charity and mercy, and thus we can at least open a door to reconciliation. The words of St John Paul II – ‘The art ofmercyis toknow how to drawgood from evil’ –inspire us to fall back on spiritual values and promote whatever pastoral initiatives we can towards reconciliation and forgiveness.

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  pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of Divine Mercy at Kabuga 

That is why the Pallottine family decided to organize a Shrine of Divine Mercy in Kabuga. Back in 2010 the Sanctuary organized a Congress on Divine Mercy. The objectives to come out of that Congress can be summed up in its theme: ‘The divine mercy as an antidote to the evil ravaging our society’. 

This Congress was able to gather 550 people from the three countries of the Region: Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. By its closure there were many Bishops, priests, religious and more than 7000 faithful. What emerged were 9 popular missions in various parishes of the city of Kigali during the evening, where more than 13,000 people attended! This is truly a kind of New Evangelization.

The Sanctuary of Divine Mercy with its program helps the christians of Rwanda to associate their daily passion and suffering to the passion of Christ, to find new strength and a will to live as brothers and sisters – Come to me all you who are exhausted and overburdened. And I will give you rest.” (Mt. 11, 28). Every Friday we celebrate the Way of the Cross.

It is at Calvary that Jesus shows us his great love and the mercy of the Father. There we learn that Jesus took upon his shoulders all the evil that affects humanity. He was buried in the tomb and in the tomb Jesus buried all evil. The tomb tells us that God is able to draw good from evil. We are called to do the same: to draw good from evil.

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prayer time in the chapel of the tomb of Jesus

The number of faithful attending the Sanctuary increases, with adoration of the Blessed Sacrament as the main activity. Every day from 14:30 to 15:00 there is adoration, confession, the hour of Divine Mercy followed by the Eucharist.

I would like to share a story that shows how an encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist can be a source of inner healing and a path to hope:

In 1996 we started to build a Center for Reconciliation of the Merciful Jesus, with a chapel of perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, in Ruhango. Once, travelling from there to Kigali, I brought in my car someone who used to provide technical assistance to this project, a young man of 28 years. During the way we talked, and listened to a radio program that commented on the genocide with a lot of hatred against Hutu, even inciting revenge! I discovered that the man who was with me was a Hutu and that his family had been exterminated.

I asked him: “When you hear that sort of thing on the radio what are your feelings, how do you react?” And he replied: “At the beginning I was like a madman, I did not know what to do; I felt anger and a desire for revenge rising against those who killed my family. Fortunately, I later met a friend who invited me to a daily hour of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. The first time I felt very upset, I wanted to flee the chapel, but out of respect for my friend I tried to spend that time. I accompanied him during the following days and, after some time, an inner peace returned to my heart and up until now I have remained faithful to adoration. Incentives for revenge have no more impact on me because I am reconciled with God and with myself – and I have forgiven others”.

Stanislas Filipek sac [SF] – Kabuga – RWANDA

03.05.14

filipekstani@yahoo.fr

a monologue with the sons of Zebedee…Joe Kallani sac

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Dear disciples, James and John, from the Gospel accounts I realise that you both have a very close and compact family, blessed in many ways.

zebedeeYour father, Zebedee, comes across as a hardworking and enterprising fisherman who owned at least one fishing boat and employed more than one worker. You both laboured along with your father who built up a successful family business. Some think that your father supplied fish to the high and mighty in Jerusalem and also owned a house in that capital city, maybe even personally knew Caiaphas, the High Priest.

Your mother, Salome (?), wanted you both to climb up the ladder of power and position. You both enlisted her support and entreated of Jesus a privileged position in His kingdom.

It is heartening to see that you both had a very healthy relationship with your father and had a very personal and persuasive closeness to your mother. She must have been a very courageous woman, to walk up to Jesus and make that request for her sons.

To some extent I feel envious of your closely knit family, both really fortunate and blessed to have had such a healthy childhood enjoying the loving presence and caring support of parents. Looking at my life, my father was a hard working farmer but depressed after the untimely death of his wife and my mother. I wasn’t even two months old when we lost her. Now you know why am I a bit envious of you!

Yet I am glad for you that you had a happy family and a healthy childhood. The Lord must have liked your hardworking, ambitious, and forthright approach to life. No wonder he groomed you both to be a part of his inner circle along with Peter. Despite the Lord denying your request, you both stuck with him as he helped you to grow and to see the stark realities of life. He helped you both and you cooperated with him. And as a result, your relationship with the Master grew closer and deeper.

Once along with your Master, on your way to Jerusalem, when the inhospitable Samaritans blocked your Master’s way, you wanted fire from heaven to come down and set them ablaze. As I look back to into my own past, I have had multiple instances where I was intolerant towards people and to ideas which were opposed or even different from mine. And I made known my intolerance through rough words and rude actions. I brooked no opposition…so much for me!

On a number of important occasions you were both there with your Master – when He raised the daughter of Jairus, when he experienced the glory of Transfiguration, when you witnessed his agonizing hours in Gethsemani. You never, even in your wildest dreams, thought that your desire to sit at the right and left of your Master would take you to Gethsemani and Calvary, did you!

Though Jesus, your Master, had turned down your request, you became neither angry nor depressed. Otherwise you wouldn’t have followed Him. You would have rather left him. You both accepted His call and followed Him for over three plus years.

And your approach to life changed. I am amazed at the way you both followed him to Gethsemani and accepted the tragic realities of Calvary. You grew by leaps and bounds out of your initial unbridled ambition. You both grew out of your inclination to violence in the face of obstacles and opposition.

Looking into myself, though close to becoming a seventy year old priest, my growth is rather stunted, my dreams are still infantile, and am often addicted to and stuck with my selfish ambition.

I want to grow up like you even in these sunset years of my life. I want to go through – and grow up through – my Gethsemani and Calvary and to experience and enjoy the bliss of Transfiguration and Resurrection.

Lord Jesus, You never ever scolded them for their raw ambition and the indignant intolerance of their youth. Instead, you accepted them patiently and helped them grow by challenging them to drink the cup, the cup of suffering. And they did!

Lord Jesus, while you were patient with them just for three plus years, in my case you have been accepting of me  and been patient with me for well close to seventy years! Incredible indeed!

While James and John kept growing up fast, my growth is still at a snail’s pace! While they grew from being ambitious disciples into ardent apostles, I am still struggling to be a disciple! That’s most of me!!!

Lord Jesus, thank you for being patient with me all through these years of my life. As I look back innumerable are the occasions when you have shown immense patience towards me. Time and again you have been very patient with my unbecoming behaviours. You continue to be patient with me even now. You haven’t given up on me have you? I know you haven’t!

It makes me humble and challenges me to keep growing at a faster pace. I had better speed up as I am in the last lap of life.…I shall…

Lord, now I wish to spend some time in silence and listen to what you want to say to me. Surely you must have a lot to tell me? “Speak Lord, Your servant is listening”.

Dear disciples James and John, after listening to the Lord I want to listen to you as well…keep telling me your story of your transforming growth.

Joe Kallani sac [NA] – Cochin – INDIA

21.07.14

joekallani@gmail.com

Aisan Bulletin #132

I’m an ordinary sort of person… Judith Lynch

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I’m an ordinary sort of person and that’s how I find God; disguised in the ordinary of my life. That’s my vocation too – helping others to recognise God in their ordinary. 

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At some point in my early teens, just when I was discovering there was more to the opposite sex than beneath-my-notice little brothers, I fell in love with God. Which is why, aged 16, wearing a fetching little hat and my first pair of high heels, I left my weeping parents and chuffed off to be a nun.

While the rest of my class prepared to be nurses, teachers or secretaries, I was one of the chosen ones! In the terminology of the day, I had a vocation. Nobody questioned it, least of all me. In the family photo album there is a shot of my mother and me taken the day of my first vows. There I am, all flowing black and white, my 18-year-old face encircled by a stiff coif, and there’s my mum in a smart, tight-fitting suit, spike heels and red nails.

That picture captures something of what I understand about vocation. It’s a trust in something way bigger than the imagination can capture. In its first heady romantic moments it makes light of the cost. That’s why my mother’s spike heels and red nails didn’t stand a chance against God. Vocation is not about the what, but the Who.

My God-dream carried me through teacher-training and 12 years on Aboriginal settlements. I survived sand fly bites, the heat and living in communities of three or four women. I loved outback teaching and something about the wide open spaces of the Northern Territory touched a place in me that I didn’t yet know was there. But by my early 30s, I knew it was time to take me and my vocation somewhere else.

A Michael Leunig cartoon says, “You can’t lose the plot; it’s stuck to you!” So is vocation – God’s plot, if you like. I thought I’d left my vocation along with my neatly-folded habit. What really happened was that it took a back seat while I earned a living teaching grade fours, learnt to drive and discovered the joys of shopping.

God waited for me to catch up. Years of formal morning meditations hadn’t exactly honed my love of Scripture. A semester of Scripture studies did. I realised that I loved teaching and now I loved Scripture too. So I combined the two in a Good Samaritan venture called the Motor Mission, taking the Gospel and sacramental preparation into Government schools and after-school classes, as well as writing for “Let’s Go Together”, a diocesan religious education program. God had a finger on my creative bent and I found that exciting. As Jeremiah said, “You have seduced me Lord…” (Jeremiah 20:7).

In my spare time I met Terry. Marriage followed but the longed-for babies didn’t. We placed it in God’s hands, and God answered with the gentle suggestion that maybe we could look outside the square. We did, and one unforgettable weekend, three shy children, siblings, in need of permanent care, came to enrich our lives and leave my ‘anything-for-a-quiet-life’ husband wondering what marrying me had got him into.

Within a couple of years they were joined by first, one baby girl, who died in early infancy, then another, both of them gifted to us by brave young women who knew they were unable to care for their child. Now, many years on, their children call me Nana.

I knew that being a wife, a teacher, a mother, was vocation in itself, but Vatican II had blossomed into a multitude of possibilities for women and men who meant it when they called themselves Church. So I waited and listened and worked behind a counter. Before his increasing weakness was eventually diagnosed as MND (Motor Neuron Disease), my husband had followed his dream and bought a country store. It wasn’t my dream, but teaching catechetics in that small tourist town eventually led to my 17 years as a parish pastoral associate (PA).

Once the parish recovered from the shock that I was Mrs, not Sister, I settled in as a PA, leading Gospel discussion groups, writing inclusive liturgies, co-ordinating the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) and having fun with “Ripples”, a family based religious education program. The opportunity to participate in a two-year program called “Siloam”, culminated in my accreditation as a spiritual director. My seductive God was at work again and Sophia Circle, for women who wanted to explore their spirituality, resulted.

Terry had died, the children had left home, and suddenly it was time to retire. In an inspired gesture, my youngest brother offered to build me a website as a combined birthday-retirement present. And so Tarella Spirituality was born. Now writer is added to my biographical details.

I’m an ordinary sort of person and that’s how I find God; disguised in the ordinary of my life. That’s my vocation too – helping others to recognise God in their ordinary. It means deep inner listening, lots of waiting, being silent enough to hear God gently whispering invitations and challenges, learning to take risks even when your loved ones don’t understand. And it will never make me rich.

And so my love affair with God goes on. Next… ?

Judith Lynch – Warrandyte – AUSTRALIA

15.07.14

www.tarellaspirituality.com

Aisan Bulletin #132

He Who Sees Takes Off His Shoes – Pat Maguire UAC

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New Evangelisation and the Universal Call to Holiness

Ireland, like many other Western countries that once had strong and vibrant Christian communities, is now in need of evangelisation. The Universal Church has put New Evangelisation at the core of her concerns and actions. Pope Francis states, ‘In fidelity to the example of the Master, it is vitally important for the Church today to go forth and preach the Gospel to all: to all places, on all occasions, without hesitation, reluctance or fear. The joy of the Gospel is for all people: no one can be excluded’ (Evangelii Gaudium 23). In stating this, the Pope is giving strong and clear leadership to our Church regarding evangelisation. He is not allowing us to stay in our own comfort zone and leave large sections of society untouched by the Gospel. It is also important to note what the Holy Father said in relation to Church: ‘Being Church means being God’s people, in accordance with the great plan of his fatherly love. […] It means proclaiming and bringing God’s salvation into our world, which often goes astray and needs to be encouraged, given hope and strengthened on the way. The Church must be a place of mercy freely given, where everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged to live the good life of the Gospel’ (Evangelii Gaudium 114). What a beautiful and wonderful vision is contained in those words. The task of all missionary disciples, but in particular, members of the Union of Catholic Apostolate, is to help everyone we encounter to experience and be part of the community that is this Church. However, if this vision is to be realised, a transformation must take place so that authentic humility and contemplation will be the outstanding attributes of God’s people.

It is also important to acknowledge, at all times, that our transformation or conversion can only happen with the help of the Holy Spirit. It is by the grace of God that we respond to the love that God has lavished upon us. We are called to proclaim the Word and to sow seeds, but it is the Spirit who acts once the seed is sown (Mk 4:26-29). To quote Pope Francis, ‘God’s word is unpredictable in its power. […] The Church has to accept this unruly freedom of the word, which accomplishes what it wills in ways that surpass our calculations and ways of thinking’ (Evangelii Gaudium 22). In order to allow God to surprise us and to be open to his work, in ourselves and in others, we need to prepare our own hearts by becoming closer to Jesus and to his Word.

We must not allow the sheer enormity of the task to paralyse us into inaction. Rather, all big ideas are accomplished by a series of small steps right down to the power of one of these. I believe that this is how God’s plan for us is worked out over time. The mission of the Universal Church is also the mission of the local and domestic Church. The task of evangelisation is not confined to bishops, priests and religious. It is the work of the whole church, the whole People of God.

The Universal Call to Holiness

Our God is a good and generous God as we see in the parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard (Mt 20:3-4): “Going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the market place and said to them ‘You go into my vineyard too’. This call is as vibrant today as it was 2,000 years ago, and was re-echoed by Vatican Council II and again in Christifideles Laici. It is addressed not only to the clergy and religious but to every baptised person. Each one of us receives from God a vocation and a mission to enter into collaboration for the good of the Church and of the whole world. In founding the Union of Catholic Apostolate, St. Vincent Pallotti realised the necessity of a structure to facilitate such collaboration in order to revive faith and re-kindle charity in our Church and in the world.

The first reaction of many lay people, myself included, when asked to become involved in evangelisation is to say, ‘I am not worthy or I am not holy enough to do this work’. But Jesus came to heal sinners and we are all sinners. We are all human; we disappoint ourselves and others in many areas of life; we often fail to reach our potential; yet God always offers us another chance.

Reflecting on the life of St. Peter helps illumine God’s work in us and offers great encouragement to all. Peter was a layman whose first reaction to God’s call was, ‘Leave me, Lord; I am a sinful man’. But Jesus said ‘Do not be afraid’ (Lk 5:8-10). Peter shows his determination when he attempts to walk on water, but immediately falls back once more into fear (Mt 14:8-32). Later on, Jesus tells him that he is an obstacle to God’s plan of salvation, because he fails to understand that suffering is part of Christ’s mission (Mt 16:23). Peter is also challenged by the infinite mercy of God and the call to imitate him in his boundless forgiveness (Mt 18:21-22) as he tries to get to grips with the far-reaching implications of being a follower of Jesus.

Finally, all of Peter’s human weaknesses and emotions come to the surface in Mt 26: 33-69. His great courage and loyalty are shown during the arrest of Jesus. His failures and weakness are demonstrated by his inability to stay awake and pray in the Garden and above all by his denial of Jesus in order to save himself. These are all very human and natural traits. Yet God used his weakness and past failures to transform Peter. In responding to the Universal Call to Holiness each one of us ought to be inspired by the extraordinary transformation of Peter, through the power of God, into the great leader and martyr that he became.

If new evangelisation is to be realised it will not be through mere words, but by the quality of our witness in our local faith communities and parishes. The process of evangelisation will happen quickly if every person we encounter in our daily lives and work feels welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged as Pope Francis recommends. Our task locally is to help people to become aware or more aware of God’s presence in our world. A world where many people have lost a sense of mystery – where God and religion are being pushed out. A real awakening to a sense of the sacred is necessary if new evangelisation is to succeed. A greater awareness or sense of God’s presence is needed if people are to respond to the universal call to holiness and act on their vocation.

I have often spent time with young people exploring four lines of a poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning:

 ‘Earth’s crammed with heaven,

And every common bush afire with God,

But only he who sees takes off his shoes;

The rest sit round and pluck blackberries’

My two and half year old granddaughter’s world is full of mystery and wonder which she has no difficulty in embracing wholeheartedly. What happens to us as we get older? Do we lose our sense of mystery? Do we settle for knowing how things work without ever asking why? Do we lose that sense that there is always ‘more’? If we do, we have become berry-pickers and we are in urgent need of being awakened to a sense of having come from God and of returning to God. Richard Rohr says that we ‘cannot attain the presence of God because we are already totally in the presence of God. What is absent is awareness’ (‘Everything Belongs’). In trying to bring about an awakening to the Spirit or a greater awareness of God’s presence we may discover that actions speak louder than words. How we relate to each other may well hold the key.

This focus on relationships is important because it is through relationships that God’s love, mercy, joy and forgiveness will be encountered and experienced. This is the real challenge that Christ puts before all of his followers. ‘It is easier to immerse ourselves in doing a thousand things or getting involved in various causes, especially if we can connect them to the Gospel, than to attend to relationships; because relating to people demands a certain degree of trust, openness and vulnerability, which can cause some discomfort’ (From a talk given by Rev. Ruth Patterson). Yet this is precisely what we will have to do in order to be missionary disciples. Jesus gave us a perfect template in the way he revealed the Kingdom of God through word, action and table fellowship.

In John 4:5-30, the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well is a very good example of the Master at work. Jesus is humble and asks for a drink of water. He spends time with her, they discuss her life, he listens and he offers something of great value. It is in the dialogue that she recognises who he is. After the encounter with Jesus, the woman immediately becomes a missionary and, as a result, many Samaritans came to believe in him because of her testimony. If we are to be effective in evangelising our neighbour, we will first of all ourselves need to have encountered the risen Lord in a deeply personal and life-changing way.

If our communities, parishes and homes are truly places where God’s loving presence can be encountered, where his Word is broken open and shared, where his actions are experienced and his table fellowship is offered and real, then we can say we are wholeheartedly engaged with New Evangelisation and beginning to make the vision behind the Universal Call to Holiness a reality.

Questions for personal and/or group reflection:

  • Can you remember a particular time in your life when you experienced God’s call to holiness in a more deeply personal way than before?
  • How has your experience of God’s call changed over the years? And your response to that call?
  • What communities of faith have helped you to nourish and deepen and   respond to that call in relationship with others? Your family? Your parish and diocesan family? The Union of Catholic Apostolate? Other groups? The Universal Church?
  •  In what ways are you, in your local UAC group or another faith community, involved in discerning the signs of the times and the needs of those around you and in responding to them as apostles of the Infinite Love of God through concrete practical initiatives?

Prayer:

Come Holy Spirit, burn away our selfishness and fill us with your love.
Come Holy Spirit, burn away our anxiety and fill us with your peace.
Come Holy Spirit, burn away our jealousy and fill us with your generosity.
Come Holy Spirit, burn away our anger and fill us with your forgiveness.
Come Holy Spirit, burn away our unbelief and fill us with a faith in Christ that transforms our lives.

Come Holy Spirit, burn away all that prevents us from hearing your call in the cry of the poor and from pouring out our lives in generous service of those who yearn for us to be for them living witnesses and missionary disciples of your Word, of your justice and peace, of your mercy and forgiveness, of your tenderness and compassion, of your goodness and truth, of your joy and simplicity, of your love. Amen.

(Adapted from a prayer given to me by the late Kevin Devlin RIP)

                                                              Pat Maguire,

                                                              Dublin, Ireland

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Segretariato Generale, Unione dell’Apostolato Cattolico

Piazza San Vincenzo Pallotti 204, Roma, Italia    uac@uniopal.org

Catherine Of Siena’s Wisdom and Spirituality

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imageCatherine of Siena’s Wisdom and Spirituality

by Nadine Foley

Spirituality Today Fall 1991, Vol.43 No.3, pp. 204-219

INTRODUCTION

In 1970 when Pope Paul VI declared our sister Catherine of Siena to be a Doctor of the Church, he gave her the unique title Doctor of Wisdom. Doctors of the Church have traditionally been distinguished by their learning their personal sanctity, and the orthodoxy of their teaching,(1) and such qualities can certainly be attributed to Catherine. Still, compared to the great doctors of the Church in the patristic era and subsequent times, Catherine’s entitlement stands, along with that of Teresa of Avila, in marked contrast, not just because she is a woman, but because of the nature of her kind of legacy.

While doctors of the Church are no doubt singled out for the orthodoxy of their doctrine, and Catherine is not to be discounted on that criterion, I believe that as we look to her from our vantage point six centuries later we see her as exemplifying, more than doctrine, or teaching. Her doctrine, what we might call her preaching, is a total life experience that unifies belief, conviction, devotion and service within her profound mystical experience of God. God’s presence to her is so intense that God’s mind and will become her own as she looks out upon the people and events that make up her world. In that respect, then, Catherine’s contribution to our Christian and Dominican heritage is more than doctrinal orthodoxy found in her writings. It is a unique spirituality, an unexampled fusion of intellectual and existential truth in her whole being, one that we can profitably explore through the motif of wisdom.

A number of strains of thought and interest have come together in my reflections about Catherine: first of all, there is Catherine herself, a truly extraordinary woman for any period of time, but one who must be understood in terms of her own; (2) secondly, the emergence in our day of a remarkable interest in spirituality, evident in a variety of trends, notable among them the spirituality of women; thirdly, a focus in biblical studies on the Wisdom tradition of the Hebrew Scriptures and the personification of the Wisdom figure as Sophia; fourthly, the challenges, that face us as Christians in the global society and at our particular point in history. I think that Catherine can speak to these areas of interest.

CATHERINE AS DOCTOR OF WISDOM

There are a number of ways in which we can understand wisdom. Philosophically, we have understood it as the highest of the intellectual virtues, the goal to be achieved in a lifelong Pursuit of leaming. Theologically, it is the knowledge of divine things, a gift of the Spirit of God, whose beginning is found in faith and which directs the movements of mind and will (Summa Theologica, I-II, 68, 4, ad 5). Wisdom, in these senses, enables the one who possesses it to rise above the limitations imposed by divisions and categories of knowledge to see the integration and unity of truth ultimately in God – the Supreme Wisdom.

We can also understand wisdom in a mythic sense. Among the high gods of the ancient Asian religions there was always a figure distinguished by superior knowledge who was in possession of the divine plan of salvation. In Egyptian lore Isis and Osiris embodied this understanding, and their influence is found in the Canaanite and Aramaean forms which in turn influenced the Hokmah of the Hebrew scriptures. This feminine principle was originally understood as experience and skill gained in active contact with human beings and things. It had a practical bent and is expressed in the wealth of the often paradoxical maxims with which the Wisdom literature abounds. But in the post-exilic period of ancient Israel’s history the elements of revelation and divine gift were embodied in the connotation of Wisdom. Wisdom was endowed with the character of governance and careful guidance and became an hypostatis or personification endowed with divine insight and power.

In the Christian scriptures Wisdom is related to Christ. In the synoptic gospels words from the Wisdom literature are found on the lips of Jesus. Paul formally identified Jesus with divine wisdom (e.g., 1 Cor. 1:24 et passim). John’s portrait of Jesus as self-proclaiming teacher echoes in a striking way the portrait of Sophia in the Hebrew scriptures. (3) Christian instruction becomes “sapiential”; and preaching is the announcement of the manifold wisdom of God for which the spirit of wisdom and revelation enlightens the eyes of the heart. (4)

To reflect upon meanings of wisdom allows us to consider in what respect we may attribute to Catherine her title Doctor of Wisdom. It opens up as well the question of how we might characterize in a general way her contribution to the history of Christian and Dominican tradition. Others, Thomas certainly, are distinguished for us by syntheses of theology, marvelous systematic summations of theological truth to be studied and assimilated and through which we can come to grasp all of the elements of creation in relation to God. But such is not Catherine’s legacy. Hers is for us an entree into a medieval woman’s relationship to God in words that lead us directly into her experience of God and her relationships with people in many walks of life. While a Thomas may give us a framework within which to understand and to cultivate spirituality, Catherine bequeaths her spirituality to us in as direct a way as possible. She allows us to enter into her experience.

Catherine exemplifies truly what spirituality is, at a time when many of our contemporaries, many of us to be sure, exhibit fascination with spirituality, its history, the Christian mystical tradition and its contemporary expressions, particularly from a feminist perspective. I emphasize the latter because, while writings on spirituality are proliferating, they are particularly evident in the corpus of feminist literature. Exploration into what spirituality is continues to be a preoccupation both within and outside of established religious traditions.

TODAYS SPIRITUALITY

What many are calling spirituality today is not the special preserve of persons who opt for a specifically religious way of life. It is not identified with one side of a matter/spirit duality that divides reality and calls for separatism, exclusion and privilege. It is not synonymous with asceticism or special kinds of spiritual exercises that were typical of Catherine and others. Rather as we look at the various efforts to define spirituality today we detect the constant elements of unification, integration,

relationship, self-transcendence. When spirituality is perceived within a religious faith tradition it includes the experience of the actualization of self-transcendence by the Holy. When the milieu is Christian, it involves the actualization of the human capacity for self transcendence through the experience of God, in Jesus the Christ, through the gift of the Spirit. Joann Wolski Conn says, “Because this God, Jesus, and the Spirit are experienced through body-community-history-influenced human life and symbols Christian spirituality includes every dimension of human life.”(5) Sandra Schneiders, in a similar vein, comments that “the term has broadened to connote the whole of the life of faith and even the life of the person as a whole including its bodily, psychological, social, and political dimensions” (679). It is “the experience of consciously striving to integrate one’s life in terms not of isolation and self-absorption but of self-transcendence toward the ultimate value one perceives” (684).

We look today, not only to define spirituality, but to find models of spirituality in persons who exemplify what it is in lived experience. Catherine of Siena uniquely offers us such a model. In her Dialogue we can enter with her into her intimate communications with God; in her prayers we can join in her loving response to God speaking to her in the scriptures; in he letters we can participate in her anguish and care for people, government and the Church in her day. Through these means and through her biographers we experience her spirituality and we can view it from the perspective of Wisdom, Sophia.

THE WISDOM OF CATHERINE

The wisdom of Catherine encompasses the philosophical, theological and mythical connotations of wisdom, but also the psychological, social and political integration that is the current ideal of spirituality. But if I have preference it is to see Catherine as reflecting the Hokmah or Sophia of the Hebrew scriptures as embodied in Jesus. This feminine principle in the Godhead is at the heart of the creative act, as well as the one who recreates and renews.

The whole of chapter eight of the Book of Wisdom speaks of Sophia’s qualities. She is the one who instructs, teaches moderation and prudence, justice and fortitude, understands language solutions of riddles, signs and wonders. Throughout the Wisdom literature,

Sophia is called sister, wife, mother, beloved, and teacher. She is the leader on the way, the preacher in Israel, the taskmaster and creator God. She seeks people, finds them on the road, invites them to dinner. She offers life, rest, knowledge, and salvation to those who accept her. She dwells in Israel and officiates in the sanctuary. She sends prophets and apostles and makes those who accept her “friends of God.”

This summary of the characteristics of Sophia is taken from Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza who goes on to summarize pertinent biblical texts:

“She is but one but yet can do everything, herself unchanging. She makes all things new” (Wis 7:27). Wisdom sought a dwelling place among humanity, but found none. Therefore she has withdrawn again and “has taken her seat among the angels” (1 Enoch 42:1-2). She is a people-loving spirit (philanthropon pneuma, 1:6) who shares the throne of God (9:10). She is an initiate (mystis) of God’s knowledge, an associate in God’s works, and emanation of the God of light, who lives in symbiosis with God (8:3-4), an image of God’s goodness (7:26). (6)

In the Christian scriptures she is also the inclusive graciousness and goodness of God spelled out again and again in the parables of Jesus. The parables of the creditor who freely remits the debts of those who cannot pay, of the shepherd searching for the lost sheep, of the woman searching for her lost coin, of the laborers working in the vineyard all speak to the equality of all rooted in the gracious goodness of God. The God image in the parables and in Jesus’ relationships with people is always distinguished by mercy and compassion. Says Elizabeth Fiorenza, “The earliest Jesus traditions perceive this God of gracious goodness in a woman’s Gestalt as divine Sophia (wisdom)” (261-263). And in that respect Catherine’s frequent use of the word “gentle” in describing God is consonant with the images of God portrayed in the parables. (7)

Other scholars have studied the evidence of Jesus’ identification with Sophia in his manner of self-proclaiming teacher, in his words which often reflect the Wisdom passages, in his bearing the message of God. It is evident in texts from John, Matthew, Luke and Paul. That the Sophia tradition does not come through more explicitly in the New Testament is attributed to the gnostic controversy. “. . . the New Testament churches could not proclaim Jesus as Sophia directly or develop the figure of Jesus Sophia further without being identified with the gnostic rejection of Jesus’ humanity and crucifixion” (Cady, 52).

These insights into the Jesus Sophia tradition come to my mind as I re-read Catherine of Siena. I do not say that Catherine was preoccupied with this kind of biblical interpretation and criticism. It is quite clear that she was not. But I do say that Catherine, aware of God’s total possession of her in Jesus, reflects the Sophia strand of the Jesus tradition in remarkable ways and that we are entitled to look at her in such a way.

CATHERINE AS WISDOM

It is interesting that Catherine in her prayers consistently identified Jesus as Wisdom. Her Trinitarian formula initiates her prayer in a familiar pattern.

Power of the eternal Father, help me!
Wisdom of the Son, enlighten the eye of my understanding!
Tender mercy of the Holy Spirit, enflame my heart and unite it to yourself! (Prayers, 48)
And in a longer variation:
You, Godhead, one in being and three in Persons,
are one vine with three branches
if I may be permitted to make such a comparison.
You made us in your image and likeness so that,
with our three powers in one soul,
we might image your trinity and your unity.
And as we image so we may find union:
through our memory,
image and be united with the Father,
to whom is attributed power,
through our understanding,
image and be united with the Son,
to whom is attributed wisdom;
through our will,
image and be united with the Holy Spirit,
to whom is attributed mercy,
and who is the love of the Father and the Son. (Prayers, 42)

This prayer also reveals the three divinely bestowed powers of the soul as Catherine identifies them — memory, associated with power; understanding, with wisdom, and will, with mercy – reflecting the trinitarian image of God in the human person. These are qualities Catherine claims for herself as one bearing God’s image. We can see her memory of all that God communicated to her becoming the motivation of her entire being. We can see power being assumed by her in the authority she exercised in fearlessly pursuing the designs of God. And we can see God’s mercy reflected in her caring service of the poor and afflicted.

Catherine undoubtedly reflects Paul’s identification of Jesus as Wisdom and she says explicitly of Paul:

You joined your power of understanding with the Son,
the Word,
understanding perfectly the whole order
ordained by wisdom itself,
the Word,
the order that is to lead created things to their goal
and their goal is the same as their origin.” (Prayers, 42)

Strikingly, here Catherine’s words emphasize the order of the whole of creation and its ordering to its goal which is also its origin. Paul has come to his knowledge of that ordering through his power being joined to that of Jesus, she says. The concept elicits various resonances with the description of Sophia. “She deploys her strength from one end of the earth to the other, ordering all things for good . . . Yes, she is an initiate in the mysteries of God’s knowledge. She makes choice of the works God is to do.” (Wisdom 8:34)

What is all the more remarkable, it would seem, is that Catherine sees that what is possible for Paul is also possible for her, despite her often-proclaimed sense of nothingness in the face of God who is all, (8) and with seemingly no internalization of the notion that as a woman she is in any way circumscribed. Over and again Catherine claims her own authority, assumes a teaching, guiding and correcting role, exercises leadership in the arenas of church and state.

Catherine’s appeal to Pope Gregory XI to return from Avignon to Rome is forthright, persuasive and commanding in her own right. She writes in part:

Ah, my dear father! I am begging you, I am telling you: come, and conquer our enemies with the same gentle hand. In the name of Christ crucified I am telling you. Don’t choose to listen to the devil’s advisors. They would like to block your holy and good resolution. Be a courageous man for me, not a coward. Respond to God, who is calling you to come and take possession of the place of the glorious shepherd, Saint Peter, whose representative you still are. (Letters, 202)

She has the temerity, at least as we look at her from our vantage point today, to give the Pope lengthy discourses on who Jesus is, how God acts in our human affairs, what the demands of mercy, justice and charity are, what the role of the papacy is and more. She speaks in her own name but with the certainty that comes from her union with God whose interests she has made her own (Letters, 203-208).

When we read the description of Wisdom in Chapter 7 of the Book of Wisdom it is easy to think of Catherine.

For in her is a spirit
intelligent, holy, unique,
Manifold, subtle, agile,
clear, unstained, certain,
Not baneful, loving the good, keen,
unhampered, beneficent, kindly.
Firm, secure, tranquil,
all-powerful, all-seeing,
And pervading all spirits,
though they be intelligent, pure and very subtle.
(Wisdom 7:22-23)
Catherine’s wisdom spirit with its own claim to personal authority is quite as evident when she writes to the political powers of her day, as in her words by letter to Charles V, King of France. Her directness is typical. She writes in part:
There are three specific things I am asking you, in your position, to do for love of Christ crucified. The first is to make light of the world and of yourself and of all earthly pleasures. Hold your kingdom as something lent to you, not as if it were your own….

The second thing I am asking is that you uphold true holy justice. Let it not be adulterated by selfish love for yourself or by flattery or by human respect. And don’t pretend not to see if your officials are inflicting injustice for money, denying the poor

their rights. No, be a father to the poor as a dispenser of what God has given you.

The third thing is to follow the teaching given you by this Master on the cross, which is exactly what my soul most longs to see in you: friendship and love between you and your neighbor with whom you have been so long at war.

Her ardent desire to win the Holy Land for Christ, and to extend his salvation to those who have never heard of him, is evident as she continues:

I beg you to stop being the agent of so much evil and the obstacle to such a good as the recovery of the Holy Land and of all those poor souls who have no share in the blood of God’s Son. You and the other Christian lords ought to be ashamed of such a thing. What a scandal, humanly speaking, and what an abomination before God, that you should be making war against your brother and leaving your enemy alone, and that you should be seizing what belongs to another and not get back what is yours! Enough of this stupid blindness! (Letters 238-9)

Of Wisdom it is said,

For she is instructress in the understanding of God, the selector of God’s works.
And if riches be a desirable possession in life,
what is more rich than Wisdom, who produces all things?
And if prudence renders service, who in the world is a better artisan than she?
Or if one loves justice,
the fruits of her works are virtues;
For she teaches moderation and prudence,
justice and fortitude,
and nothing in life is more useful [for men] than these.

It would be difficult to find a more perfect mirror image of Sophia, depicted in this way, than we have in Catherine.

But despite the identification of Catherine with the holy wars, something we can only understand in the kind of Christian theocracy that was an ideal for her in her medieval setting, she was also a paragon of mercy. Surrounding her were victims of the plague, of the petty wars between the cities and states, of pervasive poverty. We know of her compassion for suffering people. Mary Ann Fatula writes, “She served those whom no one else would touch: the leprous and reviling Tecca; the abusive Palmerina; the dying Andrea, still strong enough in her cancerous illness to slander Catherine’s reputation by accusing her of impurity” (27-28). And she could minister to one condemned to death, internalizing the terror of impending violence but sublimating it to the absolute certainty that a loving God awaited him in a glorious life beyond human comprehension.

She was the channel of God’s love in all of her ministrations to people and was consumed with the desire to make God’s mercy known to them through her. She prayed:

Eternal goodness,
you want me to gaze into you
and see that you love me,
to see that you love me gratuitously,
so that I may love everyone with the very same love.
You want me, then,
to love and serve my neighbors gratuitously,
by helping them spiritually and materially
as much as I can,
without any expectation of selfish profit or pleasure.
Nor do you want me to hold back
because of their ingratitude or persecution,
or for any abuse I may suffer from them. (Prayers, 102)

Such prayer reflected back to God what she had learned in her dialogues where God said to her in many ways, “. . . love of me and love of neighbor are one and the same thing: Since love of neighbor has its source in me, the more the soul loves me, the niore she loves her neighbors” (Dialogue, 36). Catherine was the extension of God’s mercy, a quality that she attributed, along with love, to the Holy Spirit. Praying to God in her usual Trinitarian modality, she concludes, “. . . And you gave us free will to love what our understanding sees and knows of your truth, and so share the mercy of your Holy Spirit” (Dialogue, 49).

Mercy, rahamim, “womb love,” is one of the qualities of the covenant between God and God’s people recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures. The others are truth, justice, hesed or covenant love, and peace. Mercy among them is a uniquely feminine term, and certainly over time it may have become a quality expected of women. But it is, in fact, a quality of God and a quality necessary for the unification and strength of the people of God united in covenant. It is clearly evident in Catherine, although in her strength of conviction and assertiveness she is not to be stereotyped. Yet she prays plaintively:

… it is clear
that, though you created us without our help,
you do not want to save us without our help.
You want us, merciful and compassionate Father,
to look at your boundless compassion for us,
so that we may learn to be compassionate,
first of all to ourselves and then to our neighbors–
just as the glorious Paul said,
“All charity begins with oneself.”

Catherine claimed her personhood and inner authority from her inviolable sense of union with God. In the Prologue to The Dialogue she quotes Jesus from the Gospel of John (14:21-23), “If you will love me and keep my word, I will show myself to you, and you will be one thing with me and I with you” (Dialogue, 25). And as she prayed, remonstrated, cajoled, instructed, Motivated and lived, she did so with a profound sense of God’s identification with her, of God’s acting through her in Jesus. And as she does these things it is not difficult to see that reflection as Jesus Sophia.

CATHERINE FOR TODAY

Catherine of Siena can speak to our times in many ways and she does. She is a heroine to many, especially to women who seek models within the Christian faith tradition. Her strength, her courage, her conviction, her single-mindedness are attractive and inspiring. As a woman fully conscious of her power to effect change, a power rooted in her personal identification with God, she is unsurpassed. And as a woman reflecting the feminine side of God detectable in the Sophia strain she offers an alternative to the need felt by many to seek models of feminist spirituality in other than the Christian tradition. Her extraordinary penances, fastings, ecstasies and revelations are scarcely imitable by many but her self transcendence evident in her extension of herself, as emissary of Jesus, into the personal and social lives of the afflicted, be it peasant, king or pope, is a model for all in any age, particularly in our own.

It is that self transcendence, the ideal of so many proponents of contemporary spirituality, that is especially worthy of our attention. So profound was her experience of Jesus, admittedly a gift freely bestowed, that she was able to transcend all limitations — her youth at first, her family expectations, her socially imposed restrictions as a woman in medieval society, her initial propensity for contemplative encounter with God in solitude. And especially that she was who she was as a woman will never cease to be remarkable.

So often Catherine hearkens back to the creative act of God. Over and again as she begins her recorded prayer she addresses God with the reminder, “You made us in your image and likeness so that with our three powers in one soul, we might image your trinity and your unity” (Prayers, 42). Today there is some official questioning as to whether or not the image of God, or specifically of Jesus, can be in women. That was no question for Catherine. She was fully conscious that, as the creature and beloved of God, the trinitarian God was fully reflected in her, fully in possession of her. We know from her Dialogue that she knew of St. Thomas Aquinas (155, 339), and Mary Walter Flood points out how the doctrinal elements of her teachings reflect those of the Angelic Doctor (25-35). But if she knew of Thomas’ assessment of women (ST, 1, 92, a. 1-4), she surely didn’t believe it. Her own experience and her own inner authority assumed through the God who possessed her contradicted it.

But equally remarkable is the self transcendence in Catherine that reached out in response to the needs of her time. It would have been so easy for her to remain a recluse, it would seem. But that is not the way it was. She is an extraordinary model of a woman who entered into relationships of all kinds and who, in her pleadings with popes and kings, was an advocate of unity and community. In that respect the Pauline image of the Body of Christ was an obsession. And in that preoccupation her example is an antidote for the rampant individualism of our times that reaches even into the Church and into the life of religious groups committed to the mission of Jesus.

Recently Robert Bellah spoke to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops at their June meeting in California on the subject of leadership. Bellah, well known for his book Habits of the Heart with its incisive analysis of individualism, juxtaposed the Lockean-based American society with the Hebrew notion of covenant that informs our theology of ecclesial community in his address to the bishops. He said in part:

… the covenant is not a limited relation based on self-interest, but an unlimited commitment based on loyalty and trust. It involves obligations to God and the neighbor that transcend self-interest, though it promises a deeper sense of self-fulfillment through participation in a divinely instituted order that leads to life instead of death. (219)

In describing the influence of Locke’s teaching, Bellah says that “‘it is one of the most powerful, if not the most powerful, ideologies ever invented…. It promises an unheard of degree of individual freedom, an unlimited opportunity to compete for material well-being and an unprecedented limitation on the arbitrary powers of government to interfere with individual initiative” (219). It is not my purpose to review how this ideal that has informed the history of our nation infects family life, the marketplace, all manner of social institutions including the academy, and the political arena at local, state and national levels. Suffice it to say that what is the prevailing ideology for our society also enters into our ecclesial communities. Mary Jo Leddy, whose book Reweaving Religious Life has been widely read by members of religious institutes in the past year, raises questions about the impact of individualism on religious institutes. While she organizes her analysis around liberalism, the import of her critique is compatible with that of Bellah.

For many of us how we become covenant communities as church and religious institutes is an overriding concern as we face the many alien influences that erode the foundations of our Christian faith communities. The times call for conversion and that need that seems to have been identified by so many: transformation.

To that end Catherine is an eminent model of what our times call us to be. She was an individual surely. But her individuality was not self-seeking nor self-serving. Her individuality is the expression of who she could be because of the God-life within her and it is extraordinary in its manifestation of self transcendence. She had no personal agenda other than that which she perceived to be God’s — healing, reconciling, unifying, re-establishing the order that God had put in place at the dawn of creation, always zealous for the integrity of the Christian community and its authority as she perceived them to be. That kind of self transcendence is the ideal of Christian spirituality today. It is the work of Wisdom, Sophia, the one who speaks in the words of Sirach, “I send my teachings forth shining like the dawn, to become known afar off. Thus do I pour out instruction like prophecy and bestow it on generations to come.” (24-20,31.) Such is the wisdom of Catherine of Siena.