St. Catherine of Siena was born in 1347 in Italy. She became a third order Dominican, learned to read and write, and was known for her service to the poor and her involvement in politics. She worked for the unity of the Church and was loyal to the pope. She died April 29, 1380 at the age of thirty-three and was later proclaimed a Doctor of the Church. Her best known spiritual writing is The Dialogue. Her quotes, though over six hundred years old, are still relevant today and can be a launching pad for our personal prayer.
“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”
We all have to discern our path in life. For some it is easier than others. When I see what others get to do in order to be part of building God’s kingdom and compare it to my task, I feel like maybe what I am doing does not matter. I have not published a bestseller that inspires people to pray, and I am not on the speaking circuit revving up young adults. I am here, doing my thing. I have faith that it is what God desires from me and for that reason alone it is important. St. Catherine reminds me that even though it may seem insignificant, it is helping set the world on fire for God.
“Proclaim the truth and do not be silent through fear”
There is good reason to be afraid to speak of faith these days. It makes people uncomfortable to hear the truths proclaimed by the Catholic Church and more and more our society is uncomfortable with being uncomfortable. Since relativism and “you do you, I’ll do me” is the mantra of the day, it would be easy to keep silent. It would be safe. But Jesus didn’t ask us to be quiet and hang out in the background. He asked us to make disciples and to do that, we need to talk.
There is a quote, wrongly attributed to St. Francis, to preach the gospel always and if necessary use words. My first response to this was, “Yes! I can just try to live a good life. I do not need to say anything. Actions speak louder than words after all.” Except … that’s not what Jesus did. Jesus used lots of words; sometimes the same ones over and over. And it‘s a safe bet that I am not living so holy a life that my actions are enough. St. Francis was a holy man whose actions reflected the Lord’s love but he didn’t shy away from speaking about the gospel.
So I need to speak and I often do not know what to say, but I know that I will be given the words. When we ask, God gives us what we need to build his kingdom. We can speak in love, with a humble heart and be confident that the Holy Spirit will arrive like the cavalry to our aid. I will not let fear stop me.
“Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring.”
We often tell our kids this. When they grouse about going to school or the amount of homework they get, we remind them we value that which we work for. St. Catherine knew this. All of us have endured. Not one of us has skated through life with constant joy and sunshine. It’s comforting to know that God is with us in our enduring. Whether it is slogging through a chemistry class or working a job we don’t like, he is a constant presence.
Sometimes it becomes demoralizing when challenges come up as we work toward our goals. It would be nice if it were easy all the time. But when I look back, I feel best about accomplishments that I worked at. I value that song I learned to play with several measures that seemed impossible and the project I undertook that seemed it might do me in. Living a life of witness to Christ is not easy but in the end it will lead to something great.
“These tiny ants have proceeded from his thought just as much as I. It caused him just as much trouble to create the angels as these animals and the flowers on the trees.”
When I wake up at night for no good reason, I reflect on God’s creation. When I look up at the stars I don’t feel small. I feel awe. I feel amazed that I get to be part of all of this.
God had a big pile of nothing and from it he created everything. All of it fits together perfectly. Everything has a purpose and it is vast beyond our ability to comprehend. There are giant planets and huge rocks flying through space. And if I imagine a big funnel I can think about that enormity gradually becoming smaller: our planet, the oceans, the land, the animals, the people, the ants.
The same God who made Jupiter made bugs, and both are necessary and needed in his plan. I don’t understand why it is important for there to be centipedes. They only serve to startle me as they dash across my bathroom floor but God made them. The oceans are miles deep and contain creatures we do not even know about yet. The forests are full of flora and fauna of an endless variety. There is weather! Why? Why can’t it always be sunny and 75 degrees? I don’t know, but that’s what God wanted.
And we get to live here with all of it because he created us too. “I am wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) and I praise God for that. I praise God for his generosity in giving us this beautiful place to live.
“The soul is in God and God is in the soul. God is closer to us than water is to a fish.”
He is with us. He is within us. When we cry, he showers love down on us. When we rejoice, he dances too. He created us to desire him. We are restless without him. He knows us better than we know us. He created us with purpose and intent. When we doubt, when we fear, when we do not know what to do, we can call to him and he will remind us that he never left. A fish pulls oxygen out of water to breathe. God is closer. God is our breath. He sustains us.
“What is it you want to change? Your hair, your face, your body? Why? For God is in love with all those things and he might weep when they are gone.”
I sometimes look at myself with dismay. My nose is more prominent than I think is attractive and my hair has weird straight sections mixed in with the curly. I have a beautiful friend from college and I wonder what it must be like to see that face each day in the mirror.
Then I read a quote like this one and it reminds me that I am the way I am because this is how God made me. He loves me like this. The things that I think are goofy, he finds charming. I do not have to make anything different because I am fine the way I am. So I pray for the grace to accept myself this way: flawed, a little crooked and far from perfect. (I also pray for those straight sections of hair to get curly because that is just aggravating.) I pray that I can appreciate myself as God appreciates me and rejoice in the creation that I am: his beloved daughter.
“We are such value to God 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. “
I think about a person who hurt me. Would I be willing to suffer torture and death so that I could be with him forever? Probably not. I prefer that we not have any contact. I have hurt Jesus many times and he was willing to endure unimaginable horror so that I can be forgiven and be with him for eternity in heaven. By human standards, I would not blame him for giving up on me. He does not. He loves us so much. He has a well of forgiveness that never runs dry. He thinks we are awesome. How can I respond to this love? As St. Catherine said, I can respond by loving him. He has abundant, extravagant love for me and I can love him back.
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About Merridith Frediani
Merridith Frediani’s perfect day includes prayer, writing, unrushed morning coffee, reading, tending to dahlias, and playing Sheepshead with her husband and three teenagers. She loves leading small faith groups for moms and looking for God in the silly and ordinary. She blogs and writes for her local Catholic Herald in Milwaukee.
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