As this readership already knows, this bishop has a great devotion to St. Catherine of Siena, whose feast we celebrate today. She wrote many people during her short but very active life, and each of her letters were replete with rich doctrine. Very often her letters were means of encouraging people in their own faith journey.
Today, I wrote a young man who asked me some time ago to pray for his vocation. I decided that this feast of St. Catherine would be a good time to write him.
Modelling my letter on one of St. Catherine’s I tried to share some of St. Catherine’s spirituality with this young man as a means of guiding and encouraging his own discernment.
Since I had not prepared anything else ahead of time as a means of honoring St. Catherine today on this blog, I wish to share this letter with all of you (slightly edited.) I hold in heart and mind especially those young men and women who seek to know God’s will in their own vocational discernment. If St. Catherine were writing you today, I have no doubt, some of these elements would be a part of her loving encouragement to each of you:
Dear Paulo / Paula:
Since you requested my prayers for your vocation, I want you to know that I have faithfully called you to mind and prayed for you over these past few months. Since today is the feast of St. Catherine of Siena, one of my favorite saints, I decided it was time to write you.
Last month, as I was re-reading some of St. Catherine’s letters, I came across one she wrote to a young man to encourage him to pursue religious life, and I thought of you.
St. Catherine had the habit of always writing ‘in the blood of Christ’ and asking that the recipients of her letters bathe themselves in the blood of Christ, which means, to be bathed in his love.
Near and dear to Catherine was her love for the truth, and she often referred to Jesus as Gentle First Truth. She prayed often that people would come to know the truth, be enlightened by that truth, hate all things contrary to the truth, love all that is within truth and whatever truth loves.
She knew that many were blinded by selfishness, unable to see by the light of faith, and because of this blindness, were unable to know the truth. The only way to be rid of this selfishness was humility, which allows us to recognize our sins, and in that knowledge recognize how generously ‘divine Goodness deals with us.’ This knowledge of God’s goodness within us makes us grow in charity.
This charity is accompanied by discernment. In such charity, we love God, rid ourselves of sinful behaviors, and give our neighbors the love they deserve. This is what true knowledge of self and of God is all about, humility, charity, and discernment. This light is what leads to true service of God. St. Catherine says of such people: “Though they are living in the night of this darksome life they walk with the light, and though they are on the stormy sea they receive and experience interior peace.”
I know from my experience of discerning my own vocation, the many doubts that I had regarding the demands of priesthood, and my own ability to successfully fulfill those demands. This is one particular area where the demon can work on us, making us believe that we can never live up to these demands and hardships. St. Catherine counters: “No, those who have the light laugh in the face of all this. They respond as people dead to their selfish will and enlightened by the light of most holy faith, ‘I can do anything through Christ crucified, for I know truly that he does not lay a heavier load on his creatures than they can bear. So I want to leave the measuring up to him and, for my part, bear these things with true patience. For in truth I know the truth. And I know that whatever God grants or permits, he does it for my good, so that I may be made holy in him.’”
The key to discernment and ultimately to following Christ faithfully is abandoning one’s self, to live fully for God. Granted, this requires faith, and most of all, God’s grace, along with a strong will and deep desire.
Paulo/Paula, all of this is my prayer for you. Please know that my prayers for you will continue. Please remain open to God’s will in your life. I believe God is calling many young men / women today to share in the mission of Jesus. You are the kind of young man / woman who can serve God and God’s Church well. God is at work in the world and in the Church today, and in each of those who open their hearts to him. Christ will renew this Church, but only by those of us who are willing to follow him wherever he leads, and are obedient to him as he was to the Father’s will.
Paulo/Paula, it is with young men / women such as you that, should you choose to accept this invitation to follow Christ, The Lord will re-invigorate and renew his Church. There is much good already at work in the Church, and yet, She is ever called to renewal and even greater holiness. We need you, and I pray daily for you whom God is calling to serve the Church.
As Jesus taught us, if we remain in him, if we remain in his love, our joy will be complete, and we will bear much fruit! (See John 15) Paulo/Paula, remain in Jesus, and you will know his love, your joy will be complete, and you will bear much fruit. I remain,
In The Heart of Christ,