Catherine of Siena

Today at our spiritual hour I gave an introduction to the theme of judging (or not), and of the union between truth and love, after which a discussion followed. After I translate my talk into English and clean it up it a bit, I'll post it (or at least part of it) here. But for today, the feast of St. Catherine of Siena (in English occasionally spelled Sienna), a co-patroness of Europa (St. Benedict is the first patron), I'll just jot down some points about St. Catherine. I had remarked that the theme of not definitively judging/condemning while at the same time being ready to correct false behavior was illustrated by St. Catherine, who was quite bold even in her correction of the pope, and yet always showed respect for and obedience to him. In the discussion, in response to the question how we can reconcile the problem of avoiding negative judgments of other persons that are contrary to charity, with the necessity of making judgments in order to correct harmful situations, harmful and bad behavior, etc., a piece of advice from St. Catherine of Siena was pointed out. When we are affected by someone's bad behavior, before we set up seeking to correct it, we should mentally bear the consequences of that bad behavior, in the spirit of Christ, who bore the sins of the world. This identification and sympathy with the person enables one to approach them not as though an enemy, or condescendingly, as to someone beneath oneself, but as a friend in Christ, or one whom one loves that they might be a friend. This fundamental attitude provides a strong basis for making a judgment in the manner necessary, without condemning.

(Image of St. Catherine is from the Church of San Domenico, in Siena, Italy)

Every saint is unique

Virgin Mary and saints
St. Catherine of Sienna in her Treatise of Divine Providence keeps to the teaching that the virtues are connected, i.e., that whoever has one virtue, must have all of them. Nevertheless she teaches that God gives to each person one particular virtue as principal: to one he gives principally love, to another justice, to another humility, to another faith, to another prudence, to another patience, etc. It is then especially by the exercise of this virtue that the person grows in all the virtues, due to their being connected in love. (In another words, it is chiefly in the one principal virtue God gives the person that the divine love is expressed and actualized, and yet because it is truly divine love that shines forth and is exercised in this virtue, this love is deepened and increases, and thus gives greater strength and vitality to all the virtues, of which it is the heart.)

The love of God and neighbor, while it elevates and ennobles all human faculties, and while it does require a struggle against the baser inclinations of nature, does not destroy or level out different characters or personalities, but perfects them. Every saint thus has his own unique character, by which he grows in and lives out the holy love of God and neighbor. We will only fully appreciate this in heaven, where we will see the full beauty and harmony of how all the different saints show forth in their own special ways the glory of God's love.