Saturday 3 March 2018

Saint Catherine of Siena - Alice Curtayne

Saint Catherine of Siena
Alice Curtayne
TAN Books
ISBN 9780895551627

This was the third book by Alice Curtayne that I have read in the last few weeks. I first came across a new reprint edition of Twenty Tales of Irish Saints, and it was a wonderful read. Then I read the currently out of print More Tales of Irish Saints. And now this volume. My research to date indicates that she has 19 books that were published, and another that she edited. And I believe that only 3 of the 20 are currently in print. And it looks like I have some work cut out tracking down the others. For I have loved all three of Curtayne's books that I have read so far. But back to this specific book. 

This was the first book I have read dedicated just to Catherine of Siena. But I have read extensive selections from her writings during my academic career. Unlike her two collections of stories about saints, that were written for a younger audience. This book was written for the more mature reader. First published in 1929 this edition was first released in 1980, just a year before she passed away. I loved this book. And it made me want to learn more about Catherine and read more of Curtayne's writings as well. 

This book is very well researched. With an extensive bibliography and end notes sections. The first part of the book is called Crusading and the chapters in that part of the bookare:

  I An Unusual Vocation 
 II The Re-Ordering Of A Life 
III In The Public Eye 
IV The School Of Mystics 
V Dieu Le Veult 
VI The Divine Seal 
VII The Tuscan League 
VIII In Exitu Israel 
 IX The Peace-Maker 
  X The Mystery Of Failure

The section part of the book is called Schism and the chapters are:

  I In Die Nubis Et Caliginis
 II Disillusionment 
III The Hour Of Vigil 
IV The Martyr By Desire 
 V The End 
VI The Cult Of Saint Catherine Of Siena

The book begins with a historical perspective. Beginning with the plague ravaging Europe beginning when Catherine was only a year old. In setting the stage Alice states: 
"The effects of this catastrophe came slowly of course. The immediate survivors did not perceive any great change in the world about them. It was at least a quarter of a century before the results began to tell. They were, therefore, becoming obvious when Catherine Benincasa was grown up. Change was then apparent everywhere. After the Black Death, the feudal system was no more; the vernacular languages sprang up (England emerged from it, speaking English). Dante and Boccaccio illustrate the transition: on one side of the bridge of death, Dante almost apologizes for using the vernacular; he has to defend the novelty. But in Catherine's day, Boccaccio takes such use for granted. The Renaissance began to stir, making tense this epoch of transition."
She also states:
"The effect on the Church concerns us most. The Black Death shook it at a moment when it was ill-prepared. The Papacy had already lost prestige."
And this is the environment that Catherine was born and lived. And from reading this story she spent a great deal of her time and effort restoring the papacy some of it's prestige. 

I do not know how someone could read this book and not have their faith challenged. Like many who encountered Catherine in real life if they are not a believer they will be challenged to believe. And if they are a believer they will be challenged. Reading about this woman's faith and devotion, to God, to the church and to her friends and family is incredibly inspiring. This book helped me fall in love with this saint, and the author of her story.

I am very thankful to have read this book and encourage you to do so also!

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2018 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books and Booklets by Alice Curtayne:
A Recall to Dante
Francis Ledwidge: A Life of the Poet
Lough Derg: St. Patrick's Purgatory
Patrick Sarsfield
Saint Anthony of Padua
St. Bernard Doctor of The Church 1933

Books Edited by Alice Curtayne:
The Complete works of Francis Ledwidge

Books Translated by Alice Curtayne:
Labours in the Vineyard by Giovanni Papin

Books Contributed to by Alice Curtayne:

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thank you for this review -- as always, your reviews are the BEST!

Susan Wanke