Wednesday 20 October 2021

Saint Catherine of Siena - Sister Mary O'Driscoll OP - CTS Great Saints

Saint Catherine of Siena
CTS Great Saints
Sister Mary O'Driscoll OP
Catholic Truth Society
ISBN 9781860824135
eISBN 9781784692810
CTS Booklet B690

Over the last few years I have read over 200 volumes from the Catholic Truth Society. I stumbled upon them while doing research on an author, and have been hooked ever since. I have also read many in the CTS Biographies and also Saints of the Isles Series, and I loved the books in the CTS Great Saints Series. I love reading about so many saints, their lives and their times. And through that learning how much we need their example and intercession these days. This was the first volume from Sister Mary O'Driscoll OP that I have read. And her works that are available in English appear to be primarily focused on this saint, her life and her works. But I believe this is her only book for the CTS. The description of this booklet is:

“St Catherine of Siena, mystic, doctor of the Church, patron of Italy and of Europe has always been considered one of the great women of the Church. In her life she strove to love God above all and help her neighbour whether this meant caring for a leper or reprimanding a pope. This new text gives a brief biography and an introduction to Catherine's writings and theology.”

Another description is that this volume is:

“An anthology of Catherine's letters, prayers and 'The Dialogue' that reveals both her passion for the truth and her compassion for humanity. It is intended for those with an interest in prayer and spiritual life.”

And the chapters in this little volume are:

Life and Times
Doctor of the Church
Walk on Two Feet
Contemplative Mystic
Passionate Lover
Further Reading

This was a very moving read. I highlighted 23 passages my first time through this book. And as soon as I finished I put it back on my ‘to be read pile’. There is a great deal of information in this little booklet. And I assume much was drawn from the author’s longer work on Saint Catherine of Siena. Some of the passages I highlighted were:

“Catherine was a woman who had a tremendous zest for life and who put all of herself into whatever she was convinced about. The truth that gripped her most was God’s overwhelming love for humanity manifested in Jesus Christ. One of her biographers describes her as someone who was always ‘at full stretch’, whether she was responding whole-heartedly to her loving God or reaching out compassionately to her needy neighbour.”

“Whenever she felt reluctant to go to a new preaching place where she was needed, she remembered God’s words spoken to her on one occasion while she prayed about her vocation: “You are to plunge boldly into public activity of every kind with but one thought in mind, the salvation of souls, whether they be men or women... I will be ever at your side... Carry on with courage”.”

“For the rest of her short life Catherine gave her time and energy to working and praying for an end to the schism. Every day she spent long hours in prayer, and also in writing letters to state and church leaders urging them to help to bring the division in the church to an end. She exhausted herself and suffered so much in this cause that she became seriously ill.”

“In January 1380, she was so weak that she could hardly crawl out of bed and had great difficulty in swallowing anything even water. Unable to work actively any more, she made an offering of her life for the unity of the church. Shortly after this, on 29th April 1380, she died in Rome in the presence of several of her friends and followers.”

“She was, as pope John Paul II remarked on the occasion of the 6th centenary of her death, a person of ‘complete dimensions’ with an “extraordinary richness of humanity, not dimmed in any way, but on the contrary increased and perfected by grace.””

“The fourteenth century also marked the transition from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance which brought with it radical changes in outlook and behaviour. It is interesting that many historians regard that far-off century, with its turmoil, upheavals and insecurity, as ‘a distant mirror’ reflecting many of the characteristics of our own age.”

“Discovering that some of those in authority were afraid to upset people by speaking the truth, she, in the words of pope Paul VI, ‘fumed at their silence’. In one of her letters, lamenting that the church was being attacked on every side by contrary winds which were evil and dangerous, she asked: “Was it ever before in such great need when darkness is spread by those whose task it is to enlighten?””

“Catherine’s intense love for the church explains her great desire for reform and renewal throughout her life, and accounts for her tormented suffering when the schism erupted.”

“When she talked to the Pope and other members of the church she reminded them too that reform and renewal began with themselves. To the pope, Urban VI, she wrote: “Most holy father, it is time to detest sin in yourself, in your subjects and in the ministers of holy church.””

“Almost 400 of Catherine’s Letters have been preserved. When we look at an index of the persons to whom she wrote we realise how wide and varied her correspondence was. There are letters addressed to members of her family, including her mother, brothers and a niece; to her friends, among them a poet, an artist, a lawyer, a craftsman and a widow; to public figures: popes, bishops, a king, a queen and rulers of various Italian states; and to many other people: nuns, hermits, a prostitute, and a mercenary soldier. Her correspondents represent the famous, the infamous, and the ordinary woman and man. Considered as literature, The Letters rank Catherine among the great Italian letter-writers of the fourteenth century.”

“When we are persons who long for God with infinite desire we find that our hearts are enlarged so that there is room in them not only for God but also for humanity.”

She truly is a saint we can learn from today, a saint that will benefit us. We could use some of her spirit and charism in the church and world today. This book is an excellent little volume. And Catherine of Siena is a great reminder for us today.

This volume was published in 2007 and the eBook edition released in 2017. I find that almost every time I read a book from the Catholic Truth Society I find 2 or three others I want to read. I have an ever growing wish list of eBooks, books in print, and books out of print from the CTS that I want to track down. This is a book I very much enjoyed reading. It is a book that can challenge and encourage all of us in the church today. It is another excellent read, a great volume in the CTS Great Saints Series. A book I highly recommend and challenge you to give a read.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2021 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Books by Sister Mary O'Driscoll OP:
Mercy for the World: A Study of Intercession in the Life and Writings of Catherine of Siena
F. Louis Joseph Lebret OP: Un Profeta Para Nuestro Tiempo

Books in the CTS Great Saints Series:
Antonio Rosmini - J.B. Midgley
Bernard of Clairvaux - J.B. Midgley
Benedict Patron of Europe - J.B. Midgley
Charles Borromeo - J.B. Midgley
Dominic - J.B. Midgley
Elizabeth of the Trinity The Great Carmelite Saint - Jennifer Moorcroft
Francis de Sales - J.B. Midgley
Gemma Galgani Gem of Christ John Paul Kirkham
George: Patron of England - J.B. Midgley
John Baptist de La Salle - J.B. Midgley
John of the Cross - Jennifer Moorcroft
John Vianney - J.B. Midgley
Louis Marie de Montfort His Life, Message and Teaching - Paul Allerton SMM
Martin de Porres - Glynn MacNiven-Johnston
Patrick Missionary to the Irish - Thomas O’Loughlin 

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