St. Catherine of Siena was born in Siena, in 1347, shortly after the Black Death began to ravage Europe. Over the next 5 years it killed more than 20 million people in Europe – almost 1/3 of the continent’s population. Apparently, Catherine and her family were not directly affected by this plague, but it must have affected them indirectly.
Today we are battling a similar crisis. Covid-19 is affecting millions of people all over the world and killing thousands just in our own country.
It was after the Black Death had subsided, when Catherine was still a teen, that she spent 3 years cloistered in a room. She went out only to go to daily Mass. She didn’t choose to live in a cloistered room because of some plague. It was because from the age of about five Catherine had a deep relationship with God. She had vowed to give her whole life to God. She stayed in this cloistered room to deepen that relationship with God. It was only after three years living a cloistered life that God then called her to step out to minister to people in need.
Today we are told to “stay in place”. We sometimes complain about having to stay in place. We are told that it is for our physical safety and the safety of others. Maybe we are looking at this quarantine time wrongly. Can this be a time to deepen our relationship with God? That is what Catherine did. Maybe this is the time God is calling us to move into a more contemplative mode. Only then will we really be ready to give to step out to minister to people in need – to offer the fruits of our contemplation.
Prayer from Evening Prayer of Dominican Praise; Feast of St. Catherine of Siena
O Eternal Trinity, Wisdom of the saints,
Catherine was in her time a holy model,
a courageous woman, a wise and faithful counselor.
Help us in our time to discover our mission to church and world,
and enable us to speak with conviction and clarity
the truth we have encounter in Jesus, Gentle First Truth,
now and forever.