The elderly friend across the miles, is joining me in reading more of St. Catherine of Siena. She is reading the biography by Catherine's spiritual father; I dug around in a book box in the pole barn and chose an out-of-print find located in a bookstore in England (via internet order). The author is Norwegian who wrote this biography while living in Siena and retracing Catherine's steps, staying in a house 200 paces from Catherine's family domicile.
Already the reading is helping in my strength and resolve. Was it coincidence that the author, in the preface, mentioned that Catherine died at age 33--brought down by the heavy burden of the Church which she carried. Ah, immediately I thought of the stones--the many cold stones that overwhelmed me yesterday morning, and from which I departed. But their effect did not leave me these two days, so what good was it to flee other than to bear the weight of the stones all the more in my mind and heart and suffering body?
In the first 32 pages of this biography, Catherine has reminded me through some of her actions, events and visions, of passages in my own life I had forgotten--vivid images in dreams and visions, in which suffering was offered me by Jesus, or by an angel, or by Mary--and I each time accepted. Then there was the vision dream I had totally forgotten, of being prepared in a bridal gown by Mary. This was within the first two years of my being a Catholic.
The past 19 years now are not seeming so horrible, although suffering and pain riddle them and me. But I am being reminded of the offering and of my acceptance and return offering, many times over. Jesus tends to appeal in ways that one cannot refuse--or is unlikely to--and the suffering at the time of His appearance and beckoning, seems not so daunting. In reality of it, later, however, the suffering is immense; the soul is brought down, the mind befuddled by pain. The visions and dreams and locutions are crushed from immediate recall, but His Real Presence and His angels and His saints come through with any small gesture in His direction.
For me, this afternoon, it was finally walking to the pole barn and moving windows and wood to get to the book boxes, and finding in the third box opened, a selection of Catherine of Siena biographies from which to choose. I at least had enough presence to know to pray and let the Spirit guide the choice, and thus this particular, old volume of which the first section is titled "Solitude." That seemed the hook, the appeal, the answer to what some of my current weariness incurs.
Much solitude--even and maybe especially upon the attempt to return to Mass, for there is no such solitude quite like being amidst other Catholics in Church, inches from them, passing them to and from the chapel, their greeting warmly one another but stoning me with cold isolation. (I had first written stoning me to death, but I am not dead. No, they shall not stone me to death. This is another test, and whether or not I am to be an immolation in their midst or be an immolation in solitude here at the hermitage, such as it is, I will be an immolation and bear the weight of the stones, either way.)
I had forgotten about Catherine's little cell at home, 15x10 feet, a little larger than this room, and with no more furniture than in this room here at Te Deum, where is the twin bed--the only place in the house to sit or recline, at least thus far. The descriptions help. I feel Catherine's strength of purpose and determination entering my heart, mind and soul. I am reminded of purpose and of trusting in what I have been shown mystically.
Also, her state during Mass was described, as well as the state St. Brigid of Sweden experienced (which is more like the one I experience). Catherine's included body rigidity, but Brigid's and what I experience share the total cessation of bodily function; the soul is lifted away other than when drawn back by some temporal intrusion.
Another statement the author includes in this biography has to do with what Catherine endured when speaking out the truth of what she was shown of some wrongs. Yes, I am thankful that in what seemed my final hours of faith and endurance, I was given the impetus to dig out the book and then to begin reading. I have my elderly friend to thank, via her email letting me know she had started reading her volume on Catherine's life.
Help has arrived. The stones seem not so cold and hard, or at least are as they are with no power over me. I must not let them weigh upon me or get me down. They are only hardened by fear and cold by choice. But I will continue seeking His will as to what immolation He desires, there, or here--solitude either way.
God bless His Real Presence in us; and, little children, let us love one another. Honestly, I have always had a great fondness for stones. They attract me. I love to dig them from the ground and have piles of them around the grounds here, hoping to make a cobblestone pathway at some point.