Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Catherine of Siena a Pal

This nothing Catholic hermit is reading more of an obscure biography of Catherine of Siena.  It is helpful to find older volumes which are well-researched and filled with details. These provide more accurate and in depth knowledge of the times and lives of people who can be great friends and guides along the spiritual journey.

She had a state occur during Mass, for example.  She would lose her faculties, and people resented it.  Some would pinch her repeatedly trying to "awaken" her from what they assumed rude sleeping or fake experience.  She was also shoved plenty of times.  The other women in the secular Dominican group she joined and wore the Third-order habit, did not appreciate her being in their group. She was younger, very spiritual, and fresh in her devotion.

One time during Mass when she was in her state, unable to move or react, two men lifted her up, hauled her out of the church, and dumped her outside along the street.  Others came along and kicked her seeming lifeless form.  She did have a priest  who was also a relative as someone she could talk with, and she had later a spiritual director who wrote the most prevalent biography of her life, still in print.

She lived like a hermit in her parents' home after having been punished by them in an attempt to get her to agree to marrying.  They also wanted her to give up religious practices which seemed to them quite severe.  They treated her as a slave for a time period, but her father witnessed a spiritual phenomenon and realized she truly was called by God to be His own.  It was then that her father announced to his wife and her siblings that she was to be allowed henceforth all leeway in her religious practices and devotions. 

Thus, she became like a hermit and spent hours in solitude and silence in a small room she took as her cell.  She had only a small couch upon which to sit or recline.  She ate her small meal portions there but increasingly honed her appetite to eating very little.  She communed with Jesus and other holy souls, including the Virgin Mary, and she lived with her visions and dreams and locutions.  She also detached greatly from family members as she realized Jesus' words in Scripture had a literal and spiritual impact, that of being willing to depart from others, even mother and father, in order to follow Jesus.  In her case, she detached emotionally more than physically, although she was rarely seen by household members during her hermit-type, solitary phase.

One message regarding suffering is quite helpful--besides the great statement Jesus made to her that she is nothing and He Is All.  As for pain, Jesus told her that it is not the pain that pleases Him, but rather it is the willingness of a soul to endure pain with fortitude, that pleases Him.

All these aspects and more, are so helpful in knowing one is not alone in the midst of trials, suffering, and adapting to one's vocation of the hermit life and of suffering.  Even Catherine's dealing with mystical phenomenon and the reactions of others, is most helpful to recognize and ponder in relationship to human interaction among those who have a distinct calling that requires stricter separation from the temporal aspects of the secular and church world.

Another interesting fact is that the author of this particular volume on Catherine's life, points out several others in the history of the church who were given glimpses of the two worlds--the temporal and the mystical.  Some referred to them as the two cities, or the two realms, or the two loves, or the two paths.  They are the reality of the two ways within our spiritual lives which are actualities of temporal and spiritual, and that the temporal is always passing away.  

The temporal can become a hindrance to the spiritual growth of the soul; however we are temporal beings and spiritual beings, both.  The admonitions of Jesus, though, are to seek to find and exist in the spiritual and not succumb to the temporal as dominate, for it is passing, and we are called to heaven on earth.  We are called to the spiritual forever.

Thus, the two worlds:  the temporal Catholic world and the mystical Catholic world are nothing more than the realities of which others all through the centuries have been given insight and called by various terms, by those who the Church has elevated and deemed saints.  These realities and terms designating the two aspects of our lives and our spirits, and of which we are to not succumb and that of which we are to seek, is nothing new.  The temporal exists and yet should always yield and flow into the spiritual, which should predominate.

As for vocations, it always seems best when one is called by God and answers His call.  Catherine did struggle with her vocation and had great temptations to the married life, within herself.  Yet she overcame the thoughts and the desires.  She was adamant to her parents that she did not want any other spouse than Jesus; but the devil did torment her, and she often had desires for husband and children up to a certain point in her spiritual journey.  She did much violence to herself in order to conquer many distractions and temporal desires she did experience, even if not publicized much.

Digging deeper into the lived temporal and spiritual lives of people who have since been considered holy souls, provides us with greater understanding.  The puzzle pieces of our own lives can better fall into place.  We have consolation and encouragement to persevere and not doubt.  We gain fortitude in pressing on.  We place ourselves all the more in His Real Presence and away from the scrutiny of others who are also yet struggling with their own spiritual journeys and who are not within our bodies, minds, hearts or spirits to begin to grasp or make judgments.

Catherine and others who have lived, struggled, doubted, and yet endured with fortitude the sufferings and the criticisms, and died leaving details enough to encourage those of us called in our distinctive spiritual journeys, are inspired friends speaking to us in the Order of the Present Moment.

Now, this nothing, this nothing Catholic hermit, must rise and bundle, for the desert chill has increased each night and morning, and the manual labor must progress along with a hermit's prayers and loving devotion to His Real Presence.

God bless His Real Presence in us!  Little children, let us love one another for love is of God!

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