Santa Caterina da Siena

Sano di Pietro: St. Catherine of Siena drinking from the side wound of Christ, mid-15th century.

You, eternal Trinity, are the craftsman; and I your handiwork have come to know that you are in love with the beauty of what you have made, since you made of me a new creation in the blood of your Son. — St. Catherine’s Dialogue #167

St. Catherine of Siena’s feast is today! She is a very special saint for me, and for several of my lay Dominican friends. Let me share just one little nugget of her golden wisdom today.

Her spiritual director, Bl. Raymond of Capua, recounted a vision of Christ that Catherine had when she was at prayer. Jesus asked her, “Do you know daughter, who you are and who I am? If you know these two things you have happiness in your grasp.” Then the Lord continued, “You are she-who-is-not, I AM HE WHO IS.”


To acknowledge the radical contingency of being, that all of us at every moment absolutely depend on God for existence, is to have in place a firm foundation. If such is my vision, I must always live in a fundamental posture of grateful receptivity before God, aware at every moment that all is gift. And because the Giver of the gift is love in His deepest essence, love must come to define my life as the only fitting response. This also establishes in us the profound humility of a steward, makes the practice of prayer entirely natural, and reveals the Sacraments to be life-giving fountains from which HE WHO IS raises she-who-is-not up into His new creation. There, in a world conceived by the Heart of God, she even comes to share in His beginning-less eternity and limitless love.

As Pope Benedict XVI said:

Like St. Catherine, every believer must feel the need to be conformed with the sentiments of the heart of Christ to love God and his neighbour as Christ himself loves. And we can all let our hearts be transformed and learn to love like Christ in a familiarity with him that is nourished by prayer, by meditation on the Word of God and by the sacraments, above all by receiving Holy Communion frequently and with devotion.

After her vision of Christ, St. Catherine continued with a prayer that captures powerfully the beauty of this “HE WHO IS/she who is not” dialectic. May the prayer of St. Catherine become ours this day.

And you, high eternal Trinity, acted as if you were drunk with love, infatuated with your creature. When you saw that this tree could bear no fruit, but the fruit of death because it was cut off from you who are life, you came to rescue with the same love with which you created it. You engrafted your divinity into the dead tree of our humanity. What drove you to this to give back life to this creature of yours that had so insulted you? Only love. And was it enough for your charity to have effected such a union with your creatures? No. So you, eternal Word, watered this tree with your own Blood. Thanks, thanks to you, most high eternal Father, for revealing this truth – madly in love as you are with your creature.

13 comments on “Santa Caterina da Siena

  1. nos. says:

    I believe I have shared this story before on this site, if so I don’t apologize … several years ago I had stepped away from the faith due to the priest scandal … I stayed away for quite sometime… during this time I shared my anguish with our dear brother in CHRIST Micheal… over the next several months the HOLY SPIRIT used this holy man and you too Thomas,to realize that my anger was misguided and wrong… I was blaming the church rather than my own fallen nature…the proverbial sliver vs. the timber…Well the men of St. Joseph were planning a trip to conyers that micheal invited me on , I accepted… micheal made known to me that confession would be in the itinerary of our visit… I panicked… it so happened that I happened to be over at the Neal household doing some work for St. Patti. I shaxred with her my fear and the fact that I hadn’t been to confession for years and the filth that was on soul.. well she shared with me her premarital encounter with Fr. Kevin… she said she was just warming up when he stopped her and said Patti just the highlight just the highlights… she had me laughing and immediately at ease… fast forward to the confession line at conyers… I got in the back of the line fear again gripped me.. some one would join the line behind me and I would gesture them to move in front of me… what a coward I was… well Micheal was observing this and came up to me in line and said here I want you to take this in with you during your confession… it was his first relic of his favorite saint beloved St Catherine of Siena…I held out my hand and the moment it touched my Palm a great feeling of peace and joy filled me to overflowing… and the rest as they say is history… thank you Micheal for allowing GOD to use you so…and thank you St. Catherine for being she who is not…

    P.S.Thomas thank you again for this beautiful venue… P.P.S. tell St Patti thanks for the advice and the proof is not always in the details just ask fr. Kevin laughing out loud really hard…P.B.W.Y.A.A.

  2. Michael says:

    Dr. Neal,

    Thank you for this “post”! Very kind of you to create a special blog entry for St. Catherine.
    May you continue to be guided by our Holy “Mama” – St. Catherine.

    Another famous line from this wonderful Saint ” Be who you are called to be and you will set the world on fire.”

    Peace and blessings,

    Mr. Michael Pearson, O.P.

  3. Jennifer says:

    My heart is on the verge of bursting reading this! WOW! This makes me drunk. This tree analogy is incredible. Wow, wow, wow. Thank you for this gloriousness! I am in love. Praise Him!!!!!

    • How happy it makes me to know this post allowed that to happen in you, Jennifer!! May He sustain that love oo

      • Jennifer says:

        Well, this post just ties in so incredibly with what stood out to me from your post a few days ago (The Law of Love): this utter surrender to Him in the face of our nothingness looks like total immersion in love, to be a vessel of love, and that wonderfully, the fruit of this love is in loving those He has put in our lives, that reciprocating His love never means questioning whether we ought to love our near ones less so as to love Him more, but rather to wastefully love them is to full-out love Him. They aren’t competitive but synergistic. It’s all a wonderful, miraculous gift. You know what this makes me want to do now? You got it… laundry! (As usual it takes a strong theological argument to get me to joyously wash socks). Have a beautiful feast day and weekend with your loves, Doc. It’s Sean’s first communion on Sunday… He’s so enthusiastic to receive Our Lord! Say a prayer for him, please!

    • J:
      That is phenomenal about your son, Sean’s first Holy Communion! What a joyous day! We will pray for him.
      Thank you for your additional comments here — my favorite line was, of course:
      “As usual it takes a strong theological argument to get me to joyously wash socks”
      That’s what it’s all about. It ALL matters.
      Blessings, and thank you for the feast day wishes.
      God love you, DrT

  4. nos says:

    “Small scale. ” j may the HOLY SPIRIT take sean under his divine wings and always guide him according to the HOLY THREES will for him .. . My heart is full of joy and tears…it is with you and your wonderful husband and in GODS time catholic husband… JITIY… ALWAYS…

    • Jennifer says:

      Thank you so much for your prayers and your faith, NOS! My sweet Sean has actually declared many times he wants to become a priest so he can baptize his dad. He is so serious about it too. Makes me beam with joy and cry at the same time. God bless you, dear friend!

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