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  • Writer's pictureFr. Scott Haynes

The Reward of Love

Fr. Scott A. Haynes


A Meditation on the Feast of St. Catherine of Sienna

April 30



In her Dialogues, St. Catherine of Siena shares wise words with us. These are words which should be heard well by those who have responsibility for celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass:

"You are rewarded not according to your work or your time but according to the measure of your love." (Dialogue 165)

Those who hold great love for the Sacred Liturgy of the Church know well the transformative power of caritas. The Priest must create the proper atmosphere of sacred worship. The priest sets the tone. He chooses the key. But the work of the organist and choir, the sacristan and servers, and those who play any role in the preserving the sacred atmosphere for the Divine Liturgy should reflect upon the words of St. Catherine.

 

If the priest celebrates Mass with faith, reverence and holy fear, everyone involved in the act of worship, from the altar boy with the runny nose to the alto with the red hair on the second row, will be mystically drawn into the holy of holies and bow down to sing with the saints, the angels and all the company of heaven, from the depths of the soul,

Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus.

 

When we obediently celebrate the Mass according to the rubrics and ceremony of the Church, we will decrease so that Christ may increase. As St. Catherine says:

"Love transforms one into what one loves."  (Dialogue 60.)

 

As you know, St. Catherine of Sienna is one of the greatest mystics of the Church. It was in a mystic vision, before St. John the Evangelist, St. Paul, St. Dominic and the Holy Patriarch David, that the Blessed Virgin Mary asked her beloved Son to espouse Catherine to Himself. As a token of this heavenly wedding Our Lord gave St. Catherine a ring. By the end of her life St. Catherine of Sienna was perfectly conformed to Christ by this mystery of vicarious suffering. The possibility of suffering for others is a necessary consequence of the teaching on the Mystical Body given by St. Paul the Apostle, who could say of himself that he filled up in his body what was lacking in the sufferings of Christ.


For the sufferings of the mystics, like St. Catherine, are in a real sense the extension of the Passion of Our Lord, and the redemptive power accorded to them by Divine Love is part of the great redemptive process, perfectly accomplished by the author of our Redemption on the Cross, yet mystically “filled up” in the sufferings of the members of His Body, which is the Church.

 

Our Lord once said to St. Catherine:

“You cannot offer to me the water without the vase, [because] the empty vase would be of no use to me.” 

The water of suffering must be offered to the Lord in the vase of the body. Understand that we must unite the suffering of our bodies and souls to Christ’s suffering on the Cross. If we refuse Him this, we are a useless vase.

 

The last months of St. Catherine’s life were a slow crucifixion in which she, purified of her own faults, could offer the sufferings of her soul and body in expiation of the Church Militant.  Just before her death, she saw a sign of her impending death. She felt the ship of the Church resting on her shoulders and fainted underneath the weight.

 

The last Lent of her life she went to Mass each day at dawn. At the hour of Terce she went to St. Peter’s, where she would pray until Vespers, thus fulfilling in her own words:

"When I depart out of the body I shall truly have consumed and given my life in the Church and for the Church."

 

St. Catherine’s death was a consummation of her mystical life, and if the outpouring of her blood was denied her in a bloody martyrdom, she certainly poured out her life mystically as an acceptable offering and a pleasing victim.

 

In Scripture we hear Christ tell us:

"I am the vine, you are the branches." 

The Blood of Christ which flowed into the branch of St. Catherine’s life helped renew the Church. And she profoundly understood Christ’s words,

"Without me you can do nothing." 

Because Catherine felt the Blood of Christ beating in her own heart, she was invigorated with such remarkable courage that she suffered immeasurably for the Church as an innocent victim. Given the downward spiral of modern culture and society should we not expect to suffer for our Catholic faith as victims for Christ?

 

St. Catherine has taught us:

"Love transforms [us] into what [we] love."  (Dialogue 60.)

The world loves the seven deadly sins. But let us love the seven sacraments. The world loves the false madonna of sensuality but we love the Madonna who is immaculate, pure and inviolate. The world pollutes art, poetry and music with vulgarities, but we honor God with sacred and biblical songs, with the perfect poetry of the psalter and with art which transports the soul to heaven. If we are to be transformed into what we love then let us love Christ without measure. Amen.

 

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