|The Patron Saint of Those Who Are Angry at the Pope.
The Memorial of Saint Catherine of Siena, Virgin & Doctor of the Church.
Lessons from the proper, according to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• I John 1: 5—2: 2.
• Psalm 103: 1-4, 8-9, 13-14, 17-18.
• Matthew 11: 25-30.
…or, lessons from the feria:
• Acts 15: 22-31.
• Psalm 57: 8-10, 12.
• John 15: 12-17.
The Third Class Feast of Saint Peter of Verona.*
Lessons from the common, according to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• II Timothy 2: 8-10; 3: 10-12.
• [The Gradual is omitted.]
• John 15: 1-7.
The Friday of the Samaritan Woman; the Feast of the Nine Holy Martyrs of Cyzice; and, the Feast of Our Venerable Father Memnon the Wonderworker.
Lessons from the pentecostarion, according to the Ruthenian recension of the Byzantine Rite:
• Acts 15: 5-34.
• John 10: 17-28.
8:55 AM 4/29/2016 — I've always had great affection for Saint Catherine of Siena, probably because I'm attracted to annoying people like they were kindred souls. And annoying she was to those who crossed her, be they priests or bishops or other nuns or even popes. She was also quite brilliant, even though she had no formal education; and, her spiritual writings were of such an influential nature on Pope Blessed Paul VI that he proclaimed her a Doctor of the Church, a title usually reserved for saints who were the most erudite of theologians. Pope Pius II, who canonized her, was of the opinion that her learning was not acquired, but infused, suggesting that she received her wisdom directly from God.
A lot of people make the mistake of believing she was a Dominican because she's often portrayed in devotional art as wearing a Dominican habit; in reality, she belonged to a community called the Sisters of Penance, who practiced a Dominican spirituality and borrowed the design of their habit from the Dominicans; in fact, if I'm not mistaken, the Dominicans actually claim her as their own as a tertiary, and they've gotten away with it for so many centuries that nobody challenges them on it.
She entered religious life at a very young age and, in response to a vision she received one day after taking Holy Communion, practiced a very strict austerity for the rest of her young life, until she went home to God in the year 1380 at the tender age of thirty-three. Many people are not aware that she was a stigmatist, and the reason they are not aware of that is because her stigmata was invisible: she did not have visible wounds that one could see, like Padre Pio or Saint Francis at the end of his life; her wounds could not be seen, but were just as painful; but, she never made a big deal about it, often simply concealing the fact from those around her.
But even the suffering of her stigmata didn't stop her from being annoying, especially to Pope Gregory XI. From 1309 to 1377, the popes had abandoned the city of Rome and lived under the untoward influence of the Kings of France. The little Missal I use to pray the Collect at the beginning of Mass has little three or four line biographies of the saint of the day, and the one for Saint Catherine is particularly sanitized: it says that she “was instrumental in the return of Pope Gregory XI from Avignon to Rome. In word and deed, she showed her love for God's Church and the Roman Pontiff.” Well, if she was showing love for the Roman Pontiff, it was definitely “tough love”; she badgered that poor man to the point that he just couldn't take it anymore, and returned the papacy to Rome probably just to get her off his back. And it was a good thing, too, because she knew what all the doctors of Canon Law in her day failed to understand: that a pope who isn't in Rome isn't really a pope. It's being the Bishop of Rome that makes a man pope; and, if we are of a mind to regard it a good thing that the Holy Father stands apart from politics and the influence of governments, we have Saint Catherine of Siena to thank for it.
Her memorial day is the perfect occasion to renew our dedication to the Holy Father and to pray for him. And her example, I think, is particularly prescient now, as we may find more reason to be critical of the Holy Father than at any other time in recent history. That being said, it's important to recognize how Saint Catherine got away with yelling and screaming at a pope: she got away with it because the holiness of her life was so obvious. The degree of penance she practiced in her daily life was so profound, that no theological argument could possibly speak as clearly as the example of her life. Pope Gregory could have easily ignored the arguments of some disgruntled nun with a degree in theology, but he couldn't argue with a saint; nobody can.
So, let us pray for the Holy Father, let us pray for the Church; and, if we are of a mind to be concerned for the state of our Church, for whatever reason, let's make sure we understand that the most important thing we can do for our Holy Father and for the Church is to unite ourselves to Christ in the Blessed Eucharist, and live our lives in union with Him.
* St. Peter of Verona was a famous preacher of the Dominican Order. From childhood he was conspicuous for his refutation of heretics and his singular innocence. He longed to die for the faith, and his prayer was heard in 1252.
In the extraordinary form, the Third Class Feast of St. Catherine of Siena is observed tomorrow.