What a valuable saint Catherine of Siena is for our times. In an age of constant criticism of our priests, bishops, and the Holy Father, let us learn from her some lessons.
Catherine had a unique relationship with the Pope and with priests and bishops. This relationship is perhaps what Catherine is most famous for in history, her work in bringing Pope Gregory XI back from the Avignon exile to where he should be and then in her task in establishing Urban VI in Rome as the legitimate pontiff.
Catherine saw the humanity of the popes firsthand, up close and personal, as it were. But she referred to the Pope as the “sweet Christ on earth,” always giving him reverence and respect while being able to gently chide and direct him. In the innocence of a baby daughter, she referred to the Pope as “my kindest daddy.” Can we think of Pope Francis like this?
Catherine loved her priests. She revered them. She recognized when they had fallen and failed, and she still revered the office and loved them individually. Catherine wanted her priests to be holy. She had a task given to her by Christ. The Lord told her: “Intervene to eliminate the stink of the ministers of the Holy Church; pull out the stinking flowers and plant scented plants, virtuous men who fear God.” How did she do it? By being a woman, by being a mother, by being a Sister.
This young nun feared no cleric. She chided and she challenged, sometimes gently, sometimes not, Christ’s priests. Listen to the words of “Dialogue of Divine Providence,” speaking of the dignity of the priesthood: “Oh dearest Daughter, I have told you all this so that you may better know the dignity I have conferred on my ministers, and that their misery may make you sadder. They are my anointed ones, and I call them my Christs, because I have given them my own self to administer to you. Angels do not have this dignity, and I have granted to men, to those whom I have appointed as my ministers.”
The priest’s task is higher than the angels, according to Catherine. Let’s follow Catherine’s example and pray for our priests!
As we approach the diocesan celebration of a Year for Vocations, let us appreciate the beauty of the Lord’s call to priesthood and resolve to help young people discern their proper roles and callings in life.