|Giovanni di Paolo: St. Catherine and the beggar"|
Among the most well-known and loved Dominican Saints, is Saint Catherine of Siena, Doctor of the Church and Patron Saint of Europe, celebrated on 29 April.
Her life and work show among other things that a deep contemplative prayer life is not incompatible with action and engagement in social and ecclesial affairs, for the good of others.
In Catherine's prayers and her spiritual work The Dialogue, we find proclamation and praise of the mercy of God which she herself has experienced and come to know in her own life and mystical experience. She is also a good example of one who practiced the works of mercy: feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked and sheltering the homeless, visiting prisoners and caring for the sick. She forgave and bore wrongs patiently. She gave counsel, instruction and comfort to all who needed it, and interceded passionately for the Church and the world.
We present here a passage from the Dialogue, in praise of God's infinite mercy:
Then that soul stood before God as if intoxicated and, unable to restrain herself, she said:
O eternal Mercy, you who cover over your creatures’ faults! It does not surprise me that you say of those who leave deadly sin behind and return to you: “I will not remember that you had ever offended me.” O unspeakable mercy! I am not surprised that you speak so to those who forsake sin, when you say of those who persecute you: “I want you to pray to me for them so that I can be merciful to them.” What mercy comes forth from your Godhead, eternal Father, to rule the whole world with your power!
By your mercy we were created. And by your mercy we were created anew in your Son’s blood. It is your mercy that preserves us. Your mercy made your Son play death against life and life against death on the wood of the cross. In him life confounded the death that is our sin, even while that same death of sin robbed the spotless Lamb of his bodily life. But who was conquered? Death! And how? By your mercy!
Your mercy is life-giving. It is the light in which both the upright and sinners discover your goodness. Your mercy shines forth in your saints in the height of heaven. And if I turn to this earth, your mercy is everywhere. Even in the darkness of hell your mercy shines, for you do not punish the damned as much as they deserve.
You temper your justice with mercy. In mercy you cleansed us in your blood; in mercy you kept company with your creatures. O mad lover! It was not enough for you to take on our humanity: You had to die as well! Nor was death enough: You descended to the depths to summon our ancestors and fulfil your truth and mercy in them. Your goodness promises good to those who serve you in truth, so you went to call these servants of yours from their suffering to reward them for their labours!
I see your mercy pressing you to give us even more when you leave yourself with us as food to strengthen our weakness, so that we foolish forgetful creatures should be forever reminded of your goodness. Every day you give us this food, showing us yourself in the sacrament of the altar within the mystic body of holy Church. And what has done this? Your mercy.
O Mercy! My heart is engulfed in the thought of you! For wherever I turn my thoughts I find nothing but mercy. O eternal Father, forgive my foolish presumption in babbling on so before you - but your merciful love is my excuse in the presence of your kindness.
(The Dialogue 30, translation Suzanne Noffke OP)