St. Catherine of Siena is one of the four female Doctors of the Church, and her feast is celebrated on April 29th. From childhood, she experienced mystical revelations that drew her closer to God. The Life of St. Catherine of Siena written by her spiritual director, Blessed Raymond of Capua, captures many of these events throughout her life of thirty-three years.
Most notably, she was mystically wedded to Our Lord after joining the Dominicans as a tertiary. Her experience provided the witnesses of St. John the Evangelist, the Apostle Paul, St. Dominic, and King David courteously playing music on his harp. Our Lady graciously took her hand giving Catherine to her Son. Married to Jesus “in faith,” He gave her a gold ring with four pearls encircling a diamond. This ring was visible only to St. Catherine, and it held great meaning. The diamond symbolized strength and faithfulness to Our Lord, while the four pearls represented “purity of intention, purity of thought, purity of word, and purity of deed,” according to Blessed Raymond.
This mystical experience is one of many that occurred throughout St. Catherine of Siena’s life. She struggled with temptations, fought devils, and was persecuted by a woman she nursed. She wrote many letters to priests, bishops, political leaders, and even the Pope. Due to her request, Pope Gregory XI returned the papacy to Rome, Italy leaving his seat at Avignon, France.
A woman of remarkable strength and ability, it is fitting to examine her most intimate work, The Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena. Broken into treatises, this book details the revelations St. Catherine received in her intimate conversations with Our Lord. Each treatise serves a purpose to show how the soul can deepen dialogue with Christ, better understand Our Lord, and implement intimacy with God in one’s spiritual life.
The Treatise of Divine Providence first welcomes one to embrace how love of God and neighbor are intertwined in the spiritual life.
A Treatise of Discretion invites one to contemplate how this life impacts the spiritual world and to better understand Christ through the teachings of His Catholic Church. Questions proposed by Christ, such as, “Knowest thou how I manifest Myself to the soul who loves Me in truth, and follows the doctrine of My sweet and amorous Word?” call the soul to unity in Christ.
A Treatise of Prayer follows the aforementioned writings aiding the soul “to arrive at pure and generous love.” The revelations cradled on its pages cultivate true prayer and total surrender to God.
Finally, a Treatise of Obedience closes St. Catherine’s dialogue reminding one that to love God requires sacrifice. Obedience leads the soul to not only understanding this sacrificial love, but to implementing it in one’s spiritual life.
The depth which The Dialogue maintains is not to be taken for granted, but for today’s souls it is a tool left to us to study, contemplate, and cultivate in our own lives how St. Catherine of Siena’s revelations can lead us to better understand and love Christ. We may not all have mystical experiences like this great Doctor of the Church; however, we can seize the wisdom she has left behind to enrich our own spiritual lives and the lives of others. St. Catherine of Siena’s life and her Dialogue simultaneously provide a glimpse into the past and the future. Her story is not only a history of what was, but it is also a story of what we hope to one day come — total union with Christ in Heaven.