Saturday, January 26, 2008

Wisdom from... [26 Jan.]

Catherine of Siena** (1347-1380): Fall in love with true virtue

It is up to us to use the freedom we have been given to choose life or death. So I beg you as lovingly and tenderly as I can to be the sort of flower that breathes out a fragrance before God and for those in your care. Be a true shepherd, ready to give your life for your sheep. Correct vice and strengthen the virtuous in doing good. The failure to correct causes decay just as surely as does a gangrenous organ in the human body. Keep a watchful eye on yourself and on those in your care. Don't think it harsh to root out the thorns; the fruit will be far sweeter than the effort is bitter.

Consider God's ineffable love for your salvation; open your eyes and you see his boundless blessings and gifts. Is there a greater love than to give one's life for one's friends? How much more deserving of praise is the one who gave his life for his enemies! So let our hearts be on the defensive no longer, but let hardness be driven out and let these hearts not be stone forever. Let that binding chain be broken with which the devil so often keeps us bound. The power of holy desire, scorn for vice, and love for virtue will break all these bonds. Fall in love with virtue; its effect is the opposite of that of vice, because sin brings bitterness while virtue brings sweetness and even in this life a foretaste of the next.
(Letter 10, from The Letters of Saint Catherine of Siena, Suzanne Noffke, O.P., volume 1, Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies, 1988, 57-58.)

St. Catherine served the people of Siena with her good works and the Church at large with her peacemaking.

ST AUGUSTINE: Renewed by Love

People are renewed by love. As sinful desire ages them, so love rejuvenates them. Enmeshed in the toils of his desires the psalmist laments: "I have grown old surrounded by my enemies."

Love, on the other hand, is the sign of our renewal as we know from the Lord's own words: "I give you a new commandment--love one another."
-- Sermon 350A, 21

Prayer. Lord, those who are bowed down with burdens you lift up, and they do not fall because you are their support.
-- Confessions 11, 31


We must have a good opinion of those we see practicing virtues, even though imperfectly, since we know that the saints themselves have often practiced them in this manner. As for ourselves, we must be careful to practice virtues not only faithfully but prudently. To this purpose we must strictly follow the advice of men, not to rely on our own prudence but on the judgment of those whom God has given us for direction.
(INT. Part III, Ch. 2; O. III, p. 131)


'I AM staring,' said MacIan at last, 'at that which shall judge us both.'

'Oh yes,' said Turnbull in a tired way; 'I suppose you mean God.'

'No, I don't,' said MacIan, shaking his head, 'I mean him.' And he pointed to the half-tipsy yokel who was ploughing, down the road. 'I mean him. He goes out in the early dawn; he digs or he ploughs a field. Then he comes back and drinks ale, and then he sings a song. All your philosophies and political systems are young compared to him. All your hoary cathedrals -- yes, even the Eternal Church on earth is new compared to him. The most mouldering gods in the British Museum are new facts beside him. It is he who in the end shall judge us all. I am going to ask him which of us is right.'

'Ask that intoxicated turnip-eater?'

'Yes -- which of us is right. Oh, you have long words and I have long words; and I talk of every man being the image of God; and you talk of every man being a citizen and enlightened enough to govern. But, if every man typifies God, there is God. If every man is an enlightened citizen, there is your enlightened citizen. The first man one meets is always man. Let us catch him up.'
('The Ball and the Cross')

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