The Mystical Marriage of Saint Catherine of Siena
As Jesus was speaking, His mother entered the room. With her were St. John the Apostle, St. Paul, Saint Dominic, and King David.
We can see David dancing as he joyously accompanied them with his harp. Catherine’s walk, as with the other Saints we have studied, male and female, was to Jesus through His mother. Mother Mary took Catherine by the arm and gently placed the young virgin’s hand into the Hand of her Son, our Lord Jesus, asking Him humbly, and ceremoniously, to take Catherine to Himself, in the Holiest of Matrimony. Jesus, the Most Handsome Bridegroom, smiling with only His Blinding Smile, took Catherine’s hand and placed on her finger, a gold ring with the purest pearls surrounding a brilliant diamond, which danced and glittered like the Star in the East must have the night He was born.
“There. I marry you to Me in faith, to Me, your Creator and Savior. Keep this faith unspotted until you come to Me in Heaven and celebrate the marriage that has no end. From this time forward, daughter, act firmly and decisively in everything that in My Providence I shall ask you to do. Armed as you are with the strength of faith, you will overcome all your enemies and be happy.”
Having spoken, Jesus, with His Mother and the heavenly witnesses, left Catherine. With her ring as proof she had really been married to Her One True Love (although she was the only one who could see it), Catherine was strengthened to withstand all the persecution that lay ahead. She shamefully admitted that even she was not able to see the ring, when she had offended her Lord and needed to go to confession. I wonder how many gifts we cannot see, because believing the evil one and his lie that there is no sin, we are in a state of sin and no longer have that gift of peace and joy, that comes from Reconciliation with the Lord.
Catherine did as most newlyweds do, except the faraway place, she chose for their honeymoon, was not one of a romantic spot on some deserted island, but it was an island, quiet, with no one or nothing to distract her from learning from her Spouse. She listened and asked questions, her whole mind and heart intent on what wisdom the Master was imparting to her, His Bride. She achieved her greatest moment of unity with Jesus after she received Him in the Eucharist. At that moment, when Jesus was physically Present to Catherine, she felt her soul soaring up to Heaven, experiencing all the exquisite wonders there, with the Lord as her Guide and Host.18
But as we mortals know, honeymoons come to an end. In Marriage Encounter7, we learn first there is the courtship, then the honeymoon, then the disillusionment, then the living out of the Sacrament of Matrimony. Catherine’s honeymoon, not unlike ours, had to come to an end, so their new life could begin.
One afternoon, Jesus spoke to Catherine of the future, how He wanted her to live out the two most special commandments He had given us, to love God and to love neighbor. The second was the hard one. She had been so happy loving Him. There was one fear she had, which had always held her back from any human relationships; that was loving humans at the expense of being wholly faithful to her Lord. As we know, we can trust in God, but humans are only too willing to show us we cannot trust in them. This was probably another major stumbling block she envisioned, as He gently laid out His Plan, His Work for her. She thought of the possible rejection. She protested that she did not know how to love her neighbor. She had kept that love for her Lord safely tucked away, just for Him, from the first time He had appeared to her when she was six years old. She had forgotten her great capacity to love her brothers and sisters, how they and their souls had been a priority to her. He playfully reminded her of her desire “of disguising yourself as a man so you could become a Friar Preacher and go off to teach My truth.”
Like Mother Mary before her, she was not doubting our Lord, but asking as a woman, how could this come about. “I am a woman and ignorant.”
Her question, logical in the eyes of the world, was answered by the super logic of the Lord, “In My Eyes there is neither male nor female, rich or poor, but all are equal, for I can do all things with equal ease. I spread abroad the grace of My Spirit where I will.”
It wasn’t lack of faith that He could do it, but, how. After all, she was a woman, and women could not walk alone on the streets; she, like other women had not been formally educated, except in household duties; who would listen to her, a woman, especially in matters men have reserved as their business.
I wonder if the Lord was not smiling more than a little lovingly at this gentle dove that was to become a powerful woman in the Church; and more than a little sadly, at the words he was about to 19 say,
I realize that you do not speak from lack of faith but from humility. Therefore you must know that in these latter days there has been such a surge of pride, especially in the case of men who imagine themselves to be learned or wise, that My justice cannot endure them any longer. To confound their arrogance, I will raise up women, ignorant and frail by nature, but endowed with strength and wisdom. For it is only just that those who try to exalt themselves should be humbled. Therefore be brave and obedient when I send you out among people. Wherever you go I will not forsake you, I will be with you, as is My custom, and will guide you in all that you are to do.”
Catherine started to obey the Lord’s command by eating with the family. As she had not eaten in years, real food repulsed her and she ended up serving them instead. After so many years of solitude, the normal noise of family eating, talking, laughing and arguing would have been almost unbearable, had it not been for the Lord.
Communicating with her family was a little intimidating at first, especially with her brothers who had mocked her. But she could not keep the love and knowledge she had been given by our Lord to herself, so she started to inadvertently teach her family. The dinner table started to collect first relatives and then friends of relatives, until throngs of people came just to hear Catherine’s teachings. Her favorites, like ours, were the young, enthusiastically seeking the Lord. They got caught up in her obvious love and excitement for the Lord and became like holy sponges, sopping up all that poured forth from her. A little group started to form around Catherine. Her cell or room was no longer a refuge where she could be alone with her Lord. It seemed, alone was something she was not to be anymore. The little group of Dominican Priests, some of the Mantellate, and her sister-in-law, congregated not only to hear Catherine teach, but they prayed together, sang and shared together, their dreams and disappointments; they became friends.
Bob and Penny Lord