Spiritual Surgeons—St. Catherine of Siena



Healthcare has become a hot-button issue over the past several years. Is it a privilege or a natural human right? Should you vaccinate your children or allow their body’s immune system to fend off diseases naturally? Is surgery better or experimental non-evasive treatment better? The list of questions go on and on. Because I am not a doctor, I will not be discussing healing of the body in this article. Instead, as a Catholic and student of theology, I will examine the best practices to combat spiritual sickness—sin!

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1501,

Illness can lead to anguish, self-absorption, sometimes even despair and revolt against God. It can also make a person more nature, helping him discern in his life what is not essential so that he can turn toward that which is. Very often illness provokes a search for God and a return to him.

Icon of Christ the Divine Physician

A common title given to Jesus is Divine Physician because he heals humanity from sin and death. While our ultimate trust focus on God as healer of souls, He has employed various men and women over the centuries to stand as great witnesses to the truth. Such saints are called Doctors of the Church.

Not to be confused with medical doctors, Doctors of the Church are, “certain saints whose writing or preaching is outstanding for guiding the faithful in all periods of the Church’s history (https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/dictionary/index.cfm?id=33180). To view a complete and detailed list of all saints with this honor please refer to Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio’s Doctors of the Catholic ChurchComplete List in the related sources section as the end of this post!

Working for God

Saints Work for the Divine Doctor

Because of the incredible need for healing and hope in this fallen world, today will mark the beginning of a weekly blog series Spiritual SurgeonsCo-workers with the Divine Physician. Every week we will focus on a different saint. We will examine key themes and advice from their writings to help us root out sin and grow in our relationship with God and neighbor. St. Catherine of Siena will be the focus of this inaugural Spiritual Surgeons installment.

Corruption of Sin

Catherine lived in the 14th century during a period of grave clergy corruption. She famously wrote to Pope Gregory XI urging him to return to Rome and clean up the abuses going on within the Catholic Church hierarchy. At that time, the papacy succumbed to the powers of the world (France) and the pope lived in Avignon to appease the French rulers. Catherine petitioned to the pope by declaring,  “But, I hope, by the goodness of God that you will pay more heed to His honour and the safety of your own flock than to yourself, like a good shepherd, who ought to lay down his life for his sheep” (Letter to Gregory XI). Her brave and consistent witness to the Truth even against those in power brings us hope.

Cleansing fire

Furnace of Divine Love

Along with Catherine’s teaching on the corruption of sin, she teaches sin decays the soul. Similar to how disease infects the body, so too, sin infects the soul. Physical surgery involves pain. Both in the actual procedure and the healing process afterwards. Spiritual surgery necessarily contains suffering as well. St. Catherine’s remedy includes the fire of God’s love.

Catherine warns against non-evasive spiritual treatments in fighting sin. According the Sienese saint in a letter to Pope Gregory XI, “If a wound when necessary is not cauterized or cut out with steel, but simply covered with ointment, not only does it fail to heal, but it infects everything, and many a time death follows from it.”  Her advice matches what Jesus taught on the Sermon of the Mount. In Matthew 5:29-30,

If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away.s It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go to Gehenna.

Purification by Flames

Fire acts as a destructive or purifying agent. Catherine speaks of God’s love as a fire cleansing the soul from sin. The word fire occurs 94 times in The Dialogues of St. Catherine. Phrases such as fire of Divine love and fire of Divine charity occur 5 and 3 times respectively. Although the first man muddied himself with the disobedience of sin, Catherine reminds us that God became man to show us the path of salvation. She wrote in her Dialogues, 

So that each man has in his own person that very same key which the Word had, and if a man does not unlock in the light of faith, and with the hand of love the gate of heaven by means of this key, he never will enter there, in spite of its having been opened by the Word; for though I created you without yourselves, I will not save you without yourselves. Wherefore you must take the key in your hand and walk by the doctrine of My Word, and not remain seated, that is to say, placing your love in finite things, as do foolish men who follow the first man, their first father, following his example, and casting the key of obedience into the mud of impurity, breaking it with the hammer of pride, rusting it with self-love. It would have been entirely destroyed had not My only-begotten Son, the Word, come and taken this key of obedience in His hands and purified it in the fire of divine love, having drawn it out of the mud, and cleansed it with His blood, and straightened it with the knife of justice, and hammered your iniquities into shape on the anvil of His own body.

Catherine of Siena

Catherine of Siena lived a profoundly holy life of faith. Her ability to correct clerical abuses with charity was second to none. According to St. Pope John Paul II in his Apostolic Letter Three Co-patronesses of Europe,  “Catherine addressed churchmen of every rank, demanding of them the most exacting integrity in their personal lives and their pastoral ministry. The uninhibited, powerful and incisive tone in which she admonished priests, Bishops and Cardinals is quite striking.” Learning from this great Doctor of the Church not only deepened my knowledge about God, but strengthened my personal relationship with God.

Related Resources

https://www.ewtn.com/library/papaldoc/jp2ptrns.htm

https://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/media/articles/doctors-of-the-catholic-church/

Advertisements
Thank you for sharing!

Why Catholics Must Have Bible A.D.D Part 11—Jonah and Jesus

bible a love story

According to Christian pastor Rick Warren, “The Bible also tells one story with consistency. It was written over a 1,500-year time span, on three continents, and by 40 authors people from every walk of life, like kings, shepherds, fishermen, and tax collectors. Yet the Bible tells one story from beginning to end: God’s love and salvation for man and how he came into this world through Jesus Christ” I used to teach high school Old and New Testament. Among the various difficulties students had with understanding the Bible this obstacle stood out—why it is so difficult to read!

As a cradle Catholic, I was used to hearing the Old and New Testament readings every week. I took for granted that gift that my parents gave me—the ability to attend Sunday liturgy frequently. Those students that struggled admitted they did not attend Sunday worship weekly.

explain simply michael scott

In order to teach my students, I needed to educate how the Catholic Church did. How exactly does the Catholic Church illuminate the meaning of the Bible to the average believer? Simply, put there the usage of contextual reading. Every Sunday Catholic Mass contains a First Reading, Second Reading, and a Gospel reading. Most of the First readings come from the Old Testament (the big exception is the Easter Season). The second reading usually is a letter of St. Paul, and the Gospel reading rotates between the three Synoptic accounts (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) with John scattered throughout.

Because I flipped to the New Testament as I taught the Old Testament course and vice versa, my students questioned that method. I whimiscally retorted, “I ensure you I do not have Bible ADD. I just want to show how the Old Testament prepares us for the New Testament and how the New Testament fulfills the Old Testaments!” Coining the phrase “Bible ADD” helped my students remember the importance of always looking to the Scriptures as a whole.

context matters

It has been almost two years since I last had an addition to the Why Catholics Must Have Bible A.D.D series. My plan moving forward is have this be a weekly feature in my blog. Today’s topic will look at the connections between the Old Testament prophet Jonah and Jesus. First I want to briefly review the three main criteria Catholics interpret Scripture.

Criteria to Read the Bible

The Catechism of the Catholic Church provides the following criteria to read the Bible:


 

  1.  Be especially attentive “to the content and unity of the whole Scripture”. Different as the books which compose it may be, Scripture is a unity by reason of the unity of God’s plan, of which Christ Jesus is the center and heart, open since his Passover.79 (CCC 112)
The phrase “heart of Christ” can refer to Sacred Scripture, which makes known his heart, closed before the Passion, as the Scripture was obscure. But the Scripture has been opened since the Passion; since those who from then on have understood it, consider and discern in what way the prophecies must be interpreted.80
2. Read the Scripture within “the living Tradition of the whole Church”. According to a saying of the Fathers, Sacred Scripture is written principally in the Church’s heart rather than in documents and records, for the Church carries in her Tradition the living memorial of God’s Word, and it is the Holy Spirit who gives her the spiritual interpretation of the Scripture (“. . . according to the spiritual meaning which the Spirit grants to the Church”81) (CCC 113).
 3. Be attentive to the analogy of faith.82 By “analogy of faith” we mean the coherence of the truths of faith among themselves and within the whole plan of Revelation (CCC 114).

Typology

According to the Catechism, “The Church, as early as apostolic times,104 and then constantly in her Tradition, has illuminated the unity of the divine plan in the two Testaments through typology, which discerns in God’s works of the Old Covenant prefigurations of what he accomplished in the fullness of time in the person of his incarnate Son.” Old Testament figures such as Jonah, read in the context of the New Testament, were seen as foreshadowing Jesus Christ.

Jonah as Type of Christ-like Figure

In Matthew 12:40 Jesus told the scribes and Pharisees, “Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights,* so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.” Jonah’s time in the belly of the whale represented a type of burial. His emergence from the whale (Jonah 2:11) marked a turning point in the prophet’s ministry—a spiritual renewal.

jonah and the whale

Another way Jonah prefigured Jesus relates to the number forty. St. Augustine in The City of God chapter 44 links the forty days of Jonah’s preaching to the Ninevites with Jesus’ forty days of preaching after his resurrection.

A third way the book of Jonah foreshadows God’s plan of salvation for all peoples. According to Stephen Beale in 9 Ways Jonah Prefigured Jesus, “Most of the prophets we encounter in the Old Testament are sent to convert Israel back to God. Jonah is one of the few sent to Gentiles (the Assyrians of Nineveh). In this, he foreshadows Christ’s own mission to Gentiles” (https://catholicexchange.com/9-ways-jonah-prefigured-jesus). Jesus urged his disciples to “Go, therefore,* and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit,20i teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (cf Matthew 28:19-20).

Conclusion

The Catechism teaches, “Typology indicates the dynamic movement toward the fulfillment of the divine plan when “God [will] be everything to everyone.”108 Nor do the calling of the patriarchs and the exodus from Egypt, for example, lose their own value in God’s plan, from the mere fact that they were intermediate stages.” While the original interpretation of Jonah is still meant to be an Old Testament prophet, a spiritual reading shows him to be a preparatory Christ-like figure. Reading the Bible takes discipline, patience, and faith. I will continue this series next week by examining how Old Testament women foreshadowed Mary. For your convenience I have included links to all previous installments of Why Catholics Must Have Bible A.D.D series in the related resources section. Thank you for following me on this journey through salvation history!

Related Resources

https://thesimplecatholic.blog/2015/06/15/why-catholics-must-have-bible-add-intro/

https://thesimplecatholic.blog/2017/03/28/why-catholics-must-have-bible-a-d-d-part-2-miracles-of-elisha-and-jesus/

https://thesimplecatholic.blog/2017/04/06/why-catholics-must-have-bible-a-d-d-part-3-creation-week-in-genesis-and-john/

https://thesimplecatholic.blog/2017/04/16/why-catholic-must-have-bible-a-d-d-part-4-jesus-as-the-new-passover-lamb/

https://thesimplecatholic.blog/2017/04/19/why-catholics-must-have-bible-a-d-d-part-5-war-of-the-serpent/

https://thesimplecatholic.blog/2017/05/10/why-catholics-must-have-bible-a-d-d-part-6-destructive-waters/

https://thesimplecatholic.blog/2017/05/19/why-catholics-must-have-bible-a-d-d-part-7-joshua-and-jesus/

https://thesimplecatholic.blog/2017/05/24/why-catholics-must-have-bible-a-d-d-part-8-joseph-and-jesus/

https://thesimplecatholic.blog/2017/05/31/why-catholics-must-have-bible-a-d-d-part-9-akedah-of-isaac-and-the-passion-of-christ/

https://thesimplecatholic.blog/2017/08/05/why-catholics-must-have-bible-a-d-d-part-10-elijah-and-john-the-baptist/

 

Thank you for sharing!

3 Joys You Can Experience Through Play

Yesterday I got to experience something for the first time in 2019playing catch with my oldest son! The type A personality that I have, I normally would schedule playtime or have certain parameters on the activity. This time felt different. Natural. Organic. Unplanned. Time ceased to exist.

Have you had such a serendipitous experience? Pregnant with possibilities, that playful experience with my son gave birth to so something I could not have created on my ownjoy! C.S. Lewis wrote, “Joy is never in our power and pleasure often is.”

Because joy does not originate from within us, we often hear joy referred to as an experience, a visit, or encounter. Along with the initial joy experienced playing catch with my kid I want to share three additional joys originating from the first: togetherness, collaboration, and simplicity.

Togetherness

The old adage “the apple does not fall few from the tree” applies 100% to my son and I. Every single person who has seen childhood pictures of me and see my son always say “Wow, Noah looks exactly like you!” Our similarities don’t end with the physically. My son acquired my strengths and weaknesses. Parenting him cause me to realize my own failings. I seek control of most situations. I like to be prepared. Such control stymies the possibility for the unexpected.

Playing catch provided an opportunity to simply spend time together. Togetherness without control. Togetherness not forced. Togetherness that also extended to myself and my other kids as wellwatching they go up and down the sidewalk on their bikes!

Collaboration

A second joy flowing from the simple activity of catch was collaboration. Collaboration has been a buzzword in the professional sphere, but it should be every part of domestic life too. According to St. John Paul II, “To maintain a joyful family requires much from both the parents and the children. Each member of the family has to become, in a special way, the servant of the others.

The joy found in playing catch reminded me of the joy in teamwork. Working together my son and I sought to catch the ball. Little words were exchanged, yet collaboration came forth organically. I experienced the joy of my son helping his siblings in need as well.

Simplicity

Chinese philosopher Confucius reasoned, “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” Through my pride I think I need to make the simplest things in life better with ‘complex innovations’.

The third joy I encountered through the joy of playtime with my son was simplicity. Simplicity is a joy because I realized life does not have to be perfect to be special. Simplifying play with only a ball and mitts led to an incredible spring morning. A morning that I will remember for the rest of my life.

Seek out the simple things in life. Be open to interruptions in your pre-planned day. If you allow the unexpected to occur God with grace you with immeasurable joys. Thank you Lord for the joy of togetherness, collaboration, and the simplicity of playing catch with my boy!

Thank you for sharing!