Thursday, March 4, 2010

A Letter from St. Catherine while I'm Recuperating

Because I have a terrible stomach virus, I will allow you to enjoy a letter written by my patroness, Catherine of Siena, to Pope Urban VI. Below is an excerpt introducing the letter with a link to the full text. She has the strength of her convictions with the gentleness of Jesus. What an amazing saint. Enjoy!


By this time Catherine has evidently more than an inkling of the character of the man she is addressing. Gregory had been, if anything, only too susceptible to influences from varying quarters: Urban's arbitrary and headstrong nature resented any interference. He was making extraordinary blunders in tact and policy; but woe to the audacious person who sought to point them out!

Catherine's letters to this new Pope, if less familiarly affectionate than those to the old, show the same amazing combination of candour and reverence. True to her constant principles in the interpretation of character, she insists on putting the best possible construction on his actions, ascribing his impatient vehemence and bad temper to a noble and partially impersonal cause. One suspects that Urban had lost his temper with poor Fra Bartolomeo because the friar had used too great freedom of speech rather than too little, as Catherine suggests. Despite her generosity, however, she can rebuke pungently enough, as this letter shows. On another occasion, we find her sending to Urban a tangible allegory in the form of bitter oranges, candied within and gilded without, doubtless by her own hands, with a pretty letter to point the moral. And again she wrote: "Mitigate a little, for the love of Christ crucified, those sudden impulses which nature forces on you. In holy virtue, throw nature aside. As God has given you a great heart naturally, so I beg and want you to make it great supernaturally: with zealous desire for virtue and the reform of Holy Church, do you establish the manly heart you have gained in true humility. In this way you will have both natural and supernatural gifts--for the one without the other would avail little, but would rather inspire us with wrath and pride: and when it came to correcting our intimates it would slacken its pace and become cowardly."

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