Thursday, April 29, 2010

Doctor Ecclesiae-Doctor of the Church

I gave a talk recently on St. Catherine of Siena, so once again I had to research the life and writings of this great saint. She was one of the women saints that I spoke about, a couple of weeks ago. As I was preparing for the talk, I thought to myself that I have to re-read the writings of these extraordinary women saints, whose lives have impacted so many, including me. Their writings are so rich, so filled with wisdom, love and truth that everytime I go back to them, I realize I've stayed away too long.
The first person to arrive the evening of my talk was a retired fire department lieutenant. To my surprise he knew a lot about St. Catherine of Siena and the other saints I was going to speak about. He had read many of the writings of the saints and he could have given the talk himself. Never underestimate the faithful! As you can imagine, he had a lot of good comments and contributed much to the discussion. 
In 1970, Pope Paul VI, declared St. Catherine, a Doctor of the Church (as well as St. Teresa of Avila). The title dates back to the Middle Ages and honors the extraordinary holiness of a saint as well as important writings and doctrine. A woman had not received the title before 1970. 
(There are only 3 women Doctors of the Church. The two others are Carmelites-St. Teresa of Avila and the youngest doctor who is St. Therese of Lisieux).  
In his homily, declaring Catherine a Doctor of the Church the Pope mentioned, "Catherine's lucid and profound absorption of divine truths." For an "unschooled" woman to receive this honor is quite amazing. Once again, I think of Scripture, "With God all things are possible." What other explanation could there be, other than God guiding St. Catherine and enabling her to know divine truths. 
St. Catherine often repeated these words, which might be good for us to recite as well, "My Lord, what do you want me to do. I will do it." The central theme in Catherine's writing is the love of God for all of us and the love shown through Christ's sacrifice on the Cross. These themes appear over and over again in the writings of the saints.
Here is one of her beautiful prayers that I read that evening. As I read the prayer, I could sense the divine inspiration that Catherine had, enabling her to write such a simple, yet profound and deeply moving prayer. What a gift to the Church! What pure love she had for the Trinity!

O eternal Trinity, my sweet love!
You, light, give us light.
You, wisdom, give us wisdom.
You, supreme strength, strengthen us.
Today, eternal God, let our cloud be dissipated
so that we may perfectly know and follow your truth, 
in truth with a free and simple heart.
St. Catherine of Siena