"Love follows knowledge."
"Beauty above all beauty!"
– St. Catherine of Siena

Friday, October 30, 2015

Faith Filled Friday: On Courage from St. Catherine of Siena

St. Catherine of Siena wrote, prayers, poems, and a great spiritual work called the Dialogue, but I think her most profound writing can be found in her letters.  She wrote what amounts to four volumes of letters—at least that’s what’s survived—in her short life.  I don’t have any of those volumes but I do catch snippets from people who quote them.   In the devotional magazine, Magnificat, there is a “meditation of the day” coupled to either to a bible passage or something of significance for that day. On October 16th’s meditation, coupled to Luke 12:1-7, the passage where Christ says “not to be afraid of those who kill the body,” was this passage from one of St. Catherine’s letters.


I, Caterina, servant and slave of the servants of Jesus Christ, am writing to you in his precious blood, longing to see you courageous knights completely free of slavish fear.  This is what our gentle Savior wants: that we fear him, and not worldly people.  Thus he said, Do not be afraid of those who can kill the body, but of me who can send soul and body to hell.  I want you therefore to be immersed in the blood of God’s son, set ablaze in the fire of divine charity, because there you will lose all slavish fear and keep only reverential fear.


Now what can the world or the devil and his servants do to those who live in this immeasurable love, who have the blood as their focus?  Nothing!  In fact, they are instrumental in giving us virtue, in proving virtue in us, since virtue is proved through its opposite.  So we ought to be happy and glad, and in our suffering always look for Christ crucified, and humble and abase ourselves for him, finding constant joy in suffering and in the cross.  If you want suffering you will have joy, and if you want joy you will have suffering.


So it is better to immerse ourselves in the blood and to kill our perverse wills with a heart generous toward our Creator and with no pity for ourselves.  Then your joy and happiness will be complete.  You will wait without crippling weariness.  No command we have been given ought to cause us pain but rather delight, for there is no command of human origin that could deprive us of God.


Magnificat doesn’t identify which letter and to whom it was written.  That is unfortunate because I am curious who these "knights" are or if she's using "knight" as a metaphor.  It only notes that it comes from Volume II of Suzanne Noffke’s translation.  Three short paragraphs and profound kernel in each one.  I’m not going to unpack each paragraph but I did want to focus on that middle paragraph, especially the first three sentences.  It is by facing evil itself that we can reach virtue.  So in that great question of why evil exists, St. Catherine answers it concisely and elegantly.  It is there so that in opposition to it, we can reach God.  So have courage in the face of evil, for it will be your salvation.


  1. Thought-provoking. Of course evil exists. He is the devil, although he would rather we didn't believe in him.

    God bless.

  2. I am so far from wanting suffering, but I try to embrace what does come my way. But usually pleading for it to end the whole time...

    1. I too don't want it and I'm not sure I embrace it either. I kind of just accept it.