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

Friday, September 9, 2016

Faith Filled Friday: The Holy Spirit’s Fire by St. Catherine of Siena

The August 2016 edition of Magnificat magazine had this wonderful quote from a letter St. Catherine of Siena wrote.  It doesn’t say who the recipient of the letter is (my guess it’s Raymond of Capua, her friend and confessor), but obviously a male.  It’s not clear what the context is either but Catherine is urging him to contemplate God’s love, imagined as a burning and consuming fire.

So I want you, my son, to open your mind’s eye and focus it on Christ crucified, for he is the fountain where we can drink to the full, drawing from him sweet loving desires.  These are the desires I want to pour out on the body of the holy Church for God’s honor and every person’s salvation.  If you do, your words and actions will become like an arrow drawn red-hot out of the fire, that wherever it is shot sets on fire everything it strikes, since it can’t help sharing what it has.  So, son, think of your soul as entering the fiery furnace of divine charity, and love’s power will make you shoot out and share what you have drawn from the fire.

And what have you drawn from God in this way?  Hatred and contempt for yourself, and love for virtue, and hunger for the salvation of souls and the honor of the eternal Father; for that is all that is found in this gentle Word.  You see, it was for hunger that he died.  So intense was that hunger that the force of love produced a sweat not of water but of drops of blood.  How could a heart be so hard and stubborn as not to burst with emotion from the warmth and heat of this fire.  Contemplating it, we can only be flax stubble thrown into the fire; it can’t help burning, since it is the nature of fire to burn and to transform into itself whatever comes near it.  So we, when we contemplate our Creator’s love, are drawn at once to love him and turn our affection completely to him.  In him all the dampness of selfishness is dried up, and we take on the likeness of the Holy Spirit’s fire.

Look at what a marvelous, natural poet she was: our selfishness is dried up so that we become dried stubble, ready to be consumed by the Holy Spirit’s fire.  And then notice how it connects with the previous paragraph: a person so consumed with the Holy Spirit is like a red-hot arrow setting fire to everything it strikes.  The little lady from Siena, who was uneducated, was a genius.    

PS: I really love that icon of St. Catherine.  I've seen a number of icons portraying her, and this is the best one.  It shows her stigmata, the lilies of virginity, the book showing she is a Doctor of the Church, her Dominican garments, and the crown of thorns which I think stands for the suffering she endured.  Plus I like the way her face and halo around her head are drawn.  I would consider buying this if it were available for purchase. 


  1. I agree. I am especially drawn to her luminous eyes.

    I have certain icons I love as well, and certain paintings. They mean a lot to me and have an impact on my life.

    You have given me a good blog post idea! :) I miss blogging and my blog-world friends.

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