Humility growth in sanctity is possible only through humble

Humility of
heart in submitting to God’s will and humility of mind in accepting God’s
revealed truth are the two virtues on which St. Catherine would say finally
depends our eternal destiny.


Fundamental to
St. Catherine’s writings is the belief that growth in sanctity is possible only
through humble obedience to the Church’s divinely established authority. This
explains her phenomenal zeal for bringing the papacy back to Rome after its
years in “exile” in France. It also explains the paradox of her outspoken
language to the Bishop of Rome, even as she humbly recognized him as the Vicar
of Christ on earth.

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St. Catherine
boldly stated that “every virtue is obtained by means of you neighbor” and
every virtue that our neighbor obtains comes by means of us. This mystery of
faith runs deeper than the familiar value of giving others a good example.
Other people are supernaturally affected by every act of virtue we make in
God’s friendship. And we are correspondingly influenced by every morally good
action that other followers of Christ perform. In fact, this is the highest
form of charity we can practice, to be instruments of divine grace to other


Another basic
insight of the Dialogue is the idea
of what we call “external grace.” In His ordinary Providence, God uses human
beings as channels of grace to others. Our practice of virtue, then, is the
normal way that God communicates His supernatural light and strength to
everyone whose life we touch.


We may therefore
say that suffering endured out of love for God is part of our expiation for
sin. But the heart of expiatory suffering is not so much the actual pain as the
love of an offended God, for whom the pain is either voluntarily assumed or
patiently borne.


I have shown you, dearest daughter, that the
guilt is not punished in this finite time by any pain which is sustained merely
as something painful. What I mean is that the guilt is expiated by the pain
which a person endures through loving desire and contrition of heart. What
expiates the guilt of sin is not the pain itself but the soul’s loving desire
to undo the evil committed by sin, since this loving desire has value through
Christ crucified.


What is most
remarkable about her Dialogue is not
only the depth of its author’s insights but the clarity of her ideas. Thus, in
explaining the work of divine Providence, she describes how a repentant heart
can satisfy the offended Majesty of God both for the guilt of sin and for the
penalty due to sin. God is here speaking to His supernatural child:


She authored
many lengthy letters, mostly of spiritual counsel and encouragement to her
associates. But her principal claim to literary fame is her Dialogue, a masterful treatise on growth
in holiness, composed during the last stage of her life in Rome. The Dialogue was dictated to her followers
as her spiritual testament to the world. Its four treatises are a treasury of
Catholic wisdom capsulized in the revelation of God’s infinite love in making the
world out of nothing and redeeming a fallen human race only because He loves
His sinful creatures. In St. Catherine’s language, this divine loves is
symbolized in the Precious Blood of Christ, shed for us on Calvary.


St. Catherine
(1347-1380), who was born in Siena and died in Rome, was declared a Doctor of
the Church by Pope Paul VI in 1970. From early childhood she had mystical
experiences and practiced severe mortifications. At sixteen she joined the Dominican
tertiaries, and from 1366 she had what are called “spiritual espousals.” By the
time she was twenty, she began to work in caring for the sick, especially those
suffering from revolting diseases. Because of her extraordinary supernatural gifts,
she became adviser to the rulers of the Church and state. She successfully
brought about the return of Pope Gregory XI from Avignon to Rome (1376) and
effected the reconciliation between Florence and the Holy See. During the Great
Western Schism, she favored Pope Urban VI, the true claimant to the papacy.