St. Catherine of Siena

Father Mark Reflects:

A Mystic of the Blood

It is evident, I think, that today’s feast of Saint Catherine of Siena is a further invitation, a pressing exhortation, to fix our gaze on the Blood of the Lamb, to adore that Precious Blood, to yield every impurity and sin of ours to the torrent that gushes from Christ’s pierced side, and to drink of the Chalice of Salvation. Saint Catherine is one of the great blazing mystics of the Blood. One could also speak of Julian of Norwich and, again, of Blessed Marie of the Incarnation. The Blood of Christ is sprinkled over every page of Catherine’s writings. The Blood of Christ opens and seals her correspondence. The Blood of Christ is on her lips and in her heart.

Divine Fire

For Catherine, that Blood is a Divine Fire. It is the remedy for every ill: medicine for a Church in crisis, purity for a priesthood fallen into the filth of the world, strength for the weak, hope for the despondent, healing for the sick. For Catherine, the Blood of Christ is the power by which lives are changed, by which sinners become saints, by which monasteries are reformed.

Cleansed in the Blood of the Lamb

The Blood of the Lamb is given us in the sacraments. In the Sacrament of Penance, the Blood of Christ is applied to the wounds of the soul. “The Blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin” (1 Jn 1:7). The Blood of Christ bathes the soul, cleansing of it of every trace of sin and making it resplendent in the eyes of the Father.

Antidote for Every Poison

In the Most Holy Eucharist, the Blood of Christ is given us as the fountain of immortality, the antidote for every poison of body, mind, and soul, an infusion of divine joy in this valley of tears. This was the experience of Saint Catherine and, because it was her experience, it became her teaching. Even more, it became the cry of her heart to all who would listen.

The Mystery of the Precious Blood

The Precious Blood of Christ is among those heavenly mysteries “hidden from the wise and understanding and revealed to infants” (Mt 11:25). The mystery of the Blood is revealed to those who taste it with the palate of the soul, to those who approach the holy Chalice with the fear of God and with faith.

Take My Heart

One’s dying words are not improvised. They are the expression of a lifetime. Saint Catherine, having lived immersed in Blood of Christ, died with the Blood of Christ on her lips. On the January 30th before her death, she prayed for the Church, the Bride of Christ: “O Eternal God, accept the sacrifice of my life within this Mystic Body of holy Church. I have nothing to give but what you have given me. Take my heart, then, and squeeze it out over this Bride’s face.” For His Heart’s Blood, she gave her heart’s blood and, like her Bridegroom and Lord, she gave it for the Church.

Your Son’s Most Sweet Blood

Her last recorded prayer, uttered three months later, is this:

you are calling me to come to you,
and I am coming to you —
not with any merits of my own
but only with your mercy.
I am begging you for this mercy
in virtue of your Son’s most sweet Blood.
into your hands I surrender my soul
and my spirit

Cardinal Reflects on Pope’s Meeting with Victims

Cardinal O’Malley in The Pilot:

Q: Can you explain your involvement in that unannounced meeting in Washington that brought together the Holy Father with five local victims of sexual abuse by clergy?

A: After it was announced that the Holy Father was going to Washington and New York and that Boston was not included, the bishops of the region joined me in writing a letter to the Holy Father asking him to reconsider and talking about the pastoral needs that we have in New England. Then the response came back that, given the very taxing nature of the trip, that they (Vatican officials) really hesitated to add anything else. So I wrote back again asking if the Holy Father would meet with victims and after that the Holy Father responded and asked me to make the necessary arrangements.

Q: Why was this meeting not part of the official schedule?

A: We did our best to keep it a very discreet meeting because we did not want to turn it a media circus and we were afraid that if people found ahead of time that that was just what would happen. Also, some of the survivors who accompanied us wished to remain anonymous and it would have made it impossible for them to participate under the public scrutiny. So, I am just thankful that we were able to carry it off without becoming public before hand.

I was very grateful to the Holy Father. The many times he addressed the sexual abuse crisis indicate how deeply he understands the situation of our Church and what happens here. He obviously feels a great sorrow over what has happened and that he is ashamed but, at the same time, wants to encourage us on the path to healing and reconciliation.

At the Thursday morning Mass at the Nationals’ stadium he talked about the need of giving pastoral care to the victims, and then in the afternoon he gave us a very concrete example of that in his own encounter with them.

Q: Why do you think this was a crucial meeting?

A: I think it was important for the victims to feel as though they had access to the Holy Father. Obviously, not all victims but someone representing them and in a small enough group, in a context that it would allow for a very personal interchange between the Holy Father and the victims. It was not a formal address; the Holy Father made his initial comments and then he spoke with each of the victims individually, he clasped their hands, he blessed them, he prayed with them.

I think for the Holy Father, pastorally, it was very important to experience this. Certainly he has heard through the bishops and through others the devastation of sexual abuse but it is another thing to encounter personally the survivors and to learn first hand of their suffering and pain.

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