Tuesday, April 29, 2008


"The Ecstasy of St Catherine of Siena"
by Pompeo Batoni, 1743



Additional Information about St. Catherine of Siena [1]

Readings for the Memorial of St. Catherine of Siena

Readings and Commentary: [2]

Reading 1 1 John 1:5-2:2


This is the message that we have heard from Jesus Christ

and proclaim to you:
God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all.
If we say, “We have fellowship with him,”
while we continue to walk in darkness,
we lie and do not act in truth.
But if we walk in the light as he is in the light,
then we have fellowship with one another,
and the Blood of his Son Jesus cleanses us from all sin.
If we say, “We are without sin,”
we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just
and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing.
If we say, “We have not sinned,” we make him a liar,
and his word is not in us.
My children, I am writing this to you
so that you may not commit sin.
But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father,
Jesus Christ the righteous one.
He is expiation for our sins,
and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world.
Commentary on 1 Jn 1:5-2:2

We are given in this selection a foundational scripture passage upon which the Sacrament of Reconciliation rests. The logic St. John uses flows nicely; Jesus, the Christ is light. When we sin we walk in darkness. When we admit our sin, the Lord who is “expiation for our sins”, brings us back into the light. If we try to deceive ourselves saying we are not sinful, we fall and, in a sense, make Jesus’ sacrifice meaningless.
“Light is to be understood here as truth and goodness; darkness here is error and depravity (cf John 3:19-21; 17:17; Ephesians 5:8). To walk in light or darkness is to live according to truth or error, not merely intellectual but moral as well. Fellowship with God and with one another consists in a life according to the truth as found in God and in Christ.” Then for v. 8-10 “Denial of the condition of sin is self-deception and even contradictory of divine revelation; there is also the continual possibility of sin's recurrence. Forgiveness and deliverance from sin through Christ are assured through acknowledgment of them and repentance.”[3] The final verses of this selection profess the Trinity as One God “…we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one.”

CCC:1 Jn 1:5 214; 1 Jn 1:6 2470; 1 Jn 1:7-2:2 2631; 1 Jn 1:8-10 827; 1 Jn 1:8-9 1847; 1 Jn 1:8 1425; 1 Jn 1:10 2147;1 Jn 2:1-2 1460; 1 Jn 2:1 519, 692, 2634; 1 Jn 2:2 605, 606
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 103:1-2, 3-4, 8-9, 13-14, 17-18

R. (1) O, bless the Lord, my soul!

Bless the LORD, O my soul;
and all my being, bless his holy name!
Bless the LORD, O my soul;
and forget not all his benefits.
R. O, bless the Lord, my soul!

He pardons all your iniquities,
he heals all your ills.
He redeems your life from destruction,
he crowns you with kindness and compassion.
R. O, bless the Lord, my soul!

Merciful and gracious is the LORD,
slow to anger and abounding in kindness.
He will not always chide,
nor does he keep his wrath forever.
R. O, bless the Lord, my soul!

As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him,
For he knows how we are formed;
he remembers that we are dust.
R. O, bless the Lord, my soul!

But the kindness of the LORD is from eternity
to eternity toward those who fear him,
And his justice toward his children's children
among those who keep his covenant.
R. O, bless the Lord, my soul!
Commentary on Ps 103:1-2, 34, 8-9, 13-14, 17-18

This hymn of praise focuses on God’s power and will to heal all ills and to support us in times of trouble. It is through God's own will that he does this. The final two strophes reference God as a Father loving his children; his adopted sons and daughters.

CCC: Ps 103 304
Gospel: Matthew 11:25-30

At that time Jesus responded:
"I give praise to you, Father,
Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to the childlike.
Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father.
No one knows the Son except the Father,
and no one knows the Father except the Son
and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him."
"Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light."
Commentary on Mt 11:25-30

Jesus has just completed a fairly scathing criticism of the people in the places he has been and performed miracles, yet many have not accepted him as the Messiah. He now concludes this section on a more joyous note as he reflects that, while the Scribes and Pharisees (“the wise and learned”) have not understood who he is, those with simple faith have accepted him freely. He then issues an invitation to all who “labor and are burdened” quoting an invitation similar to one in Ben Sirach to learn wisdom and submit to her yoke (Sirach 51:23, 26).

“This Q saying, identical with Luke 10:21-22 except for minor variations, introduces a joyous note into this section, so dominated by the theme of unbelief. While the wise and the learned, the scribes and Pharisees, have rejected Jesus' preaching and the significance of his mighty deeds, the childlike have accepted them. Acceptance depends upon the Father's revelation, but this is granted to those who are open to receive it and refused to the arrogant. Jesus can speak of all mysteries because he is the Son and there is perfect reciprocity of knowledge between him and the Father; what has been handed over to him is revealed only to those whom he wishes.” [4]
The final verses of this section are found only in St. Matthew’s Gospel and promise salvation to those who are downtrodden or in pain.

CCC: Mt 11:25-27 2603, 2779; Mt 11:25-26 2701; Mt 11:25 153, 544, 2785; Mt 11:27 151, 240, 443, 473; Mt 11:28 1658; Mt 11:29-30 1615; Mt 11:29 459

Of all the graces given to St. Catherine of Siena, the one most revered is that of humility in the face of high honor, given by her peers and leaders of her day. St. Catherine was a brilliant lady, blessed with a deep understanding of what Christ called her to be. She was called on frequently throughout her life to share her holiness with leaders of the Church, and with those who would divide the Body of Christ. Her heroic faithfulness earned her a place with the angels, and provides us with a unique insight into the scriptural instruction we receive.

In St. John’s first letter, we are reminded that we are called to be light to the world. We cannot cling to those things in our lives that lead us to darkness, and still be that light. Further we are reminded that, if we deny that such “dark” things attract us, and that sometimes we fall into sin, we are deluding ourselves. Even St. Catherine accepted that she needed the forgiveness of Christ.

We are encouraged, by her witness and steadfast faith, not to give up in our struggle to be a light to the world. The Lord invites us always to take up his yoke. He makes it light for us, and with it we become light.

Today as we recall the witness and brilliance of St. Catherine, let us pray that all who see us today will see the light we bring to the world for the glory of Jesus, our Lord.


[1] The Picture is "The Ecstasy of St Catherine of Siena" by Pompeo Batoni, 1743
[2] The readings are taken from the New American Bible with the exception of the Psalm and its response which were developed by the International Committee for English in Liturgy (ICEL). This re-publication is not authorized by USCCB and is for private use only.

[3] See NAB footnote on 1 John 1:1-5
[4] See NAB footnote on Matthew 11:25ff

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