An excerpt from a homily for the memorial of St. Catherine of Siena
by Cardinal (then Archbishop) Stanislaw Rylko, President of the
Pontifical Council for the Laity, on April 29, 2006, at a retreat for members of
Communion and Liberation.
Christ Saves Us from Nothingness
Excerpt from a homily for the memorial of St. Catherine of Siena (April 29)
“If we truly walk in the light, writes St. John, we are in communion with each other. We all need this companionship, and we particularly need the companionship of the saints, masters of life from whom so much can be learned. Today, the Church celebrates the Feast of St. Catherine of Siena, a Doctor of the Church and the Patroness of Italy. A humble Third Order Dominican, Catherine influenced not only the life of her country, but the life of the Church in a dark era for the papacy. A point of reference and critical conscience for the popes and for the mighty of her times, powerfully present in the vicissitudes of the world and the Church, Catherine was a great contemplative whom God introduced into the abysses of His mystery! She wrote of her intimate experience of Mystery, “You, eternal Trinity, are like a profound sea, in which the more I search, the more I find; and the more I find, the more my thirst for seeking You increases. You are insatiable, and the soul, sating herself in your abyss, is not sated, because the hunger for You remains. I long for You more and more, O eternal Trinity, desiring to see You with the light of your light. I have tasted and seen your abyss with the light of the intellect in your light, O eternal Trinity” (Dialogue, also known as Treatise on Divine Providence). This is an extraordinary mystical commentary on the words of John, “God is light; in Him there is no darkness” (1 Jn 1:5). Like the wise virgins of the Gospel parable, Catherine is full of the wisdom that comes from on high, and has a great deal to teach twenty-first century men and women, afflicted with a deleterious activism, thinking we are living intensely, when instead we are losing our life. This saint shows all of us how contemplation is an indispensable dimension of the life of the baptized. The sensitivity to the ephemeral, typical of our times and our societies, also contaminates Christians, and we often forget that there is only one way not to “lose life in living,” not to let ourselves be stripped of what we are: living strongly anchored in God, grafted onto Him like the branches of a vine, living, that is, as true contemplatives. Today there is a widespread, erroneous conception of contemplation as escape from reality. It isn’t like this. The opposite is true: contemplation of the Mystery is the light that drives away the darkness and enables us to see more, and better; therefore, it is the way for finding ourselves again as creatures, as persons, as children of God, the way for finding our own life again. “He is your Lord, bow down before Him” (Ps 45 :12), we have repeated in the responsorial psalm. Man is never so much himself, never so great, as when he prostrates himself in contemplation before the fascinating mystery of God. It is precisely this act of prostration that exalts man’s dignity, making him the true subject of his actions, making him truly present where the life of the world is pulsing. I experience this every time I go to visit the Trappists at the Vitorchiano Monastery, immersed in contemplative prayer and extraordinarily present at the heart of the world and the Church. Spiritual exercises are a special occasion for rediscovering in contemplation a fundamental dimension of our Christian life. Contemplation is not something optional or incidental; rather, it is a necessary gesture for all Christians, be they laypersons, religious, or priests. We are all called to become ‘contemplatives in action’!”