Saint of the Day: St. Catherine of Siena

Today’s blog post comes from Katja, who is well known around Newman, but also involved in the Montreal Catholic Challenge Movement.

St.-Catherine-of-Siena-4Caterina di Giacomo di Benincasa was born on 25 March 1347. She refused to live the life imagined for her by her parents by turning away from the tradition of marrying her sister’s widowed husband. She showed her resistance by fasting vigorously; an act of piety that she would continue throughout her life.

At long last, her parents allowed her to join the “Mantellate”, the local association of Dominican tertiaries. She chose to live an active and prayerful life outside a convent’s walls following the model of the Dominicans. She discovered a passion for politics, and did not let the fact that she was a woman impede her involvement in political matters throughout Europe. She learned to write after relying on secretaries to compose her letters for years, and is now seen as one of the higher ranked mystics and spiritual writers in the church’s history.

Although this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to her accomplishments and exceptional life, the monumental impact she had in Europe can be reflected with the declarations of not one, but three Popes. In his decree of 13 April 1866, Pope Pius IX declared Catherine of Siena to be a co-patroness of Rome. On 18 June 1939 Pope Pius XII named her a joint Patron Saint of Italy along with Saint Francis of Assisi. On 1 October 1999, Pope John Paul II made her one of Europe’s patron saints, along with Edith Stein and Bridget of Sweden. She is also the patroness of the historically Catholic American woman’s fraternity, Theta Phi Alpha.

One of the most notorious quotes from St. Catherine of Siena is: “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” What a daunting idea, is it not? How are we to know who God meant us to be? Are we not all on our journey towards Christ, being told to just Trust in God?

Although this may be true, the general idea of being who God meant you to be is no foreign concept. It may be daunting but the general message is this: Become the Best Version of Yourself. This is precisely what all saints have done; they have become the best version of themselves, thus becoming who God meant them to be. We are all called to be saints, so we are all called to become the best versions of ourselves.

Anyone who has heard of Matthew Kelly has most likely heard this phrase before. God doesn’t want you to become a second-rate version of anyone. You have been created for a purpose, and to be the best YOU you can be.

In the Western world today, we are constantly being bombarded with who we should be. We are told what we should want, how our lives should look like, and what values we should have. This attitude of cramming people into one cookie-cutter shape of life’s ideals, isn’t what God wants for us (I’m pretty sure). The way secular society is telling everyone to be (superficially) happy has no lasting happiness; it’s all about immediate gratification. Money, huge houses, expensive cars… does that really matter at the end of the day? Do you feel fulfilled with these ideas in mind? Fitting yourself into someone else’s idea of happiness is not necessarily the way to find your own.

How do you become the best YOU?

What brings you fulfillment? I’m talking about feeling whole, balanced and joyful. Personally, it’s through helping others that I feel connected with God, other people, and myself. I’m blessed enough to have found a career avenue that allows me to help others; Social Work. Though I’m still a student, it excites me to work towards the end goal of having the opportunity to help others help themselves. This wasn’t always the case however. I began my academic career studying science. For me, this was not how I was meant to live my life. I didn’t have joy, I didn’t feel fulfilled and it all felt like I was doing something someone else wanted me to do. I couldn’t have Set the World on Fire by becoming what my parents thought I should become.

God has a plan for you, and that plan is for you to truly become the best version of yourself that you can possibly be. Matthew Kelly presents his readers with 4 basic avenues to give attention to in order to have more clarity on who the best version of yourself is.

  1. Emotional (attention and time given to important relationships)
  2. Physical (exercise, proper eating habits)
  3. Intellectual (academic, indulging in books)
  4. Spiritual (taking time to get re-acquainted with God)

When those 4 areas of life are getting the attention they deserve, it’s inevitable that one will feel more alive and joyful. The secret to living your life with purpose isn’t much of a secret at all. By doing what we know brings us deep, internal joy and makes us feel balanced and connected, we can then live our lives everyday with passion. This is how we become the best version of ourselves.

Setting the world on fire doesn’t necessarily need to be a worldwide movement. Authentic joy breeds more joy in the lives of people you touch. Naturally, as with anything worthwhile, it takes some time to figure out what you’re supposed to do. We’re spoiled for choice when it comes to life-paths, so it’s all too common to be confused. However, if you live your life trying your very best to be the best version of yourself, you may find your life changing as you give more attention to the things in your life which you value most.

Of course, above all else, the place to start is through prayer. Sit with God, and ask Him for guidance. It is with Him that you can truly Set the World On Fire.

Sources:

Catherine of Siena. (n.d.). Retrieved April 29, 2015, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catherine_of_Siena

Kelly, M. (2004). The rhythm of life: Living every day with passion and purpose. New York: Fireside Books.

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