Card. Kasper - Homely St. Catherine

Card Kasper: Homily for the solemnity of St Catherine

On 29 April, His Eminence Cardinal Walter Kasper presided at the celebration of the solemnity of St Catherine of Siena in the Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome. This is the text of his homily.

Read the full article on website of the Roman Province of St Catherine of Siena


Homily for the solemnity of St Catherine of Siena (His Eminence Cardinal Walter Kasper)

Dear brothers and sisters!

In the second reading for this solemnity of St Catherine of Siena, St Paul gives us a glimpse of the depth of his soul and shows us the most profound dimension of his apostolate: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions”. These are difficult words, but they become very clear if we look at the life of St Catherine. Catherine became the interpreter of this apostolic programme, which she herself experienced.

Her period, the 14th century, was a time of many sufferings for the Church. Italy was disturbed by many feuds, between cities and between families of the nobility; the whole country was terrified by furious epidemics which often, in just a few weeks, killed thousands of people. The Church was in a very sad state: the Pope was a prisoner in Avignon, under the authority of the King of France, and in conflict with the German Emperor. The state of the priesthood was a scandal for many Christians. “Alas,” said the saint, “what Christ bought on the wood of the cross is spent on prostitutes” (Letter 109)

Yet where there is the most profound wretchedness, help is close at hand. Even then there was a hidden flow of mystical, fervent love for Christ, and of care for his Bride, the holy Church. Suffice it to mention, among others, Johann Tauler and Heinrich Seuse, and St Brigid of Sweden, all contemporaries of St Catherine.

II

Catherine is often admired as an extraordinary, strong woman or, as we would say today, an emancipated woman, of great courage and frankness and with a tendency to be a protagonist, very different from the traditional concepts of a woman of her time. She experienced the royal priesthood of all Christians, of which the first reading speaks. Already during her short life on earth, Catherine astonished and attracted her contemporaries. She left about 380 Letters, in which she deals with problems and topics of both religious life and the social life of every class, and also with moral and political problems; Letters addressed to noblemen and politicians, to artists and ordinary people, to consecrated and ecclesiastic persons, including the Pope; Letters that concerned the whole Church, the empire, the kingdoms and states of 14th– and 15th-century Europe. St Catherine represented an extraordinary fact.

All this is true, surprising and exceptional. Yet all this does not explain the deepest motivation and true identity of St Catherine. For her, we may ask the question that the Jews in the Gospel asked about Jesus: they were amazed and said: “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?”” Catherine had never studied either; she was semi-illiterate. How then could Pope Paul VI proclaim her a Doctor of the Church in 1970?

III

St Catherine cannot be understood without her mystical dimension, which emerged when she was very young. At the age of sixteen, driven by a vision of St Dominic, she entered the Dominican Third Order, in the female branch known as the Mantellate.

Two of her many mystical experiences are particularly important in her spiritual life. In the first, Our Lady in a vision presented her to Jesus who gave her a splendid ring, telling her: “I, your Creator and Saviour, marry you in the faith, which you will always keep pure until in heaven you celebrate with me your eternal marriage”. In this episode we can grasp the vital centre of Catherine’s religiosity and of every authentic spirituality: it is Christ-centred. Christ for her is like a bridegroom, with whom she has a relationship of intimacy, communion and faithfulness: he is the beloved above all other good. He is Alpha and Omega (Apocalypse 1:8).

This nuptial spirituality is illustrated by another episode: the exchange of hearts. The Lord Jesus appeared to her with a shining red human heart in his hand, opens her breast, puts it in and says to her: “Dearest daughter, as the other day I took your heart which you offered me, now I give you mine and from now on it will be in the place that your heart occupied”. Thus Catherine was immersed in the mystery of Christ and in a very close friendship with Jesus, of which the apostle Paul speaks – and Catherine truly experienced his words: “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).

IV
This mystery of Christ had a concrete name for Catherine: il sangue Gesù. Today this sounds strange to us. Many wonder: is God perhaps a God of vengeance, needing blood to redeem us, a God thirsty for blood? No, absolutely not! For the Bible, blood is the seat of life. To say that Christ gives his blood for us is to say that he sacrifices his life for us. And greater love  has no man than this: that he lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).

The mystery hidden for centuries, of which Paul speaks, is the mystery of love, with which God has loved us for all eternity. This love appeared on the cross, where God humbled himself and became obedient unto death (Philippians 2: 8) in order to defeat death. In his great mercy, God has freed us from our sins by the precious blood of Jesus (Apocalypse 1:5) to love us as brothers and sisters, and has regenerated us to a living hope (1 Peter 1:3, 19, 22 f).

The mystery of blood expresses the mystery of the mercy of God, another key term for Catherine, who is the theologian saint of mercy.

In the Dialogue of Divine Providence we read: ““Through mercy you have washed us in the blood, through mercy you wished to converse with creatures. O Madman of love! It was not enough for you to incarnate yourself, but you also wished to die! (…) O mercy! My heart drowns in thinking of you: for no matter where I turn to think I find only mercy”” (Dialogue, 30) St Catherine wrote: “Remember Christ crucified, hide yourself in the wounds of Christ crucified, drown in the blood of Christ crucified” (Letter n° 21).

V
These reflections on the mystery of blood and of mercy are not mere abstract theory for Catherine. As the Gospel tells us, and as Jesus himself did, Jesus wishes to do the will of the Father, because only those who do it will know the truth of God. Catherine wanted to live by the truth (John 3:21) and put it into practice (1 John 1:6). Hers is a spirituality, a mysticism that is at once contemplative and active, practical end even political. Like the Apostle, Catherine could say: “For this I toil, striving with all the energy which he mightily inspires within me.”

Thus – in the words of the Gospel – streams of living water flow from her to this day. Because of her commitment to caring for the sick and the suffering, she is co-patron of nurses. What would justice be without mercy, she wondered, and defined it as allied to the darkness of cruelty, injustice of justice. Because she made every effort to promote peace and reconciliation in Italy, she is co-patron of Italy. Because she exhorted Europe, torn by fratricidal wars, to be united in the name of Christ, Pope John Paul II proclaimed her co-patron of Europe (1999).

Catherine laid the foundations for the reform of the Church, and was a courageous, passionate fighter, sometimes using harsh words, tirelessly committed to the return of the Pope from Avignon to Rome. We may regard her as a powerful advocate for all those who today, in the face of so much resistance, work for the renewal and reform of the Church.

Above all, Catherine firmly demands a courageous reform of manners/traditions on the part of us priests. “The treasure of the Church is the blood of Christ, given to pay for the soul … and you are its minister” (Letter 209). “The angel does not have this dignity, I have given it to men: to those I have chosen for my ministers and have placed like angels” (Dialogue, 113). Catherine goes on to say: “In every soul I demand purity and charity … But much more do I demand purity for my ministers and love of me and of their neighbour, ministering the Body and Blood of my only begotten Son with the fire of charity and hunger for the health of souls … And as they want the cleanliness of the chalice where this Sacrifice is made, so I demand of them purity and cleanliness of heart, of soul and of mind”.

VI

Catherine was an insistent, sometimes discomfiting woman and so was harshly criticised by many. She suffered greatly, as did so many Saints. There were even those who thought she should not be trusted to the point that, six years before she died, the General Chapter of the Dominicans summoned her to Florence to be questioned.

In the last years of her earthly life, here at Santa Maria sopra Minerva, Catherine saw the failure of the reform. Yes, the Pope had returned to Rome, but very soon after that, the great western schism had split the Church for 39 years. Catherine was disheartened and greatly saddened at the conditions of the Church. The tears of the saints, she said, mingle with the blood of Christ.

In a vision, Catherine saw her heart – the one Christ had given her – torn from her body and squashed upon the Church. She prayed: “O eternal God, accept the sacrifice of my life in the mystical body of the holy Church”. Thus Catherine took on the sufferings of Christ himself for the Church and entered wholly into the agony of Christ, in compassion and in a sort of co-redemption, in order to complete in her flesh what was lacking to the sufferings of Christ in his body, that is, the Church.

Dear brothers and sisters, in conclusion, we may say that St Catherine is a model and example for a renewal that should not be a superficial equalisation, but fulfilled starting from a profound Christocentric spirituality, from an ardent spirit of love, from love towards all men and women, given with courage and mercy and finally from a suffering with Christ for our own weaknesses and those of the Church. Let us learn from St Catherine the contemplation of Christ crucified, and an intense apostolate of love for Christ, for the Church, which always, even today, demands purification and renewal. May St Catherine intercede for us. So be it. Amen.

 

Cardinal Walter Kasper
29 April 2017, Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, Rome

Readings: Apocalypse 1: 5-8
Colossians 1: 24-29
Gospel: John 7: 14b-18, 37-39

Card Kasper: Homily for the solemnity of St Catherinehttp://www.fraternitiesop.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/walter_kasper.jpghttp://www.fraternitiesop.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/walter_kasper-150x150.jpgadminEnglishSliderSpirituality,,
On 29 April, His Eminence Cardinal Walter Kasper presided at the celebration of the solemnity of St Catherine of Siena in the Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome. This is the text of his homily. Read the full article on website of the Roman Province of St Catherine...
<em>On 29 April, His Eminence Cardinal Walter Kasper presided at the celebration of the solemnity of St Catherine of Siena in the Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome. This is the text of his homily.</em> Read the full article on <a href="https://www.dominicanes.it/predicazione/meditazioni/946-omelia-per-la-solennita-di-santa-caterina-da-siena-card-walter-kasper.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">website of the Roman Province of St Catherine of Siena</a> <hr /> Homily for the solemnity of St Catherine of Siena (His Eminence Cardinal Walter Kasper) Dear brothers and sisters! In the second reading for this solemnity of St Catherine of Siena, St Paul gives us a glimpse of the depth of his soul and shows us the most profound dimension of his apostolate: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions”. These are difficult words, but they become very clear if we look at the life of St Catherine. Catherine became the interpreter of this apostolic programme, which she herself experienced. Her period, the 14<sup>th</sup> century, was a time of many sufferings for the Church. Italy was disturbed by many feuds, between cities and between families of the nobility; the whole country was terrified by furious epidemics which often, in just a few weeks, killed thousands of people. The Church was in a very sad state: the Pope was a prisoner in Avignon, under the authority of the King of France, and in conflict with the German Emperor. The state of the priesthood was a scandal for many Christians. “Alas,” said the saint, “what Christ bought on the wood of the cross is spent on prostitutes” (Letter 109) Yet where there is the most profound wretchedness, help is close at hand. Even then there was a hidden flow of mystical, fervent love for Christ, and of care for his Bride, the holy Church. Suffice it to mention, among others, Johann Tauler and Heinrich Seuse, and St Brigid of Sweden, all contemporaries of St Catherine. II Catherine is often admired as an extraordinary, strong woman or, as we would say today, an emancipated woman, of great courage and frankness and with a tendency to be a protagonist, very different from the traditional concepts of a woman of her time. She experienced the royal priesthood of all Christians, of which the first reading speaks. Already during her short life on earth, Catherine astonished and attracted her contemporaries. She left about 380 Letters, in which she deals with problems and topics of both religious life and the social life of every class, and also with moral and political problems; Letters addressed to noblemen and politicians, to artists and ordinary people, to consecrated and ecclesiastic persons, including the Pope; Letters that concerned the whole Church, the empire, the kingdoms and states of 14<sup>th</sup>- and 15<sup>th</sup>-century Europe. St Catherine represented an extraordinary fact. All this is true, surprising and exceptional. Yet all this does not explain the deepest motivation and true identity of St Catherine. For her, we may ask the question that the Jews in the Gospel asked about Jesus: they were amazed and said: “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?”” Catherine had never studied either; she was semi-illiterate. How then could Pope Paul VI proclaim her a Doctor of the Church in 1970? III St Catherine cannot be understood without her mystical dimension, which emerged when she was very young. At the age of sixteen, driven by a vision of St Dominic, she entered the Dominican Third Order, in the female branch known as the <em>Mantellate</em>. Two of her many mystical experiences are particularly important in her spiritual life. In the first, Our Lady in a vision presented her to Jesus who gave her a splendid ring, telling her: “I, your Creator and Saviour, marry you in the faith, which you will always keep pure until in heaven you celebrate with me your eternal marriage”. In this episode we can grasp the vital centre of Catherine’s religiosity and of every authentic spirituality: it is Christ-centred. Christ for her is like a bridegroom, with whom she has a relationship of intimacy, communion and faithfulness: he is the beloved above all other good. He is Alpha and Omega (Apocalypse 1:8). This nuptial spirituality is illustrated by another episode: the exchange of hearts. The Lord Jesus appeared to her with a shining red human heart in his hand, opens her breast, puts it in and says to her: “Dearest daughter, as the other day I took your heart which you offered me, now I give you mine and from now on it will be in the place that your heart occupied”. Thus Catherine was immersed in the mystery of Christ and in a very close friendship with Jesus, of which the apostle Paul speaks – and Catherine truly experienced his words: “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). IV This mystery of Christ had a concrete name for Catherine: il sangue Gesù. Today this sounds strange to us. Many wonder: is God perhaps a God of vengeance, needing blood to redeem us, a God thirsty for blood? No, absolutely not! For the Bible, blood is the seat of life. To say that Christ gives his blood for us is to say that he sacrifices his life for us. And greater love  has no man than this: that he lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13). The mystery hidden for centuries, of which Paul speaks, is the mystery of love, with which God has loved us for all eternity. This love appeared on the cross, where God humbled himself and became obedient unto death (Philippians 2: 8) in order to defeat death. In his great mercy, God has freed us from our sins by the precious blood of Jesus (Apocalypse 1:5) to love us as brothers and sisters, and has regenerated us to a living hope (1 Peter 1:3, 19, 22 f). The mystery of blood expresses the mystery of the mercy of God, another key term for Catherine, who is the theologian saint of mercy. In the <em>Dialogue of Divine Providence</em> we read: ““Through mercy you have washed us in the blood, through mercy you wished to converse with creatures. O Madman of love! It was not enough for you to incarnate yourself, but you also wished to die! (…) O mercy! My heart drowns in thinking of you: for no matter where I turn to think I find only mercy”” (Dialogue, 30) St Catherine wrote: “Remember Christ crucified, hide yourself in the wounds of Christ crucified, drown in the blood of Christ crucified” (Letter n° 21). V These reflections on the mystery of blood and of mercy are not mere abstract theory for Catherine. As the Gospel tells us, and as Jesus himself did, Jesus wishes to do the will of the Father, because only those who do it will know the truth of God. Catherine wanted to live by the truth (John 3:21) and put it into practice (1 John 1:6). Hers is a spirituality, a mysticism that is at once contemplative and active, practical end even political. Like the Apostle, Catherine could say: “For this I toil, striving with all the energy which he mightily inspires within me.” Thus – in the words of the Gospel – streams of living water flow from her to this day. Because of her commitment to caring for the sick and the suffering, she is co-patron of nurses. What would justice be without mercy, she wondered, and defined it as allied to the darkness of cruelty, injustice of justice. Because she made every effort to promote peace and reconciliation in Italy, she is co-patron of Italy. Because she exhorted Europe, torn by fratricidal wars, to be united in the name of Christ, Pope John Paul II proclaimed her co-patron of Europe (1999). Catherine laid the foundations for the reform of the Church, and was a courageous, passionate fighter, sometimes using harsh words, tirelessly committed to the return of the Pope from Avignon to Rome. We may regard her as a powerful advocate for all those who today, in the face of so much resistance, work for the renewal and reform of the Church. Above all, Catherine firmly demands a courageous reform of manners/traditions on the part of us priests. “The treasure of the Church is the blood of Christ, given to pay for the soul … and you are its minister” (Letter 209). “The angel does not have this dignity, I have given it to men: to those I have chosen for my ministers and have placed like angels” (Dialogue, 113). Catherine goes on to say: “In every soul I demand purity and charity … But much more do I demand purity for my ministers and love of me and of their neighbour, ministering the Body and Blood of my only begotten Son with the fire of charity and hunger for the health of souls … And as they want the cleanliness of the chalice where this Sacrifice is made, so I demand of them purity and cleanliness of heart, of soul and of mind”. VI Catherine was an insistent, sometimes discomfiting woman and so was harshly criticised by many. She suffered greatly, as did so many Saints. There were even those who thought she should not be trusted to the point that, six years before she died, the General Chapter of the Dominicans summoned her to Florence to be questioned. In the last years of her earthly life, here at Santa Maria sopra Minerva, Catherine saw the failure of the reform. Yes, the Pope had returned to Rome, but very soon after that, the great western schism had split the Church for 39 years. Catherine was disheartened and greatly saddened at the conditions of the Church. The tears of the saints, she said, mingle with the blood of Christ. In a vision, Catherine saw her heart – the one Christ had given her – torn from her body and squashed upon the Church. She prayed: “O eternal God, accept the sacrifice of my life in the mystical body of the holy Church”. Thus Catherine took on the sufferings of Christ himself for the Church and entered wholly into the agony of Christ, in compassion and in a sort of co-redemption, in order to complete in her flesh what was lacking to the sufferings of Christ in his body, that is, the Church. Dear brothers and sisters, in conclusion, we may say that St Catherine is a model and example for a renewal that should not be a superficial equalisation, but fulfilled starting from a profound Christocentric spirituality, from an ardent spirit of love, from love towards all men and women, given with courage and mercy and finally from a suffering with Christ for our own weaknesses and those of the Church. Let us learn from St Catherine the contemplation of Christ crucified, and an intense apostolate of love for Christ, for the Church, which always, even today, demands purification and renewal. May St Catherine intercede for us. So be it. Amen.   <p style="text-align: right;">Cardinal Walter Kasper 29 April 2017, Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, Rome</p> Readings: Apocalypse 1: 5-8 Colossians 1: 24-29 Gospel: John 7: 14b-18, 37-39

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