Name: Vincent Banda, OFM Conventual
Registration Number: 11024T
Title of a Classical Book: The Dialogue of the Seraphic Virgin Catherine of Siena
Reflection: CHARITY THE MOTHER OF ALL VIRTUES (25th September)
Reading the book of St. Catherine, in her treatise on divine Providence, I was greatly inspired by her words, when she said that " No virtue can have life in itself except through charity, and humility which is the foster mother nurse of charity. There areVirtues some which are basic to a person’s life or they are the backbone of a person’s life, the Catholic Church mentions three theological virtues faith, hope and charity. St. Catherine of Siena in the Dialogue, says the “No virtue, can have a life in itself except through Charity and Humility, which is the foster mother and nurse of Charity”. Talking about the virtue of humility and charity, we have to know that charity is a virtue which when possessed contains all other virtues, it is a virtue by which a person can love God above all, and as we can say that in it there is humility, because a person puts God first and acknowledges that God is the Supreme being. So it is fitting for St. Catherine to put it in that way. it is again by this virtue of charity that a person can love his or her neighbour, stranger, orphan and widow and also make one be able to give what is due to a person. So the virtue of charity is that each and every christian should yearn to possess and cultivate in his or her life.
The treatise on Discretion (3rd November)
Reading the Dialogue of St. Catherine the Treatise on Discretion inspired me and I was very much delighted with the views that good things must be done with discretion and this made me understand that sometimes the penances that I made which are just exterior acts do not please God and that God is only pleased with penances which come from a good spirit which is as a result of one’s knowledge of God and oneself. it should something done to help me be in total communion with God.This communion should be seen in our prayer and in the way we relate with our neighbor. It is this prayer which can help us to overcome the vice of self-love which is opposed to charity. it should not be something to that everyone must see that I am doing something good but should done in secret to be seen only by God who sees what is done in secret.
Here also Christ is depicted a the Bridge which joins heaven and earth and a soul that wants to enter heaven should climb this bridge. it is not an easy journey but it is manageable through the holy spirit who is the help of each and everyone of us who desires to follow a good way. What one needs is to be humble and to trust in the holy spirit for all the necessities of the journey. People who are not obedience are found to be lacking because they do not trust in divine providence.
A Summary and Personal Reflection of the Dialogue of the Seraphic Virgin St. Catherine of Siena
St. Catherine was born on 25th march, 1347 and died at the age of 33, this is a summary of her book the dialogue of the seraphic virgin which was dictated to her secretaries when she was in ecstasy, the summary will follow the four divisions of the book, and after a personal reflection of the book will be given.
The Treatise of Divine Providence
A soul is lifted up by a very great desire for the honor of God as well as for its salvation; it does this by exercising ordinary virtues and remaining in the cell of self-knowledge which comes from the love of God. In this way the soul clothes herself with self-truth. The soul is at the same time united with God in her constant prayer which is a sign of following into the footsteps of the crucified son of God, and this comes by the desire, affection and union of love which turns the soul into another Christ.
St. Catherine requested for four favors from God for herself, for the reformation of the holy church, for those who rebel against the church and for the divine providence to provide things in general and in particular for a certain case with which she was concerned. She also had these desires to be united with God, she considered this communion with God as a sweet thing and wanted to be so close to God just as a sea is in the fish and the fish in the sea. These unions made her grieve for the offenses and with the joy of the lively hope with which she waited for God to provide against such evils.
The sufferings which the soul experience is insufficient to punish one smallest fault reason being that the offenses being committed against God call for an infinite satisfaction. So the fact is that the pains are not given as punishment but as corrections, to chastise a soul. God is pleased only with the desire to bear the suffering even up to death not on the pain. The more a soul endures the more her love for God is seen and in this way it comes to know the truth about God.
Self-love is what destroys charity and it is the principle source of all evil because one who has this vice can in no way desire to do good for God and neighbor. One can counteract this vice with charity which is the pure love of God; this is the same as love of neighbor because one cannot claim to love God without loving the neighbor.
The Treatise on Discretion
God is mostly pleased in the reliance on the affection of love, with holy hatred of oneself accompanied by true humility and perfect patience as well as the intrinsic desire to honor God and salvation of the soul, not in exterior acts of penance which please only a little. True discretion is the knowledge that a soul has of herself and of God, and this is what makes one make a true penance. This knowledge is rooted in virtue and true discretion is the only child of self-knowledge and true humility comes from it.
As a person sees spots on his face when he looks in a mirror, so does the soul with true self-knowledge, this makes the soul know better the stains in her by looking at the purity she sees in God, this is because light and knowledge abound in a soul, a sweet sorrow grows in her and at the same time the sorrow was diminished by the hope which the supreme truth gave her. Man was created in the image and likeness of God so that he can share in the eternal glory of God but through sin this image was disfigured and the gates of heaven were closed, but God in his mercy sent his son to bridge the gap between heaven and earth, so for a soul to reach heaven it has to climb through the son of God. All this is done through the love of God and neighbor without this, no one can reach heaven.
The Treatise on Prayer
The soul gets to know her imperfection and the devil that uses different tactics to wage war and cause more trouble on the soul but if the soul is rooted in prayer it cannot be swayed. Through humility and constant faith in God, the soul acquires with time and with perseverance in every virtue, in this way the soul does not lose the spirit of prayer. The body and blood of the only begotten son of God is the tool and food for this earthly journey and by partaking in him we are strengthened and by this the soul is inebriated as well as clothed with the fire of divine charity which is found in the mystical body, the holy church. A soul knows that it has attained perfect love by the signs that were in the disciples when they preached the gospel with boldness and glorified God in their deeds. Many Saints like Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Jerome and the Martyrs were illumined and had their eyes of the intellect receive supernatural light and infused by grace, it is this same light which made the prophets and fathers grasp what was prophesied about the messiah.
It was also revealed to St. Catherine that Priests are dignified because through them the love of God comes to the faithful. They are more dignified than the angels because God took the human nature not that of the angels. The Priest also helps to accompany a soul on the journey and help it to have a good and happy death not the painful death like that of a sinful soul.
The Treatise on Obedience
Obedience is found in the sweet words of Christ; it is that virtue to do God’s will even to accepting a shameful death on the cross. It is this kind of death that destroys pride which deprives the soul of that perfect obedience and gives it disobedience which is opposed to a life of grace. Patience is a sign of one who is obedient and it is the key that opens the heavens. It is needed for a soul destined to heaven to open the doors of heaven.
The soul that has submitted to the yoke of obedience and enlightened in her search by faith finds a place which is holy religion which was founded by the Holy Spirit. This holy religion is a ship whose master is the Holy Spirit, it is a rich ship such that everyone who is on board lack nothing for all that is necessary is provided, only those with self-love and desire to have private property are in want because they are not obedient.
The obedient soul receive a hundredfold of eternal life, this number hundred is a perfect number, so the reward of an obedient soul is the unity of their own will, both in general obedience and in particular obedience of their religious life. God rewards merits according to the love and promptitude of the truly obedient, and soul having seen with the eye of the intellect, and having known by the light of holy faith the truth and excellence of obedience, hearing and tasting it with love and ecstatic desire, gazed upon the divine majesty and gave thanks to God.
In the treatise on divine providence, charity is given as the foundation of all other virtues; this is because if one possesses it he or she possesses all the other virtues reason being that all virtues come from charity. This is why St. Catherine put the love of God above all else. This is also seen in the love she had when asked God for four favors not for herself but for the church and those who rebel against the church.
Sometimes when we are suffering we think that God is punishing us for our sins but here it is clarified that even the suffering that we experience are not enough to atone for the sins we have committed against God and that the sufferings we encounter are not punishments but help us to correct our sins, and turn back to God. Our love for God is seen in the way we endure amidst these sufferings and pain with patience.
Reading the Dialogue of St. Catherine made me understand that sometimes the penances that I make which are just exterior acts do not please God and that God is only pleased with penances which come from a good spirit which is as a result of one’s knowledge of God and oneself. It should come from the ultimate desire to be united with God as well as the enhancement of our communion with God. This communion should be seen in our prayer and in the way we relate with our neighbor. It is this prayer which can help us to overcome the vice of self-love which is opposed to charity.
The example of the saints were given here to show that this journey is not an impossible journey but a journey which can be taken by anyone provided he or she decides to do the will of God in a faithful manner and to take the only begotten son of God as the role model. It is not easy to take this journey of loving God but St. Catherine has provided me with the necessary tools especially that of obedience, humility, faithful prayer and perseverance and these should be accompanied by my total commitment to the reception of the sacraments which are the tools that Christ given me through the church, and through his chosen instruments the priests.