Today, we celebrate the feast of the great saint and doctor of the Church, St. Catherine of Siena, who lived in the 14th-century, a time that was full of confusion and friction in so many areas of society, including in the Church. During that time, many of the Christian states of Europe were at war with one another and, because of the powerful French monarchy, the Pope no longer lived in Rome but in Avignon. That eventually led to the Great Western Schism where the Church had two different popes at the same time. But this schism could only have happened because the Church was in serious need of reform: the clergy was corrupt, plagued by scandals, and the laity were morally and doctrinally lax.
But, as we have seen throughout history, every time the Church and the world is in crisis, the Lord uses that as an opportunity to raise up some pretty incredible saints. That was certainly the case with this particular time period as well. And that’s where Catherine of Siena comes into the picture.
Catherine knew that the only way for her to do her part to heal the Church was through prayer and penitence. Her remedy for the sins of the Church was to look at her own, to repent of them, to change her ways. She knew that the only soul she could change and cause to cooperate with God’s grace, to conform to Christ’s will, was her own. That’s a message for each of us during our time.
There is a lot of uncertainty in our world right now and, to many of us, we have seen how that uncertainty and that confusion has entered the Church. In fact, we could make many of the same assessments about the state of the Church today as Catherine saw in her time: many of the clergy are corrupt, the Church has been plagued with scandal, many of the lay faithful are morally lax, and many Catholics don’t understand or follow the central teachings of the faith. But we can’t allow that to bring us to despair. We have hope by looking at the saints.
Just as Catherine understood, we can see that reform of the Church comes through each of us as members of the Body of Christ striving to be faithful to the teachings of Jesus and to living out our Christian vocation. We must focus on ourselves first. Through prayer, through acts of penitence, each of us has to allow Christ to heal us so that we can play our proper part within his holy Body. Today, let’s commit to that. Let’s ask the Lord for the grace of a deeper sense of remorse for our sins and ask for a true spirit of repentance and conversion. The Lord wants to raise up great saints during this time. And who knows, maybe some of those great saints are right here in this building this morning. Maybe one of those saints is you! Let’s pray that the Lord make it so.
St. Catherine of Siena, pray for us.