“This is my commandment: Love one another as I love you.”(Jn.
“The problem is that being a good member of a parish
populated by all the diverse people in the neighborhood, reaching
out to people of all perspectives and needs is exactly what these
young people want. ‘If you are one (kind of Catholic),’
the young woman said, “the others will not talk to you. Is
that Christian?” she implied with a shrug of her shoulders...”
(A conversation in the April 19, 2005 Notes
from Rome “I missed the smoke; I got the idea” by
Joan Chittister, OSB.)
Today is the feast of Catherine of Siena, Doctor of the Church (conferred
by Pope Paul VI in 1970). The honor is bestowed on individuals who
are examples of eminent learning, a high degree of sanctity, and
proclamation by the Church.
Catherine of Siena’s advice and help was sought by Pope Gregory
XI as well as by his successor, Pope Urban VI during the Great Schism.
As a Dominican Tertiary, Catherine devoted her life to prayer for
peace and the conversion of sinners, as well as serving the sick
and poor. She did not desire attention for herself, but worked tirelessly
to bring others to God. However, she responded to the needs of her
church and worked for a peaceful resolution of the differences among
the factions in the church.
Today’s readings for the feast of Catherine of Siena witness
to the early apostolic community’s inclusion of the voices
of the whole community in its decisions and written messages to
new communities. In today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles,
representatives are sent with Paul and Barnabas and a letter to
Antioch to help clarify some misunderstandings of the teachings
of the early Christian community. Evidently, Antioch was confused
by conflicting teachings and rules from earlier preachers. The letter
to Antioch simply stated that, “…It is the decision
of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond
these necessities…” The letter and representatives
were sent from “…the Apostles and presbyters, in
agreement with the whole Church…”
Today’s gospel message, “…to love one another
as I love you”, certainly is reflected in the life of
Catherine of Siena as well as her message to the people with whom
she met, worked and conversed in person and in her letters.
I believe that this is what Jesus is inviting each of us to do…to
love others as I love you. And this is what Catherine of Siena’s
life witnessed to and with others.
The question put forth by the young woman in Rome in my opening
quote is challenging all of us to consider what it really means
to be Christian in today’s world.
My prayer today is that we, as church - leaders, communities and
individuals - will open our hearts and minds to the real meaning
of what Jesus is asking of us…to be Christ-like…to have
compassion (presence) with, to and for one another. Our challenge
is to respectfully listen and respond to the voices and needs of
one another through our gifts, talents and presence with which God
has gifted each of us as images of God in our world today. If we
fail this, we fail the church of today and tomorrow and the gospel‘s
call, “to love one another as I love you”.