29 Apr – Memorial for St. Catherine of Siena, virgin & doctor
Catherine (1347-1380) was the youngest child in a large family. At the age of six, she had a vision in which Jesus appeared and blessed her. Her parents wanted her to marry, but she became a Dominican tertiary. She was a mystic and stigmatist. She received a vision in which she was in mystical marriage with Christ, and the Infant Christ presented her with a wedding ring. She was counsellor to Pope Gregory XI and Pope Urban VI. She was proclaimed Doctor of the Church on 4 October 1970.
– Patron Saint Index
“Those who had escaped went about from place to place preaching the Good News”
It seems ironic that we celebrate the memorial of St Catherine of Siena today, patron saint of illness and nurses, amongst other things. St Catherine’s life itself was not unfamiliar to pandemics: she herself was born amid one – the Black Death – which claimed the lives of more than 20 million people within five years.
As we ourselves experience this unprecedented pandemic and global lockdown, no doubt that we are also experiencing a gamut of emotions — fear, doubt, anxiety, loneliness, ennui, purposelessness. As the global economy tanks, we worry about not being able to make ends meet. We worry about the lack of income and the loss of our jobs, the lack of supplies and groceries. We live in fear of our safety in the midst of complications at home, and the safety of our loved ones who may be battling it out on the frontline. As the virus spreads and the numbers rise, we cannot help but feel that everything is spiraling out of control, leaving us helpless. Being cut off from our family and friends, our religious houses and our normal social lives as we know it makes us feel isolated, scattered.
Yet in all this despair, there is still hope. We may be ‘scattered’, but there can still be a sense of purpose if we look for it, even if we are not at the frontline. St Catherine lived a large part of her early life in isolation, quietly in her family home. When she was 21, she experienced a mystical encounter with Christ, where he appeared to her in a vision and instructed her to leave her isolated life and re-enter public life to help the sick and the needy. This she did wholeheartedly, attending to the poor in their homes and the sick in hospitals. While we are, of course, prohibited to move around freely during this lockdown, that does not mean that we cannot reach out to those who need us. We have witnessed acts of extraordinary kindness by ordinary people during this time, from people sending cheer, encouragement and care packs to medical staff, to building owners who opened their premises for Malaysian workers who had nowhere to sleep. From Facebook groups trying to support small restaurant businesses, to volunteers providing essentials and food to foreign workers.
St Catherine did great things during her time in public life, by the grace of God. While we may not feel worthy to compare ourselves to her, we can take inspiration from her, to serve those who need us and do our bit in our own little way, be it a smile, a word of kindness, a small act of charity. We can ask God to guide us and St Catherine to pray for us, to help us to find our purpose in a time of purposelessness. The world needs each one of us, even after this lockdown is over. We will need to come together as a people to rebuild our world, our economies, our communities and our lives. Let us ask God to show us what we can do right now to be an agent of change, and to see the silver lining of hope amidst these dark clouds.
(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)
Prayer: St Catherine of Siena, we pray to you and ask for your intercession for recovery during this pandemic. Protect those who are at the frontline, especially those in the medical line, and heal those who are ill.
Thanksgiving: Lord, we give you thanks for the small blessings that we have during these difficult times, for the small acts of kindness shown by people the world over, for the efforts of those who are trying to fight the disease. We give thanks for the blessing of the lives of those who have passed and pray that they may rest in peace, and we pray that we may each find a way to help and bring comfort.