Perhaps a lesser known fact about St. Catherine of Siena was that she lived with a small “spiritual family” around her in Rome toward the end of her life. Throughout her travels many people flocked to her because they saw St. Catherine as a woman of immense faith who radiated the love of God to all whom she met. Many wished to follow her wherever she went because they recognized the immense gifts God had given her and they hoped to learn all they could from this holy woman. In her final years, when her strength was waning, she moved to Rome. There, St. Catherine and her disciples lived together as a spiritual family.
According to Sigrid Undset’s Catherine of Siena, Saint Catherine was always deeply devoted to the Eucharist, and she encouraged many to receive communion frequently and with great devotion. In Rome, she insisted that her household visit all of the parish churches which held relics of the martyrs. The practice of visiting these churches to receive the Eucharist in the presence of the martyrs was formative for her sons and daughters. Going to Mass and receiving the Eucharist at these special churches united St. Catherine’s community to the heart of Christ in a way unlike any other. In these holy communions, the immense charity of Christ was poured into their souls. This, in turn, compelled each of them to pour out this same love on all they met in the world around them. From this community and their sharing in the Eucharist, they brought joy and strength to others through their ordinary witness (“martyrdom”).
There is a special bond among those who receive the Eucharist with great devotion together. All who gather for the Eucharist are united in the one sacrifice of Christ on the Cross for our sins. They are joined together by the promise of sharing in the divine life of God. This sharing in the Eucharist allows us to see with the eyes of faith those around us who live out their faith with hope and joy, and it gives us the grace to be witnesses of hope and joy ourselves.
When we encounter those who have the eyes of faith they renew in us the joy of a living faith in God. Rather than allowing sin and destruction which surround us to crush us, we can look up, and see those around us who live out their faith with hope and joy, and in so doing, receive strength and joy ourselves.
Image: The Miraculous Communion of Saint Catherine of Siena by Giovanni di Paolo