April 2017 WATERritual

Honoring Saint Catherine of Siena

By Diann L. Neu, Mallory Naake, and Hannah Dorfman

catherine of siena

Listen to the audio of our April 2017 WATERritual here.

Preparation: Set your ritual space with a centerpiece of lilies, books about or pictures of Catherine of Siena, a candle for each participant, matches, several rocks, bread and wine/juice/drink.

Call to Gather
We gather today to honor Saint Catherine of Siena in anticipation of her Feast Day on April 29th, which marks her death in 1380 at age 33. Catherine is a 14th century Italian mystic, prophet, and activist who serves as an example for all contemporary justice seekers. In 1970, Pope Paul VI proclaimed Catherine, along with St. Teresa of Avila, the first women Doctors of the Church. This means Catherine is among the 36 major theologians recognized by the Church, and her writings are approved teachings for the whole church for all time. Today we lift up this amazing woman who challenges us to share in her wisdom, knowledge, and love.

Name the Circle
Let us introduce ourselves. Speak your name and say where you are geographically.

Pray with Catherine

O Holy Spirit, O eternal God, O Christ, O Love,
     come into my heart;
By your power draw it to you, my God, and give me
     charity with fear.
Protect me, O ineffable Love, from every evil thought;
     inflame me and permeate me with your exquisite love,
     So that every pain may become a ray of light! My Holy
     Creator [Father] and my sweet Love [Lord], help me now in all of my
     ministries. Christ, Love, Amen!
     (Prayers 6)

Catherine’s Story

Proclaim the truth and do not be silent through fear.”

Catherine of Siena

St. Catherine of Siena is perhaps the most remarkable woman of the 14th century. She was born March 25, 1347 and lived until age 33 on April 29, 1380. She cared for the sick, wrote letters to popes, and counseled kings, queens, and her own mother. Filled with joy, compassion, and charm, she attracted disciples who called her “Mama.”

Catherine’s works are written in the beautiful Tuscan dialect of her time and rank among the classics of the Italian language. Her writings consist of

  • The Dialogue, or Treatise on Divine Providence;
  • a collection of nearly four hundred Letters; and
  • a series of “Prayers.”

Her words were also recorded in her biography, Life, by her friend and confessor Raymond of Capua.

We use her words and works in today’s liturgy.

Catherine the Mystic

The human heart is always drawn by love.”

Catherine of Siena

From an early age, Catherine experienced visions, ecstasies, and spiritual struggles. She had various visions of Christ, and ultimately wrote The Dialogue, an imagined conversation between God and herself. Its central message is the unifying power of love through the personal Christ who cares for all.

Listen to Catherine

“I have told you this, my dearest daughter, to let you know the perfection of this unitive state in which souls are carried off by the fire of my charity. In that charity, they receive supernatural light and in that light they love me. Love follows upon understanding. The more they know, the more they love. The more they love, the more they know. Each nourishes the other. By this light, they reach that eternal vision of me in which they see and taste me in truth when soul is separated from body.” (Dialogue 85)

     Response: Catherine of Siena, walk with us on our journey

Take Action Each person light a candle.

Pray with Catherine

In your nature,
eternal Godhead,
I shall come to know my nature.
And what is my nature, boundless love?
It is fire,
because you are nothing but a fire of love.
And you have given humankind
a share in this nature,
for by the fire of love
you created us.
And so with all other people
and every created thing;
you made them out of love.

O ungrateful people!
What nature has your God given you?
God’s [His] very own nature!
Are you not ashamed to cut yourself off from such a noble thing
through the guilt of deadly sin?

O eternal Trinity,
my sweet love!
You, light,
give us light.
You, wisdom,
give us wisdom.
You, supreme strength,
strengthen us.
Today, eternal God,
let our cloud be dissipated
so that we may perfectly know and follow your Truth
in truth,
with a free and simple heart.
God, come to our assistance!
(Prayers 12)

Reflect Silently How are we called to be mystics today? (Pause)

Song “Ubi Caritas,” text 8th century Latin, music Jacques Berthier, Les Presses de Taize © 1979

     Ubi caritas et amor. Ubi caritas; Deus ibi est.
     Live in charity and steadfast love. Live in charity; God will dwell with you.

Catherine the Prophet

Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”

Catherine of Siena

Catherine was a public voice in political and ecclesiastical affairs of her time. She advised Pope Urban VI on the reunification of the Church during the Great Schism, when two popes claimed legitimacy. She encouraged Pope Gregory XI to return the papacy to Rome in 1377 after 70 years in Avignon, France. And he did. Though she had public relationships with popes and other national leaders, like other women of the 14th century, Catherine experienced sexism. As we will see later, Catherine was vocal about her belief in the unifying power of the Eucharist for all those who crave it.

Listen to Catherine

“My very sex, as I need not tell you, puts many obstacles in the way.” (Life)

     Response: Catherine of Siena, walk with us on our journey.

“Does it not depend on my own will where I shall pour out my grace? With me, there is no longer male and female, nor lower and upper class. All stand equal in my sight.” (Life)

     Response: Catherine of Siena, walk with us on our journey.

“Love transforms one into what one loves.” (Dialogue 60)

     Response: Catherine of Siena, walk with us on our journey.

“Preach the truth as if you had a million voices. It is silence that kills the world.”

     Response: Catherine of Siena, walk with us on our journey.

Take Action Scream, yell, shout out an injustice with your prophetic voice.

Pray with Catherine

Eternal goodness,
you want me to gaze into you
and see that you love me,
To see that you love me gratuitously
so that I may love everyone
with the very same love.
You want me, then,
to love and serve my neighbors gratuitously,
by helping them
spiritually and materially
as much as I can…
God, come to our assistance!
(Dialogue 78)

Reflect Silently How are we called to be prophets today? (Pause)

Song “Ubi Caritas”

     Ubi caritas et amor. Ubi caritas; Deus ibi est.
     Live in charity and steadfast love. Live in charity; God will dwell with you.

Catherine the Activist

All the way to heaven is heaven.”

Catherine of Siena

Catherine was bold and fearless. After her early visions, she left her solitary life to minister and comfort those with disease, dying, and in prison. As Bridget Mary Meehan says: “Catherine of Siena reminds us that our mission [today] is not only to comfort the afflicted, but to afflict the comfortable for justice, human rights, peace and equality in our church and world today.”

Listen to Catherine

“I pray you then, you and me and every other servant of God, that we devote ourselves to understanding ourselves perfectly, in order that we may more perfectly recognize the goodwill of God, so that enlightened, we may abandon judging our neighbor, and acquire true compassion.” (Letters 66)

     Response: Catherine of Siena, walk with us on our journey.

“Patience is a queen who stands guard upon the rock of courage. She is an invincible victor. She does not stand alone, but with perseverance as her companion.” (Dialogue 95)

      Response: Catherine of Siena, walk with us on our journey.

Take Action Hold the rock of courage and pass it around the circle as we reflect.

Reflect Silently How are we called to be activists today? (Pause)

Song “Ubi Caritas”

      Ubi caritas et amor. Ubi caritas; Deus ibi est.
      Live in charity and steadfast love. Live in charity; God will dwell with you.

Reflection and Sharing
What does it mean for us today to be mystics, prophets, and activists today? (Sharing)

Eucharistic Prayer

With affectionate love

Catherine of Siena

The Eucharist was central to Catherine’s spirituality. She believed the Eucharist calls us to action, to take responsibility, to apply our faith in all the events of daily life. She explicitly disapproved of priests who believed they controlled the Eucharist, thus denying it to those who crave it.

Let us take bread and drink, and  listen to Catherine’s words as our Eucharistic Prayer.

Listen to Catherine

“Contemplate the marvelous state of the soul who receives this bread of life, this food of angels… When she receives this sacrament she lives in me and I in her. … Grace lives in such a soul because, having received this bread of life in grace, she lives in grace. When this appearance of bread has been consumed, I leave behind the imprint of my grace, just as a seal that is pressed into warm wax leaves its imprint when it is lifted off. Thus does the power of the sacrament remain there in the soul; that is, the warmth of my divine charity, the mercy of the Holy Spirit, remains there.” (Dialogue 112)

Acclamation Song Love, Love, Love

Scan 6

“I in my divine providence gave you this food, my gentle Truth, to help you in your need.” (Dialogue 112)

Acclamation Song Love, Love, Love

“You must receive this sacrament not only with your bodily senses but with your spiritual sensitivity, by disposing your soul to see and receive and taste this sacrament with affectionate love.” (Dialogue 111)

Acclamation Song Love, Love, Love

Pray with Catherine

Catherine’s prayer reflects that the Eucharist expresses God’s continuing presence among us and strengthens us for the journey.

“O boundless charity! Just as you gave us yourself, wholly God and wholly human, so you left us all of yourself as food so that while we are pilgrims in this life we might not collapse in our weariness but be strengthened by you, heavenly food.” (Prayers 10:24-45)

Share bread and drink.

Song “Love One Another,” Sr. Germaine, arr. Roger Nachtwey, Hymnal for Young Christians © 1967

Scan 4

Sending Forth and Greeting  

Like Catherine, we are called to be mystics, prophets and activists who love and serve our neighbors, advocate for justice, challenge abuse of power by church authorities, and work for reform, reconciliation and healing.

Let us greet one another and send one another forth with the words of Catherine of Siena, “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”

Take Action

  • On April 29, focus on love and do something to honor Catherine of Siena.
  • Use our resources list below or go online to read about Catherine of Siena.


Catherine’s Writings

The Dialogue. Trans. Suzanne Noffke. New York, NY: Paulist Press, 1980.

The Letters of St. Catherine of Siena. Vol. 1. Trans. Suzanne Noffke. Binghamton, NY:
     Center for Medieval and Early Renaissance Studies, 1988.

The Prayers of Catherine of Siena. 2nd edition. Trans. and ed. Suzanne Noffke. San
     Jose, CA: Authors Choice Press, 2001.

Books about Catherine

Dreyer, Elizabeth A. A Retreat with Catherine of Siena: Living the Truth of Love.
     Cincinnati, OH: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 1999.

Jones, Kathleen. Women Saints: Lives of Faith and Courage. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis
     Books, 1999.

King, Ursula. Christian Mystics: The Spiritual Heart of the Christian Tradition. New
     York, NY: Simon & Schuster Editions, 1998.

Madigan, Shawn, C.S.J, editor. Mystics, Visionaries & Prophets: A Historical Anthology
     of Women’s Spiritual Writings
. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1998.

Meehan, Bridget Mary. “St. Catherine of Siena: ‘Cry [out] as if you have a million voices,
     it is silence that kills the world.” Bridget Mary’s Blog. February 9, 2017.    bridgetmarys.blogspot.com/2017/02/st-catherine-of-siena-cry-out-as-if-you.

—. “St. Catherine of Siena, mystic, prophet and activist, walk with us on our journey
toward spiritual renewal.” Bridget Mary’s Blog. April 29, 2016. bridgetmarys.blogspot.com/2016/04/st-catherine-of-siena-mystic-prophet.

Raymond of Capua. The Life of Catherine of Siena. Trans. Conleth Kearns. Wilmington,
      DE: Michael Glazier, 1980.

Vardey, Lucinda, editor.  The Flowering of the Soul: A Book of Prayers by Women. New
     York, NY: Ballantine Wellspring, 1999.

© 2017 Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER). Planned by Diann L. Neu dneu@hers.com, Mallory Naake mallory@waterwomensalliance.org, and Hannah Dorfman hannah@waterwomensalliance.org.