Tuesday, May 22, 2012

St Catherine of Siena on the Importance of Church Discipline - and Why It Doesn't Happen

St Catherine of Siena
Mystic, theologian, and stigmatist, it is said that she ate nothing but the Eucharist for 19 years. She met personally with Pope Gregory XI and successfully convinced him to move the papacy from Avignon back to Rome. And she is revered as both saint and one of only 33 (soon to be 34doctors of the Church.

And she accomplished all of this before her death at age 33.

I'm talking about the great 14th century Italian nun, St Catherine of Siena.

If you've been following me on Twitter, you know that lately I've been reading through one of her most famous works known as The Dialogue of St Catherine of Siena. Dialogue is the text of a mystical conversation she claims to have had with God the Father that she dictated to a friend. Below is an excerpt of what God supposedly said to Catherine.

It should be noted that this claimed conversation with God is private revelation, as opposed to the public revelation which culminated and was completed in the person of Jesus Christ. The Catechism explains the Church's posture toward private revelations (CCC 67):
Throughout the ages, there have been so-called "private" revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church. They do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ's definitive Revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history. Guided by the magisterium of the Church, the sensus fidelium knows how to discern and welcome in these revelations whatever constitutes an authentic call of Christ or his saints to the Church. 
Christian faith cannot accept "revelations" that claim to surpass or correct the Revelation of which Christ is the fulfillment, as is the case in certain non-Christian religions and also in certain recent sects which base themselves on such "revelations."
Whether they are of divine or human origin, I thought these to be wise words, and very relevant to our own day.

The subject of the excerpt below is the effects of proper and improper discipline given by clergy to their flocks. You'll see right away the importance that God gives to firm discipline, as well as the reasons He gives as why better discipline doesn't occur.

It's easy to say that this is something that has been lost in the American church. Of course, when I'm the one needing the discipline, I always appreciate getting off easy. But perhaps we would all be better off if we were held more directly accountable.

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Mary as Exterminatrix of Heresy
[B]ecause they first had done justice to themselves, they therefore did justice to those under them, wishing to see them live virtuously, and correcting them without any servile fear, because they were not thinking of themselves, but solely of My honor and the salvation of souls, like good shepherds, followers of the Good Shepherd, My Truth, whom I gave you to lead your sheep, having willed that He should give His life for you.

These have followed His footsteps, and therefore did they correct them, and did not let their members become putrid for want of correcting, but they charitably corrected them with the unction of benignity, and with the sharpness of fire, cauterizing the wound of sin with reproof and penance, little or much, according to the graveness of the fault. And, in order to correct it and to speak the truth, they did not even fear death. They were true gardeners who, with care and holy tears, took away the thorns of mortal sins, and planted plants odoriferous of virtue.

Wherefore, those under them lived in holy, true fear, and grew up like sweet smelling flowers in the mystic body of the holy Church (because they were not deprived of correction, and so were not guilty of sin), for My gardeners corrected them without any servile fear, being free from it, and without any sin, for they balanced exactly the scales of holy justice, reproving humbly and without human respect. And this justice was and is that pearl which shines in them, and which gave peace and light in the minds of the people and caused holy fear to be with them, and unity of hearts.

And I would that you know that, more darkness and division have come into the world amongst seculars and religious and the clergy and pastors of the holy Church, through the lack of the light of justice, and the advent of the darkness of injustice, than from any other causes.

Neither the civil law, nor the divine law, can be kept in any degree without holy justice, because he who is not corrected, and does not correct others, becomes like a limb which putrefies, and corrupts the
whole body, because the bad physician, when it had already begun to corrupt, placed ointment immediately upon it, without having first burnt the wound.

So, were the prelate, or any other lord having subjects, on seeing one putrefying from the corruption of mortal sin, to apply to him the ointment of soft words of encouragement alone, without reproof, he would never cure him, but the putrefaction would rather spread to the other members, who, with him, form one body under the same pastor. But if he were a physician, good and true to those souls, as were those glorious pastors of old, he would not give salving ointment without the fire of reproof. And, were the member still to remain obstinate in his evil doing, he would cut him off from the congregation in order that he corrupt not the other members with the putrefaction of mortal sin.

Jesus as the Good Shepherd
But they act not so today, but, in cases of evil doing, they even pretend not to see. And do you know why? The root of self-love is alive in them, wherefore they bear perverted and servile fear. Because they fear to lose their position or their temporal goods, or their prelacy, they do not correct, but act like blind ones, in that they see not the real way by which their position is to be kept. If they would only see that it is by holy justice they would be able to maintain it; but they do not, because they are deprived of light.

But, thinking to preserve their position with injustice, they do not reprove the faults of those under them; and they are deluded by their own sensitive self-love, or by their desire for lordship and prelacy, and they correct not the faults they should correct in others, because the same or greater ones are their own. They feel themselves comprehended in the guilt, and they therefore lose all ardor and security, and, fettered by servile fear, they make believe not to see.

And, moreover, if they do see they do not correct, but allow themselves to be bound over with flattering words and with many presents, and they themselves find the excuse for the guilty ones not to be punished. In such as these are fulfilled the words spoken by My Truth, saying: 'These are blind and leaders of the blind, and if the blind lead the blind, they both fall into the ditch.'

My sweet ministers, of whom I spoke to you, who have the properties and condition of the sun, did not, and do not (if there be any now) act so. And they are truly suns, as I have told you, because in them is no darkness of sin, or of ignorance, because they follow the doctrine of My Truth. They are not tepid, because they burn in the furnace of My love, and because they are despisers of the grandeurs, positions, and delights of the world. They fear not to correct, for he who does not desire lordship or prelacy will not fear to lose it, and will reprove manfully, and he whose conscience does not reprove him of guilt, does not fear.

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