Laura K. Roland considers the lessons she can learn from a saint who seemed to be always showing up in her life.
It’s been an odd couple of months here in my house. We relocated, dealt with some major health crisis, and figured out how to have two grown adults work from the same apartment at the same time. I know, we are little late to the office-sharing game, but it’s taken some maneuvering, many moments of grace to have honest conversations, and a whole lot of humility and love to weather these things.
Through it all, I felt like the Lord was trying to tell me something, to use this change to broaden my heart. And then I noticed her, a saint, a person I didn’t know anything about. But there she was, suddenly, at every turn.
Up until a few years ago I never really gave much thought to the saints. I knew what the Church teaches us about them, and I knew friends who had special saints in their lives to whom they prayed and asked for their prayers in return. St. Teresa of Calcutta had been on my heart since I was a teenager, as I had seen an image of her old, withered face and gnarled hands in a magazine somewhere. I thought she was the most beautiful human I had ever seen. But I never really thought much about what she said, or how she lived, or what it meant for her to be a saint.
And I certainly never thought much about my own sainthood. Until this year. Until St. Catherine of Siena began stalking me.
She showed up randomly one day in a conversation with my daughter-in-law, who said that St. Catherine was her Confirmation saint and that she loved her writings, especially the dialogues. I nodded politely and murmured an appropriate, “mmhmm,” having no clue who St. Catherine was or what she wrote about. Because she was important to my daughter-in-law, I filed the name away, promising myself I would learn more about her.
Before I could fire up the search engines, there were two random posts about her on social media. The next day a podcast brought up her name and her works; the guest loved St. Catherine’s prayers. By the end of the week, this beloved saint had crossed my path no less than 6 times.
When I asked my spiritual director about it, he chuckled and said, “I think she’s got something she needs to tell you.”
To be honest, I love all the weirdly wonderful things about the Catholic faith (relics, anyone?). But the idea that a Saint would seek me out? Even I took a pause on that one. And then I did what I promised myself I would do at the first mention of her. I dove into learning about her.
She did, indeed, have much to tell me.
I’ve been struggling a lot lately with what courage and boldness look like when you live an ordinary life in the faith. I’d asked the Lord to show me how to step out, step up and be more bold, more courageous when speaking about the faith. It was a prayer I thought I was in a season of wait with, trusting the Lord would show me when I was ready.
Apparently, I’m ready. Because what St. Catherine of Siena wrote in her letters, what she experienced in her dialogue with the Lord, and how she prayed are both powerful and humbling. To have that kind of boldness, urgency, passion – that can only come from a place of true trust that the Lord has put you on a mission and He’s got your back.
You want me, then, to love and serve my neighbors gratuitously, by helping them spiritually and materially as much as I can. (Your Greatness is Everywhere, Prayers 12)
If this was her mission, her call from the Lord, I take great comfort that perhaps I am on the right pathway to holiness, to sainthood. Why? Because her mission is exactly what the Lord is calling me to do these days. And I’ll bet it’s on your heart as well as you tackle the thousands of tasks and duties and have-tos and want-tos that comprise your ordinary life lived in the faith. You, we – like she – do it because it’s the Lord’s work here on earth. It’s the work He left to the ordinary saints of this world. That’s us, sister.
What have I learned from this brief but so impactful encounter with a Doctor of the Church and saint? Two things. First, you cannot outrun God. He will show up and show off and give you exactly who and what you need to accomplish what He has put on your heart. Second, having courage and being bold about the faith are not incompatible with living an ordinary life in the faith. St. Catherine shows us the power we each have in how we approach the mission, His mission, “to love” (Mark 12: 33).
St. Catherine of Siena, pray for us.
Copyright 2021 Laura K. Roland
Image: Baldassare Franceschini, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
About the Author
Laura K. Roland is a cradle Catholic. She and her husband of 31+ years have 3 children and have recently added a son-in-law and a daughter-in-law to their ever-growing family. A former Catholic educator, she co-founded the women’s ministry Encounter Grace in 2018 and is a speaker, writer, mentor, and host of the new podcast, Short Story Longer.