This article is an excerpt from our eBook Homes, Hobbies, & Holiness: Living with the Saints in your Domestic Church.
When I was younger, my bedroom was often where I went to escape the rest of the world. Through imaginative play, it could be my castle, rocket ship, or little house on the prairie. I would spend hours on my bed curled up with books and escape into other lands and experiences. Additionally, I learned some of my first prayers kneeling beside my bed each evening with my parents. And I would drift off to dreamland, safely snuggled under the covers.
It was similar for St. Catherine of Siena, though hers was more intensely a haven where she could commune with and contemplate Jesus. She spoke of her experience and exhorted her friends in a letter, “Remain with Him in thy chamber, for thou shalt not elsewhere find so great peace.” It was through this great peace that Catherine’s vocation bloomed.
She was a laywoman, the 24th of 25 children born to her parents, Jacopo and Lapa Benincasa. Slated for a prominent marriage due to her attractiveness, she turned from that path and was instead drawn to contemplation and a life of austerity and mysticism. Instead of marrying she became a Third Order Dominican, still a laywoman living at home.
Her relationship with Jesus began as a small child and blossomed throughout her relatively short life. Though she died at only 33, during her lifetime she was known for her holiness and boldness in speaking out when necessary to draw others deeper in the faith. Perhaps most famously, she was responsible for bringing the papacy back to Rome after years in Avignon, France.
However, she did so only after intense prayer and communion with God. She exemplified the instructions of Jesus: “When you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you” (Matthew 6:6). Functionally illiterate, she dictated her mystical experiences with the Lord to others, and they have been preserved throughout the centuries. Her writings have cause her to be declared a Doctor of the Church – an honor only bestowed upon 36 people in history.
Through her writings, we can see how important prayer is in every room of our house, and how important it is to make the home a dwelling for the Lord. Ours should be a life of seeking to know Him more, as His Love and greatness are like an unfathomable ocean. Catherine once prayed, “You, eternal Trinity, are a deep sea. The more I enter you, the more I discover, and the more I discover, the more I seek you.”
Her love of the Eucharist (she was a daily communicant for many years of her life) and the oneness it creates between the soul and God is reflected in her words, “The soul is in God and God is in the soul. God is closer to us than water is to a fish.” May we all strive to be as united to Him as St. Catherine was, in all that we do. In the stillness of the morning we can offer our day to the Lord and in the darkness of the night we can reflect upon how He walked with us throughout the day. In our bedrooms, in our beds, we can practice turning our hearts and souls to Him as the first and last things we do every day.
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