May 9, 2011

St. Catherine's Diligence

It was my good fortune to have Mass at the Poor Clares this morning, because today is the feast of St. Catherine of Bologna. You see, for some reason or other she seems to have fallen off our calendar, but remains for the Poor Clares. So at the Capuchin friary, as best I can tell, today is Monday of the third week of Easter, but at the Poor Clare monastery, it's the memorial of St. Catherine.

As I wrote about once before, I'm always fascinated by the selection from Catherine's Treatise on the Seven Spiritual Weapons that appears in her Office of Readings. I love how the first of her "weapons" is diligence.

I preached on this for the Mass, and the sister who was putting things away after Mass struck up a conversation about it. We talked about how diligence has a root in the Latin verb lego, 'to collect' or 'to pick out.' It is in this sense that lego also means 'to read;' reading is an act of picking out words from a page.

Sister said that "after 57 years in the monastery" this was the principal spiritual challenge: not to just live "by the bells" or by the schedule, but to do all of those daily things in a collected way, really picking them out, really choosing to do them without being somewhere else in thought or attention.

This is one of the most basic things in the spiritual life; the spirit of age quod agis, to 'do what you are doing.' To really listen when someone is speaking, resisting the temptation to use the moment to think about what you want to say next, to pay attention to the activity at hand without thinking about what has to be done next, etc. The Incarnation teaches us that it is both God's desire and his style to be revealed in the plain, the ordinary, the unglamorous. By our attention to what comes before us in the present moment, we will find Him there.

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