CHRIST’S PASSION for unity is now likewise ours, to include both the pain and the self-giving, and by faith, the rising and the victory. The prayer of Jesus becomes our prayer, as we stand with Him in the Cross. Such passion, however, is not emotional self-indulgence, a straining of the imagination or the rousing of feelings. In contrast it implies a participation in our Lord’s patient endurance, His fortitude in the face of intense suffering voluntarily undergone, His meekness and humility, and His unlimited forgiveness of his foes. We can only hope to participate in this through His redeeming Blood and the efficacy of His sacrifice on our behalf.
St. Catherine of Siena
We might turn for a moment or two to Catherine of Siena (14th century), to learn something of the immensity of such a vocation. Catherine is one of the most amazing women ever to have lived. She was a great woman of prayer, while at the same time working incessantly to foster peace between the Italian City states and within the Church itself, rent as it was by the effects of a divided Papacy and the laxity of many of the clergy.
Our concern here is to glean something of the quality of Catherine’s prayer, out of which grew her intense labour for peace and unity. She stood in the Cross and knew, from revealed experience, the efficacy of the precious blood of the Saviour: “with the Blood hast thou washed our iniquities … the Blood is ours — wherefore Thou cannot deny it to any who truly asks for it”.
Remedy for Disunity
Catherine was given to ‘see’ the hideousness of disunity. Our Lord reminded her of the dreadful truth that we, the redeemed members of His Body the Church, so often turn our backs on His gifts and scorn them. Such guilt is great. Yet there is a remedy. God Himself puts the desire of atonement in the hearts of some of His servants so that He may heed and answer their prayer:
“Take, therefore”, he says, “thy tears and thy sweat, drawn from the fountain of My divine love, and, with them, wash the face of My spouse. I promise thee. that by this means her beauty will be restored to her, not by the knife nor by cruelty, but peacefully, by humble and continued prayer … and thus will I fulfil thy desire if thou, on thy part endure much, casting the light of thy patience into the darkness of perverse man…”
In return Catherine gave her whole self. Even her awareness of her utter nothingness was returned to God: “I am the cause, exact the penalty, from me”. “Never will I depart from before Thy presence, until I see that Thou grantest them mercy “.
The sins of the Church were like leprosy, which Catherine held up to God for Him ‘to see. Yet awareness of sin could not mean ceasing to love the sinner, as Our Lord Himself said: “It not being my will that they should be in this state, ye should pray for them, and not judge them, leaving their judgement to Me”.
Such prayer was to be incessant and was to increase in intensity. God expected it of Catherine, and of others too. Most certainly He asks no less of us now since His Church is so grievously wounded and dispersed:
And now I urge thee, and my other servants to grieve, for by your grief and humble and continual prayer I will do mercy to the world … I demand this of thee now more than at first…
Are we willing to respond, to take the brunt of responsibility for the sins of the Church on ourselves and offer them back to God? Will we grieve, so that He can work His purposes through us, as we too stand in the Cross, enduring the cost, sustained by the Blood that Jesus has shed? Is our heart there, with our treasure, so that we and all the redeemed in our passion for unity may truly become our desire to be ONE IN CHRIST?
A Sister of Holy Cross Convent, Rempstone