'Let the Fire Fall'

If you are what you should be, you will set the world on fire. - St. Catherine of Siena

Sometimes God and His saints and angels take their time answering our prayers. Other times, they act faster than thought.

I was covering a Priests, Deacons, and Seminarians Conference one summer at Franciscan University of Steubenville when one of the participants was called forward to share a testimony. This priest talked about his sabbatical year in a rectory, and how he'd had such good intentions at the outset. Prayer! Study! Sanctification! It was intended to be productive. Unfortunately, however, he found himself gravitating to the comfortable armchair for his prayer and reading - and right in front of that armchair there was a television.

He would watch educational programs, of course - nature shows; the news; and so forth. But gradually it came to take more and more of his time. He tried to resist. He put his Bible on the remote control, so that in order to watch television, he'd have to move the Scriptures to one side. When that wasn't enough, he added his rosary. But still, he'd find himself losing hours and hours to television.

Finally, one night, he was sitting in his armchair across from the television, reading Lay Siege to Heaven, Louis de Wohl's biographical novel of St. Catherine of Siena. It's a wonderful book, filled with many of the occasions when St. Catherine won great miracles from heaven by the power of her prayers. Midway through the novel, he prayed in frustration, "St. Catherine of Siena, help me!"

His cable box blew up.

He said he dashed up, grabbed the flaming hunk of metal, tossed it out onto the driveway, and watched it smolder itself into uselessness. For the rest of his sabbatical, he had no television, and counted himself a happier and holier priest as a result.

Happy feast of St. Catherine of Siena! She lived a remarkably rich and full life, serving Christ and His Church as few others ever have. Her letters to the Holy Father of the day helped return the papacy to Rome. Her charitable works of tending to the sick and those most in need of God's mercy were extensive. And the power of her prayers is legendary. If you don't know much about this fiery, wonderworking saint, do take the time to pick up one of the great biographical works about her, such as Sigrid Undset's Catherine of Siena or Louis De Wohl's Lay Siege to Heaven.

The Marians' Hearts Afire Parish-based Programs (HAPP) aim to set all hearts afire with the blazing love of God and the great fire of God's own love, the Holy Spirit. There are few better models of what such a heart looks like than that of St. Catherine of Siena. Let us ask her intercession for us all today that we may be open to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and in our lives, allowing ourselves to be transformed and enkindled to great heights of holiness, of love for God and neighbor.

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