5th Sunday of Easter


Dear Friends,

I wish to highlight two feasts we keep this week. Tomorrow, April 29, is the feast of St. Catherine of Siena, a very fascinating figure in church history for many reasons. When we realize that Christian theology has been largely shaped by men, her contribution to theology is very significant. No wonder that the Church not only canonized her but also declared her as one of the few women doctors of the church.

Catherine was a Dominican Tertiary, living in the 14th century in Siena, Italy.  The corruption in the church and in the society during her day caused her great distress.  She loved both but speaking truth to those in power was one of her great gifts.  Catherine was passionate for the reform of the church and did not hesitate to challenge the church and she did bring about reform in the church. How did she do it when she did not even have much formal education?

The answer is her deep mystical spirituality. She knew Jesus on a personal and intimate level. Her interior life was so aligned with the divine that she was able to speak the truth of God to anyone – no matter how high that person was in the ecclesiastical or political ladder. Thus she was bold enough to instruct popes and cardinals, as well as adjudicate quarrels among statesmen.

“No more simony, no more unbridled luxuries, no more dealers in blood, no more swindlers in what ought to be the temple of God,” St. Catherine wrote to Pope Urban. After meeting with Catherine in Florence, Pope Urban, in his pomp and worldliness, turned to his advisors in amazement. “This little woman confounds us,” he said. “For while we are afraid, she stands without fear, and by her persuasions, she gives us courage”. Catherine inspired confidence in the pope by reminding him of his vocation. When writing to Pope Gregory IX during the infamous Avignon crisis, she called him out on a private vow he had made to return the papacy to Rome.

These vignettes from her life show us her radical witnessing to the prophetic message of the Gospel. If you can read her biography, the details will amaze you. She is model to all of us and an honor to all women in particular.

This week we enter the month of May with the feast of “St Joseph, the Worker.” Human labor is one of the important means of achieving holiness. It was Pope Pius XII who instituted the feast of Saint Joseph the Worker in 1955, in order to foster deep devotion to Saint Joseph among Catholics, and in response to the “May Day” celebrations for workers sponsored by Communists. This feast extends the long relationship between Joseph and the cause of workers in both Catholic faith and devotion. Beginning in the Book of Genesis, the dignity of human work has long been celebrated as a participation in the creative work of God. By work, humankind both fulfills the command found in Genesis to care for the earth (Gen 2:15) and to be productive in their labors. Saint Joseph, the carpenter and foster father of Jesus, is but one example of the holiness of human labor. Without the spiritual element of work, we will succumb to its drudgery, and consider our labors as toil. But when we order our work to praise God, we experience, in some way, the joy and blessedness of labor which Adam experienced in the Garden of Eden.

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal