In the excerpt below (the whole book is free this month), St. Catherine of Siena paints a vision for how the Church’s suffering today transforms it into Christ’s likeness, which will soon result in joy. She writes imaginatively from the perspective of God the Father.
I who am Truth have taught you now what you need to know to achieve and maintain the highest perfection. I have told you as well how sin and its penalty are atoned for in yourself and in your neighbors, reminding you that the pains you endure while in the mortal body are worth nothing in terms of atonement unless they are joined with loving charity, true contrition, and contempt for sin. But suffering so joined with charity atones not by virtue of any actual pain you may endure but by virtue of charity and sorrow for the sin you have committed. This charity is attained with the light of understanding, with a heart sincere and free gazing into me as its object—for I myself am this charity.
You asked me for a willingness to suffer. So I have shown you all this to teach you and my other servants how you should make this sacrifice of yourselves to me. I am speaking of sacrifice both in act and in spirit joined together as the vessel is joined with the water offered to one’s lord. For the water cannot be presented without the vessel, and the lord would not be pleased to be offered the vessel without the water. So I tell you, you must offer me the vessel of all your actual sufferings, however I may send them to you—for the place and the time and the sort of suffering are not yours to choose, but mine. But this vessel of yours must be filled with the loving affection and true patience with which you carry all the burden of your neighbors’ guilt even while you hate and reject the sin.
Thus these sufferings (which I set before you as a vessel) are found to be filled with the water of my grace, which gives life to your soul. And I accept this present from my dear spouses, from all who serve me. I accept from you your restless desires, your tears and sighs, your constant humble prayers—all of which, because of my love for you, are a means to placate my anger against my wicked enemies, the wicked ones of the world, who so offend me.
The more the mystic body of holy Church is filled with troubles now, the more it will abound in delight and consolation.
So suffer courageously even to the point of death, and this will be a sign to me that you love me in truth. Nor must you let human respect or troubles make you look back at what you have already plowed. Rather, rejoice in your troubles. The world makes sport of heaping insults upon me, and you will be saddened in the world when you see them insult me. For when they offend me they offend you, and when they offend you they offend me, since I have become one thing with you.
Think of it! I gifted you with my image and likeness. And when you lost the life of grace through sin, to restore it to you I united my nature with you, hiding it in your humanity. I had made you in my image; now I took your image by assuming a human form. So I am one thing with you—except if a soul leaves me through deadly sin. But those who love me live in me and I live in them. This is why the world persecutes them. The world has no likeness to me, so it persecuted my only-begotten Son even to the shameful death of the cross, and so it persecutes you. Because it has no love for me, the world persecutes you and will persecute you even to the point of death; for if the world had loved me, it would love you as well. Yet be glad, because in heaven your joy will be complete.
I tell you further: the more the mystic body of holy Church is filled with troubles now, the more it will abound in delight and consolation. And this shall be its delight: the reform of good holy shepherds who are flowers of glory, who praise and glorify my name, offering me the fragrance of virtue rooted in truth. This is the reform of the fragrant blossoming of my ministers and shepherds—not that the fruit of this bride needs to be reformed, because it never spoils or is diminished by the sins of its ministers. So be glad, you and your spiritual father and my other servants, in your bitterness. For I, eternal Truth, promise to refresh you, and after your bitterness I will give you consolation, along with great suffering, in the reform of holy Church.1
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