Sunday, April 25, 2010

Everyone likes a smackdown

"What made you do this? You are flowers who shed no perfume, but stench that makes the whole world reek." St. Catherine of Siena, writing to three Italian cardinals who supported the anti-pope during the Great Western Schism.

Ah, St. Catherine of Siena. I love her. She knew when to let people have it, even the pope. And they asked for it. The pope and bishops of her time asked her for her advice and she didn't sugar-coat it. She just told you. Sometimes she told them, even when they didn't ask. She made change happen. She got the pope to come back to Rome after fleeing for France (of course, after she died, he left again. I guess he needed her to keep kicking him in the pants.)

I think of how I'd like to tell some bishops off. Especially with all of the horrible crimes that some priests and bishops have committed that are all over the press now. The temptation is to vent all of one's justified anger toward these weak, weak men in an email and to just hit "send."

The main difference between Catherine and me is this: she understood that she wasn't equal to God. She understood humility. She understood that she wasn't better than those foul-smelling Italian bishops to whom that quote above is addressed.

I don't understand humility. Other people's mistakes make me feel, even for a second, better than they are. Don't you try to say that you never feel the same way. "If I were a priest, this would never have happened. If I were a bishop, I would have defrocked that priest instead of covering the abuse up! If I were that child's mother, I would have just called the cops; the bishop would have found out from the DA, not from me!"

I try to give myself a pass, thinking, maybe Catherine understood it better because she had visions and personal, face-to-face conversations with God. I think to myself, if God showed up in my room when I was praying, I'd get it too.

Catherine recorded that in one of her visions God told her: "I am who am; you are she who is not."

"I am who am; you are she who is not."

I am she who is not.

Y'know, Lord, that really kind of takes the fun out of the whole righteous indignation thing. You're really busting my flow.

See, thing is, it's all over the Bible how we're supposed to behave, how we're supposed to treat one another and how we dare not play God. I don't get a pass because Jesus isn't tapping me on the shoulder, reminding me to be humble as He is. I have the Scriptures to do that, I have good preaching to remind me. I have Jesus in the Eucharist to remind me how I am supposed to be.

And I have the writings of St. Catherine of Siena to prick my conscience when it needs it, when I need to be reminded.

I am she who is not.

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