Chantal van der Plancke has a doctorate in theology and is a professor at Lumen Vitae, the international center for pastoral studies and catechesis in Brussels.
15 Days of Prayer with Saint Catherine of Sienaby Andre Knockaert, Chantal van der Plancke
Catherine of Siena (1347-1380) had her first vision of Christ at age 6 and dedicated her life to his service as a Dominican. She produced an extraordinary series of nearly 400 letters on spiritual education and the public affairs of the Church and served as an advisor to Pope Gregory XI and his successor, Urban VI. Catherine is also the author of the Dialogue and a
Catherine of Siena (1347-1380) had her first vision of Christ at age 6 and dedicated her life to his service as a Dominican. She produced an extraordinary series of nearly 400 letters on spiritual education and the public affairs of the Church and served as an advisor to Pope Gregory XI and his successor, Urban VI. Catherine is also the author of the Dialogue and a Doctor of the Church.
Saint Catherine issues an invitation and challenge: change direction, move away from self and toward God and neighbor. This 15-day journey will teach you to focus on Christ and be transformed by him, sharing the knowledge and joy of his love with others. The Cross is the central axis of these fifteen days because it is the place that leads to God. This is the vision of spiritual awakening in Christ that Saint Catherine offers us.
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Catherine of Siena can be considered an "extreme" saint. In their introduction, van der Plancke and Knockaert tell us that she experienced her first vision when she was 6. After becoming a Dominican tertiary at age 16, she spent three years in seclusion, praying, fasting, and practicing "extreme austerities." Her seclusion and later life were marked by visions, ecstasies, and familiar conversations with Christ. Catherine suffered physical torment related to self punishment and insufficient food and sleep. In 1375 she received the stigmata, visible to outsiders only after her death. By 1380, she could no longer take food or water. She died at the age of 32 after suffering a stroke.
But, awe-inspiring as they are, these details are not the main point of this book. As in the rest of this series, the purpose of the "companion" saint to help us on our journey to "a place where God dwells." To that end, the authors present and reflect on Catherine's writings on such topics as self-knowledge, Christ as a bridge to heaven, misery and mercy, and love of the Church. Catherine was a model of love and charity for all and worked tirelessly to bring peace in the face of political upheaval in the Church and society. The authors describe her as a bold and devoted young woman burdened by "the triple handicap" of her illiteracy, lay status, and gender, "in a time when not one of these characteristics was valued."
With its guidelines for use, short meditations, and reflection questions, 15 Days of Prayer with Catherine of Siena is a rich resource for individuals and small groups.