By Crystal Crocker

The Basilica San Domenico in Siena, Italyaugust 9

The Basilica San Domenico in Siena, Italy, where St. Catherine’s head and a finger are displayed.

“Be sober, be vigilantYour opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”
1 Peter 5:8

Summer is a wonderful time for relaxation with friends and family, but that should not mean we relax our spiritual vigilance. If we do not commit to daily prayer, even the lazy days of summer can be used against us and catch us off guard.

Recently, I enjoyed hosting a vacation with relatives. There was much laughter retelling family stories and reveling in the joyful play of our children. However, goodbye hugs came too quickly and faded into the return of ongoing life. Post company and vacation brings a natural letdown of emotions, maybe even exhaustion, as a messy house and looming piles of dirty laundry beg for attention. Then, the return to work registers that it has continued without me and I am behind! Any additional work sent my way is viewed as a burden. And when an old family difficulty rears its ugly head yet again, I feel frustration and loss of patience.

My morning prayer time is something I rarely miss, but the busy work of entertaining company interceded. After only three days of distraction with company, I found myself out of balance. I was easily frustrated, impatient and uncharitable. I am ashamed to admit I even tearfully looked upward in an angry moment at God. Where did the relaxation of summer go? How was it that a little summer distraction caused so much spiritual imbalance? I flew back to my morning prayer and found love waiting for me with guiding words from a saintly friend.

The reflection that day was from St. Catherine of Siena and she came after me with arrows of truth.

“… embrace the sweet venerable cross … there find all the sweet solid virtues … the world is against you …”

She was pointing to the cross where Jesus should be my focus, not the world. I continued to read her words.

“ … prepare yourself ahead of time …”

Yes! Why would I ever face a day without placing Him first in my heart? Even a vacation day!

“ … with a shield in hand, to receive the blows …”

My blows ranged from bad news to a big pile of smelly laundry!

Then, St. Catherine describes the shield needed for protection. It has three sides, which are three virtues, and this is when she gets to the heart of the matter.

“You need hatred.”

What? Hatred? That’s not a virtue! But she explains that we need hatred and contempt for our sins that cause us to be distracted and turn away from God in big things and little things. This is really the virtue of humility, acknowledging our weakness for sin and daily seeking God’s mercy and forgiveness.

Then, St. Catherine adds that we need love, the grateful kind of love because God loves us even though we do not deserve it and that we must love others as He loves us.

With these two virtues of perfect love and hatred of our sinfulness, the third virtue given to us is patience, “so that not only will you not be saddened by any hurtful words or actions, nor moved to impatience by any suffering you may have to bear, but you will endure these things joyfully … There will be no blow, from the devil or anyone else, that can harm you if you have this shield of hatred, love, and true patience.”

If you find yourself at odds with the world and out of balance, struggling with patience, frustration and an uncharitable attitude, return to what is really important. Return to daily prayer. Build your shield placing your focus on Jesus, with a humble heart acknowledging your sinfulness, loving Him with your whole heart. Then, ask for the grace and power of patience to endure all things with joy.

Reference: The Letters of St. Catherine of Siena, Vol.II, Suzanne Noffke, o.p., Tr., MRTS vol.52. ACMRS Publications, January 2000.

About the Author:

Crystal Crocker

Photo courtesy of Crystal Crocker.

Crystal Crocker is a wife, mother of four and lifelong Catholic with a zeal for evangelization. She has led numerous Bible studies and women’s groups. She currently works in the Office of Evangelization & Catechesis for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.