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During my weekend at the Dominican House in Chicago, the best I received from one of the friars on homilies was this: “Don’t tell me, show me.”
Today, we celebrate the second in a weekend or three day series of feast days: St. Louis de Montfort, St. Catherine of Seina, and St. Pius V. The next two reflections will focus on the first two I mentioned.
So how can I talk about a doctor of the Church? Well, I need to dive into my discernment story a little.
If I haven’t mentioned it before, I am a Young Adult living on the Autism Spectrum Disorder (specifically Asperger’s). It is a sad fact that the majority of orders within the Church do not accept men (or women so far as I know) with Aspergers because of the various stereotypes and quirks that we Autistics have; it is hard enough for us to be young adults in the current culture, and being Catholic as well as Autistic seems to be a double whammy.
Anyway, St. Catherine was from a good family, beautiful and illiterate despite her intelligence. She was someone who wanted to enter the religious life, specifically our order of St. Dominic. Her parents wanted her to marry and help their wealth to grow, but she insisted she enter our order. Her mother was pleased when they turned her daughter down, because of the fact that she was too young and too beautiful; the order only accepted older widows.
I don’t relate with her in the fact that my parents were opposed to me considering the priesthood, far from it. However, I feel a connection with Catherine because we both were denied entry for one reason or another (in her case her appearance, and in my case my autism). This did not stop her and she eventually joined our branch of the Dominican family; she considered Our Holy Father Dominic her father, and remained a tertiary among the lay community she joined.
She once said: “If you are what you should be, you will set the world on fire.”
Catherine definitely did that; she and Mother Angelica have many things in common. First, they were both hardheaded Italians (testadura is the word) that reached people of varying positions based on their evangelizing efforts. Along with this? They both had guts, and these qualities would serve them well.
As I have said and prayed many times, I want to be a part of the Third Order of St. Dominic in whatever capacity I can based upon my Autism. I like to think of myself as a pup for the Lord; when I read The New Wine of Dominican Spirituality, I was not 3/4th of the way through when I felt at home. I am someone who loves to learn, who believes that Faith and Reason can work together. I am someone who loves prayer and feels that you can perform various works of mercy as a result. The only problem I currently have is that I cannot join a community (to take part in the formation) because there is not one close enough to me.
I am someone who also likes a challenge; I like to prove people wrong despite being autistic. St. Catherine is a great example of someone who really knew about community. She got down and dirty while taking care of the sick during the Black Plague.
My hope is that this blog, this digital pulpit, can be a place where I can do spiritual works of mercy in counseling people along the “digital highway” as Pope Francis once described it. I know that this blog will never be enough, nothing that I ever have or will do will.
St. Catherine also lived in the present, something I really struggle with; she worked tirelessly bringing the Holy Father back to Rome, which was her greatest achievement. With our current culture, I am not ashamed to admit that I could possibly be lukewarm about a lot of various things; as I said in a previous post, I hope to contribute financially to a group like Catholic Relief Services, but I do keep the poor and homeless on my list of intentions.
To close out, the people in her order, even other Dominicans, did not like St. Catherine: her ecstasies would go on so long that they would leave her exhausted. She not only had her spiritual director order her to stop, but she had followers of Francis try to discredit her. This is where having guts comes in handy.
I myself have had to deal with rejection this last year; during my discernment, I was rejected by two of the biggest orders (even the Dominican order!) that men and women could commit themselves to (the Franciscans, as much as I love them, and as much as St. Anthony is my confirmation saint, was never really a group that entered my mind; this is ironic since my university has a number of them at our collegiate groups). I have been getting to know about the Dominican order as a pup would, sipping up the milk, over the last year. With so much diversity in the various saints in our family, how could this order, this order of St. Dominic, feel like home?
For any vocation directors out there, let me pose you this: I have thought about saints such as St. Joseph of Cupertino and Bl. Margaret of Castello. By today’s standards, they probably would be denied entry into their orders because they were seen as “odd” or “strange”. If they were alive today, would they suffer rejection from their orders still like St. Catherine did? Rejection like this can cause serious psychological and emotional damage; it doesn’t kill a soul or a vocation, but it can get close.
Do not settle for anything lese; God has called you to be awesome, to be a saint. If you feel caused to be a religious and face rejection, keep going. Find the order where God is calling you to be, the community God wants you to join. The Order of Dominic is my home, and like a bulldog with a bone, I will not let go.
This is a prayer from St. Catherine (taken from the Manual of Prayers)
O Lord and Master, I am unworthy both of heaven and of earth, because I have surrendered myself to sin, and become the slave of worldly pleasures. Yet, since you created me, and since you can shape me as you want, I do not despair of salvation; but made bold by your compassionate love, I come before you. Receive me, dear Lord, as you received the harlot, the thief, the tax collector and even the prodigal son. You love all people, so pour out your love upon me. Lift from me the heavy burden of sin, cleanse every stain of unrighteousness from me, and wash me white with the waters of holiness.