My Reading Challenge Pick for “A Book by a Female Saint”

I hope you have been able to join me for the 2017 Catholic Reading Challenge. I’ve been sharing what I’m reading for each category throughout the year. But even if you aren’t doing the reading challenge, these posts might provide you with recommendations that need to be on your TBR list. 

Category: A Book by a Female Saint

My Pick: The Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena

I chose to read St. Catherine’s Dialogue for a few reasons. First, she was my Confirmation saint when my husband and I entered the Catholic Church four years ago, and I have really be meaning to read her book since then. I think most people can relate to having a book on their list for years and finally getting around to reading it, and I’m so glad that I finally did (better late than never).

Second, I read Sigrid Undset’s biography of St. Catherine earier this year, and I was deeply moved by it. Not only did it provide an intimate connection for me to St. Catherine, but it seriously raised the bar for me on saint biographies. This is hands-down the biography to read on St. Catherine. Reading about her life and her life’s work compelled me to spend time with her spiritual writing.

Third, St. Catherine is a saint who experienced profound and regular mystical encounters with our Lord. However, the majority of her life was not lived solitarily. She was an servant of the Church who lived an active and vibrant life of ministry very connected to others in the world. I believe that someone who could move so easily between mystical encounters and practical service is a saint to learn from and study.

Summary of the book:

This dialogue is a conversation with our Lord that she received in prayer. It is a conversation that involves God speaking and St. Catherine listening, and she dictated it to a secretary (as she did with her other correspondance throughout her life). It is not a terribly long book, and there are actually many free pdf copies you can access online. However, it’s one that you will want to pause through at many points, because there is a lot to ponder. There is also a lot that we can take to prayer ourselves. So many times our prayers are the reverse of St. Catherine’s Dialogue — they are spent with us doing all of the talking. The great saints and mystics show us a deeper way to pray — to listen, and to make space to listen and hear the voice of our Father.

Some excerpts:

“No virtue, my daughter, can have life in itself except through charity, and humility, which is the foster-mother and nurse of charity” (Part 1, A Treatise of Divine Providence, p. 20).

“I could easily have created men possessed of all that they should need both for body and soul, but I wish that one should have need of the other, and that they should be My ministers to administer the graces and the gifts that they have received from Me. Whether man will or no, he cannot help making an act of love. It is true, however, that that act, unless made through love of Me, profits him nothing so far as grace is concerned. See then, that I have made men My ministers, and placed them in diverse stations and various ranks, in order that they may make use of the virtue of love” (Part 1, p. 20).

“Discretion is the only child of self-knowledge, and, wedding with charity, has indeed many other descendants, as a tree which has many branches; but that which gives life to the tree, to its branches, and its root, is the ground of humility, in which it is planted, which humility is the foster-mother and nurse of charity, by whose means this tree remains in the perpetual calm of discretion” (Part 2, A Treatise of Discretion, p. 31).

“Then this soul exclaimed with ardent love,—’Oh, inestimable Charity, sweet above all sweetness! Who would not be inflamed by such great love? What heart can help breaking at such tenderness? It seems, oh, Abyss of Charity, as if you were mad with love of Your creature, as if You could not live without him, and yet You are our God who have no heed of us, Your greatness does not increase through our good, for You are unchangeable, and our evil causes You no harm, for You are the Supreme and Eternal Goodness'” (Part 2, p. 46).

There is a very particular style to St. Catherine’s writing: long sentences of complex or detailed points. While she expresses her ideas intricately, they are really very simply rooted in the concepts of charity and humility. This book paints beautiful analogies for our faith, love of God, and his love of us.


What book by a female saint did you read for the #2017catholicreadingchallenge? If you are posting your pick on social media, remember to use the hashtag!

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