So, you’re Catholic and you wanna correct the Pope?
And you wanna clap back at anyone who says you can’t correct the Pope, by referencing Saint Catherine of Siena?
Awesome. Saint Catherine of Siena is one of my favorite saints. I hope knowing that doesn’t ruin your devotion to her. I think all of us could stand to imitate Saint Catherine of Siena. And Saint Catherine of Siena did lovingly pester the Pope until he left Avignon and came home to Rome. How, exactly, that’s comparable to online trolls who refer to Pope Francis as “Bergoglio,” pretend his whole papacy is a sham, read scandal into his encyclicals and pretend that makes them Traditionalists, I don”t know, but okay. You want to be like Saint Catherine of Siena. Let’s do this.
The first thing you’ve got to do is get an ugly haircut on purpose, so your mom won’t force you to marry your widowed brother-in-law.
Next, lock yourself in your room for three years. Fast and pray. Come out only to go to Mass, then go straight back in there. Scandalize your family and friends. Eventually, when Jesus Himself appears and tells you it’s time, you may come out and begin your ministry.
Oh, you didn’t know you have to have a ministry? Not just a fake “institute” or “apostolate” where you write angry things about how much you hate the Novus Ordo? Yeah, about that. Catherine of Siena didn’t start by pestering the Pope. She went out into the streets and dedicated herself to serving society’s most vulnerable. She fed and clothed the poor. She nursed the sick, sometimes in her own bedroom. She washed the sores of lepers. She comforted highly contagious plague victims. She followed condemned men to the scaffold and got her dress all stained with the blood spray, then refused to wash it off because she regarded the blood as a sign that the prisoner was now in Heaven. Get to work on that; I’ll wait over here.Next, you’ve got to become a Doctor of the Church. No, I didn’t say blogger. That’s my job. You’re the one who wants to be like Saint Catherine of Siena. It’s Doctor of the Church or nothing. You’ve got to write reams of letters, dialogues between yourself and Christ, crazy gorgeous mystical writings which will make the stodgier Dominicans admit that they hardly know what you’re on about half the time. Did I mention you have to be a Dominican? Yes, come down with a horrible rash that makes your mom think you’re dying so she allows you to join the Dominican tertiaries. Scandalize the tertiaries with your eccentricity and devotion, then get vindicated by your superiors and go back to your ministry and your writing. Write so beautifully that people who don’t even believe in God will ponder your writings 500 years in the future just for the poetry of them, but don’t do it for them. Do it for Christ.
Okay, now for the weird part. You need to accompany your prayer with grotesque penances, and you need to display signs and miracles. Get to work. Scald your hands. Drink the filthy water you just used to bathe a leper– no, you don’t get out of bathing lepers yet either, you have to write, do penance and care for lepers all at once. Sleep on a bare board with a log under your head. Bake bread in uncanny fast motion and say it’s because Our Lady gave you her hands, but don’t eat the bread. Don’t eat anything for suspiciously long periods of time. Read souls. Go into ecstasy without the use of pharmaceuticals. Have invisible stigmata. See if you can levitate after receiving Holy Communion. Die of starvation.
Have you done all that? Great! You have now earned the right to criticize the Holy Father– lovingly, for things he’s actually done instead of for imagined scandals. You also have earned the right to feel devastated and personally responsible when this blows up in your face and causes the infamous Western Schism. Catherine was a brilliant saint. She wasn’t perfect.
Neither are you.
But seriously, we could all stand to be more like Saint Catherine of Siena.
(image via Wikimedia Commons)