"Don’t Shoot the Messenger!"
We have all heard the saying "Don’t shoot the messenger" whenever some news has been delivered that we don’t want to hear. I wondered if St. Catherine of Siena had those same thoughts at times, in Italian of course!
Her biographer states that Catherine was a precocious child and became an even more unusual individual as she grew into an adult. In a society where women were often treated as one step lower than the prized livestock, Catherine defied convention. Born in 1347 at Siena, Italy as the youngest of 25 children, she never received any formal educational training. And yet her deep spiritual insights made her sought after by priests, princes and Popes. Taking the habit of the Dominican Third Order, she freed herself from her father’s desire to marry her off in order to bring wealth and status into the family. Her mystical experiences of God’s overwhelming love were so powerful and the message she spoke about them so relevant to the violent society she lived in that she soon gathered companions around herself. Again, defying convention, most of her most ardent companions were men!
Perhaps the greatest achievement of her short life was persuading Pope Gregory XI to leave Avignon, France and return to Rome. When the Great Schism occurred and the Church had not one, but three claimants to the Chair of St. Peter, Catherine persuaded the warring factions to choose Urban VI as Gregory’s true and only successor. Can you imagine this humble, uneducated woman standing before the powers that be pleading with them for the unity of the Church…? Sharing with them what Jesus communicated to her in her mystical prayer? What a dynamic force this woman of God must have been!
Both Paul in the reading from Acts and Jesus in the Gospel today tell us that the strength and validity of the messenger lies in the fact of who he or she re-presents. Paul makes clear that the message and mission of Jesus came from the God of Israel whom his people worship. Jesus makes clear in John’s gospel that whoever receives him receives the God of Israel who identified himself to Moses as "I AM."
What type of messenger of the Gospel am I? And how do I hear the messengers that God sends to me in my life? If the messages are words of personal challenge or messages that defy convention, do I just dismiss them, ignore them, or worse ridicule them? Or do I really listen to them through the filter of God’s word?
Given all this, should we not pray today: "Don’t shoot the messenger – embrace her!"
Patrick Quinn ([email protected]) is the director of Planned Giving at the Passionist Development Office in Chicago.