Mercy is everything

[Chapter 3 of Catherine’s Rule] opens with a proclamation of Mercy as the principal path pointed out by Jesus to those who are desirous of following him. The language is direct and strong. For Catherine, Mercy is everything. It is mercy that through all the ages of the Church has moved the faithful to instruct and comfort the sick and dying poor. It is the faithful not simply religious who have responded to this call. She gives the reason for their response as simply that in the poor they regarded “the person of our Divine Master.” . . .  Catherine continues in part 2 to strengthen the motivation of the sisters to this work of Mercy by citing our Savior’s great tenderness for the sick evidenced in his miraculous cures and in the healing power given to the Apostles. Catherine then lists a number of holy men and women distinguished for devoting their lives to “this work of Mercy.” Her own excitement is evident in the concluding sentence of this article: “Such bright examples and the great recompense promised must be strong motives for the Sisters of this Holy Institute, to fulfill with fervor and delight, every part of this meritorious duty.”

Absent from the text is any sense of heaviness or burden. Brightness, fervor, delight and merit take their place. Such an attitude expresses a reverential quality, which may be what prompted Catherine to refer to the Institute as holy since it carries out so awesome and holy a “duty.” Only in this article does Catherine refer to the Institute as holy.. . . In article 3 Catherine exhorts the sisters to place full confidence in Christ and his assistance as they labor with him remaining always conscious of the example of his patience and humility. She exhorts them to the imitation of Christ, that they may gain “a crown of Glory.” She concludes with an interesting insight. Because they are merciful the sisters will gain the title of Children of the Most High. To be merciful is to be a child of God. It is God, the Source of Mercy, who begets Mercy.


Union with Christ

[For Catherine] Mercy is the path by which one follows Jesus. For her he is Mercy given and received. The sick and dying poor are his. To minister to them is to minister to him. It is here then that the sisters meet Christ. Catherine encourages them to this consciousness of the union of all in Christ. Thus in article 6 [of the Rule, Chapter 3] Catherine cautions the sisters to be recollected as they pass through the streets, “going forward as if they expected to meet their Divine Redeemer in each poor habitation, since He has said: ‘Where two etc. etc. are in my name I will be.’” One important awareness contained in these articles is that the sisters labor with Christ, assisting him in his labors on behalf of the poor. The works of Mercy are not their works but God’s. This consciousness is the source of energy and freedom. One relies not on oneself but on God.

Crucial in the spiritual journey is the moment when one hands over to God all one’s endeavors, realizing that one’s own efforts apart from God have accomplished and can accomplish nothing. It is the realization that this is God’s world, God accomplishes its salvation, that it is God who acts within and through each one in doing all that is good. Thus Catherine enjoyed freedom of spirit in accomplishing the works of mercy. In tune with God in whom she dwelt, she moved forward with works and moved back from them as circumstances dictated. The poor always remained God’s poor and though she was called to serve them, their care was basically God’s affair.