Posted December 08, 2010:
Was Catherine a Mystic?

by Susanne Stubbs.

Many people think of Catherine as a mystic. By any definition of that word, she probably was; her writings and prophetic words give evidence to this.

However, in my own experience, I did not often see Catherine praying in a noticeable way. She did not spend long hours in the chapel, and at times it seemed a luxury for her to go to the poustinia.

The thing I did see, the thing that continually taught me and edified me, was Catherine’s total faithfulness to the duty of the moment. She received every person and approached every task with a kind of graced focus that could only have come from a prayerful and recollected heart.

Catherine talked about faith often. She understood faith as something lived. She believed with great depth that her Beloved was present in each person she met. She also believed that every task, no matter how small, was done for the Lord, her Beloved.

Many saints lived this way, and this is why I believe Catherine was a saint.

One of our priests used to say that he never knew Catherine to refuse God anything. Certainly, she bowed to the will of God in many big ways, but the more astounding thing to me was how she said yes to him, in faith, in the very small moments of every day.

If a stranger entered through the door, Catherine would be the first one on her feet to greet that person and shake his or her hand.

When sorting multiple and various donations, she would lift each item with care and concentration and make a decision as to which container it belonged—down to the last pin! And Catherine, by nature, was not a particularly disciplined or orderly person.

I did not see compulsion or perfectionism in this. I saw a love that was vigilant, tireless, and lavishly generous—a love big enough to do little things exceedingly well, day by day, hour by hour.

Certain memories remain with me.

Here in Combermere, Catherine used to lead spiritual reading after the noon meal each day. This time was not just for reading, but for very dynamic teachings on her part and for questions and discussion among all those present.

One day, I was sitting at her table for lunch. She received a phone call just before spiritual reading time. It was not a long call, and she returned to the table, rang the bell, and began reading. Discussion ensued and continued for at least forty minutes. A prayer was said, and everyone dispersed to the work of the afternoon.

It was only then that she turned to us at the table and said, "Eddie is dying."

The phone call had come from our mission in Winslow, Arizona. The news was that her husband, Fr. Eddie, was in hospital and failing fast.

It would have been understandable if Catherine had excused herself and gone to have a good cry. She didn’t live that way. She loved Fr. Eddie passionately, but she loved God more—in that very moment, that moment in which He was asking her to do spiritual reading for the community.

Another memory is this. I worked for many years with Catherine in our gift shop and handicraft department. One day, Catherine stopped to dictate an article for Restoration, probably about our needs for craft materials and gift shop items. It was a fairly extensive article, but she dictated it aloud, straight through.

I was somewhat astonished that she could do this, and I asked, "B, how can you create that way? Don’t you have to be in the mood to write? Don’t you have to have time to think, to write, and re-write?"

Catherine looked at me, as she often did, with a look that betrayed a combination of disappointment and despair in her spirit. "Sweetheart, don’t you understand? This is God’s work. I simply say a prayer to do it well. I know he will give me the grace to do so, so I proceed in peace. I just do it. I suggest you learn to do the same."

I am happy to say that I rarely felt scolded at times like this. I felt privileged to see the example of a great woman, perhaps not great in the ways most people imagined.

Was Catherine a mystic? She preferred the word "contemplative." She told us that we in MH were called to be a new breed of contemplatives.

To Catherine, a contemplative was simply someone in love with God. Catherine was in love with God, she said, from the age of six. That is why she could be with him every moment, thinking of him, meeting him in others, serving him by serving others. This to her was prayer, being with the Beloved, everywhere and always.

It is not those who say to me, "Lord, Lord", who will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the person who does the will of my Father in heaven (Mat 7: 21).

May Catherine live forever in the kingdom and be remembered forever, because she longed to carry out the will of the Father—through, with, and for the Beloved, his Son.


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