Recently my husband and I returned from a trip to Italy. Over the years he had read about Saint Catherine of Siena, so when we settled in Tuscany our first stop was to her home, preserved inside a beautiful church. There we bought a book written after her death in 1380 by a friend of hers, Raymond of Capua. He writes of her devotion of thought and life to following what she perceived as God’s will. Her example turned many to living with integrity as well as asking her to pray for them with the result of recovery from their illnesses. Saint Catherine’s story shows what good can come by being animated by a love for God and her fellow man.
We loved the tour of her home, appreciating the marvelous art and architecture of the chapel surrounding the small structure. Behind the main altar, visible through glass, is the family hearth with a suspended pot still hanging over what would have been the place for a roaring fire. One day while cooking, Catherine slipped and to horror of those present, fell into the flames. Yet she was able to extract herself from the fire without suffering burns.
We were reminded of the account in the book of Daniel of three faithful men who defied a Babylonian king’s decree to worship a gold statue he had set up. They were punished by being thrown into an immense furnace which for most would be a certain death. A favorite Bible reference book of mine, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy, explains: “Holy inspiration has created states of mind which have been able to nullify the action of the flames, as in the Bible case of the three young Hebrew captives, cast into the Babylonian furnace; while an opposite mental state might produce spontaneous combustion.”
May we all individually nurture that state of holy inspiration so that we too can pass through life’s flames untouched. My gratitude goes out to those who have and those who are living lives that prove what is possible in an individual walk with God.