29 Apr – Memorial for St. Catherine of Siena, virgin & doctor
Catherine (1347-1380) was the youngest child in a large family. At the age of six, she had a vision in which Jesus appeared and blessed her. Her parents wanted her to marry, but she became a Dominican tertiary. She was a mystic and stigmatist. She received a vision in which she was in mystical marriage with Christ, and the Infant Christ presented her with a wedding ring. She was counsellor to Pope Gregory XI and Pope Urban VI. She was proclaimed Doctor of the Church on 4 October 1970.
- Patron Saint Index
About this time, when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenists made a complaint against the Hebrews: in the daily distribution their own widows were being overlooked.
So the Twelve called a full meeting of the disciples and addressed them, ‘It would not be right for us to neglect the word of God so as to give out food; you, brothers, must select from among yourselves seven men of good reputation, filled with the Spirit and with wisdom; we will hand over this duty to them, and continue to devote ourselves to prayer and to the service of the word.’
The whole assembly approved of this proposal and elected Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, together with Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus of Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
The word of the Lord continued to spread: the number of disciples in Jerusalem was greatly increased, and a large group of priests made their submission to the faith.
In the evening the disciples went down to the shore of the lake and got into a boat to make for Capernaum on the other side of the lake. It was getting dark by now and Jesus had still not rejoined them. The wind was strong, and the sea was getting rough. They had rowed three or four miles when they saw Jesus walking on the lake and coming towards the boat. This frightened them, but he said, ‘It is I. Do not be afraid.’ They were for taking him into the boat, but in no time it reached the shore at the place they were making for.
It is I. Do not be afraid.
The gospel account of Jesus walking on water is perhaps one of the most famous of Jesus’ deeds in the bible. It is highly symbolic in the sense of Jesus coming to us in the midst of the most terrifying and traumatising storms in our lives. By the miraculous act of walking on water, He shows us that He is master over nature, and that He can control what we cannot control. He is the calm amidst the storm, but what were the disciples’ reactions when they saw him? They panicked, thinking that only a spirit is capable of something like that. In that same way, it is not easy to recognise Jesus when our minds are wrapped up in fear and worry. It is also not easy to believe that He can lead our boat to shore in such dire circumstances.
Sometime last year, I faced a great mental struggle as I was making the big decision to resign from my job of ten years. The main reasons for my struggle were the uncertainty of not having a salary and the lack of support from my mother, who wanted to, but failed to understand why I would want to leave a perfectly decent-paying job to further my studies. It was really challenging to see the silver lining amidst the doom and gloom picture that my mother kept painting for me. Spiritually, I lapsed into long periods of what I recognised as desolation, defined by Saint Ignatius of Loyola as “experience of the soul in heavy darkness or turmoil”, “assaulted by all sorts of doubts, bombarded by temptations, and mired in self-preoccupations.”
I cannot say that I experienced any spiritual epiphany that helped me through the storm and the desolation. What helped me was that I clung on to the advice given by Saint Ignatius, that in times of desolation, one must maintain spiritual practices even if one does not feel like it. Routines like mass attendance and daily prayer should be adhered to and even increased in intensity. Saint Ignatius also taught that the most important key to surviving periods of desolation is to focus on the fact that God’s grace is enough for us to withstand the onslaught of our enemies. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Cor 12:9.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Edith Koh)
Prayer: We pray that we may have the discipline to stay in contact with the Lord through mass and prayer, especially in times of suffering and trial.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the comforting hand of the Lord to lift us up when we feel we are falling.