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St. Catherine of the Night

February 18, 2016


IMG_1975(This is the first in a series of reflections on St. Catherine of Siena, and the Oratory  that bears her name.  They were inspired by my visit to Siena in September, and the photographs were taken then.  The season of Lent is a good time to reflect on those who have gone before us in the faith. )


Sometimes, saints (and other people) are portrayed sleeping as a metaphor for death.  This statue of St. Catherine asleep, however, can be found in the Night Chapel of St. Maria Della Scala, and it commemorates a place where the saint often found rest.  St. Maria Della Scala in her day was a massive hospital complex, and St. Catherine ministered there to the sick, injured, and dying at all hours.

On a stone slab there in the Night Chapel, it is recorded that St. Catherine slept, recovering strength and energy to go on with her work.

Now St. Maria Della Scala is a remarkable art museum, which preserves and displays its history, as well as art that spans the centuries.  One of the places preserved is that very chapel where St. Catherine rested.  Dark and quiet, the chapel attracts few of the tourists that come to see the exhibits on the upper floors.  The sense of sanctity still lingers however, and it is easy to visualize the saint and those who followed her praying for those that they ministered to.

The Night Chapel is very much a part of the hospital, almost at its very heart, and yet it is separate enough that one can find a restorative solitude and a place for silent prayer.  And so there is a cycle of ministry and prayer, action and rest that we should all take to heart.

I pray that the Oratory that bears her name here can be a similar place of refreshment, worship, rest, and prayer, to equip those who attend with the strength and resolution to carry on their ministries in the world.



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