Today we commemorate St. Catherine of Siena (25 March 1347 – 29 April 1380), a lay member of the Dominican Order. She was a mystic, activist and author who had a great influence on Italian literature and on the Catholic Church. She was canonized in 1461, and she is also famous as a Doctor of the Church. As a teenager, she took a vow of perpetual virginity and gave herself over to prayer and worship. To thwart her family’s attempts to marry her off, Catherine cut her hair off, scalded herself, and became a nun. Catherine of Siena is one of only four women who were named doctor of the church, meaning that her writings, including the mystical The Dialogue and her prayers and letters, have special authority in Roman Catholicism. She was an important defender of the papacy (at that time) and a patron saint of Europe and of Italy. At the beginning of this sermon let us all pray to her saying – St. Catherine of Siena pray for us to Lord Jesus to encourage us in our everyday life and give us strength to live in the prayer and Christian purity. Amen.
When I was reading about the life of St. Catherine I remembered the time when I was 17 years old. The time when I started thinking of becoming a monk. I remember October 2004 when I was travelling over Greece visiting historical places. I visited orthodox monasteries in a place called Meteora. The Meteora (Μετέωρα [meˈteora]) is a rock formation in central Greece hosting one of the largest and most precipitously built complexes of Eastern Orthodox monasteries, second in importance only to Mount Athos. This place is so beautiful. It makes you want to pray and it calms you down. In this place for the first time in my life I had a feeling that nothing material is as important as being with Jesus and having a prayer in your mouth. I remember that at that time I used to read eastern Christian books and the desire of becoming a monk was getting bigger and bigger. As I read in St. Catherine biography as a teenager she took a vow of perpetual virginity and gave herself over to prayer and worship. I remember that at that time, when I was a teenager visiting Greece I had the same desire.
Now, when I am 35 I am thinking about the fact that even though lost virginity we cannot be back, but – what about the lost prayer? As you can guess, prayer and worship we can always get back in our life. And this is a beautiful possibility available to everyone. We all have daily struggles, problems of various types. Sometimes this life routine can keep us away from prayer or to hold us a bit away from the Church. Sometimes even, in the opposite situation when everything is going great and when our life seems to be happy and complete we might also forget about prayer or even neglect the church. In each situation it is good to remember that the prayer is something we can always have. And this is what in my personal opinion gives very beautiful sense to our Christian life. Recently I experienced how prayer, believe in God and trust to God is a special gift from heaven. I had a difficult period because I lost my job. And in my country it is usually hard to get a new one. I had to cancel my rental and even go back to my parents` house. This might not be something very usual in the USA or in the UK but in Balkan countries we have this uncertainty and sometimes life can be very hard and full of negative surprises. What I would like to share to all of you today is how actually grateful to God I am. In my life I experienced various situations when I was feeling hopeless. Losing a so called stable job, losing the salary I make a living with, losing a loving family members or friends or even losing partner are situations when people can feel how everything is temporal. Everything has its expiry date. In this temptations I usually remember St. Job, the righteous man from the Old Testament. A man who lost all but had never lost his faith and prayer. I learnt a lesson from him and I try to believe that whatever is happening to us, it is happening with some deeper reason. It might seem to be illogic or unjust or painful. But God knows why it is good for. God is in control. Today`s Bible reading refers us to John 6:1-15 the story about how Jesus feed 5.000 people who were hungry. I would like to read together this paragraph and to meditate on this miracle. Let us read:
Sometime after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberius), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Festival was near. When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten. After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.
After we read this paragraph from the Bible let us truly see what Jesus has done. He took five small loaves and two small fish and he feed five thousand people. What would happen if Jesus come today and we go with a crowd of five thousand people to hear His message and if there is no fast food restaurant around? Would we trust Jesus that we will be feed. Five thousand of us, with only two fish and five small breads (not to even mention that some of us are vegans, or gluten intolerant). This is a question that I would like us all to think about today? Think about our daily struggles. Maybe we are not only physically hungry but maybe we are hungry for righteousness, hungry for friendship, hungry for a new job, a life stability, or the thing I consider the most important – hungry for the love. If Jesus feed five thousand people. He can feed us too. Let us all remain faithful and trust to Jesus. May He bless us all with the prayer of St. Catherine of Siena.