God is "madly in love" with us, said the medieval mystic and activist Catherine of Siena, and when we finally realize this truth, we'll discover that loving others is irresistible. Her Dialogue, prayers, and letters teach us to be alone with God in "the cell of our soul." Only then are we ready for public service.

Her own life followed this path. Born Caterina Benincasa (1347-1380), she was the 24th  of 25 children in an Italian wool dyer's family. She dedicated herself to Christ as a child and at 16 took the habit of a Dominican lay sisterhood. After being disfigured by small pox, she chose a time of solitude at home. For three years, she spoke little, praying instead. Then, at 21, she experienced a spiritual union with God that she described as a "mystical espousal" to Christ. It changed her focus. She left behind her solitary life and embraced a real activism in the world. Although she lived in physical pain every day, she dedicated her remaining 12 years to caring for the sick and serving the poor. St. Catherine of Siena died in Rome at the age of 33, still trying to reform the church.

The following excerpts from her writings challenge us in incredibly modern ways to grow up spiritually.

A prayer for goodness

Indescribable love! Open our memory up for us, so we can receive, remember, and grasp the great goodness of God. As much as we understand God's goodness, we'll love, and whenever we love, we find ourselves in union with and transformed by that love. The mother of all virtues is love. This love passed through and always passes through the gate that is Christ crucified.

Love's celestial Cement

Sweet, measureless love, who moved you? Love alone. O gentlest love, Jesus! To strengthen each person's soul and free it from the ...

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