Saturday, June 26, 2021 (Day 26)

Katie Snipes Lancaster

Psalm 26 (from Robert Altar’s 2007 translation)
Judge me, O Lord.
For I have walked in my wholeness,
and the Lord I have trusted.
I shall not stumble.
Test me, O Lord, and try me.
Burn pure my conscience and my heart.
For your kindness is before my eyes
and I shall walk in Your truth….
I shall walk in my wholeness.
Redeem me, grant me grace.

An Opening Word
It is not everyone who feels confident to say to God, “judge me.” This Psalmist must have been unusually self-assured to know, that God had nothing to judge, and therefore the Psalmist need not worry. The source of the Psalmist’s arrow-like ethical sharpness comes from a deep relationship with God. The ability to live a moral life comes directly from the kindness and depth of the Psalmist’s relationship with God. A fine lesson for us.

It’s easy to see the poetic form in Psalm 26, where the parallel past tense “I have walked in my wholeness,” is met at the end with a future-oriented, “I shall walk in my wholeness.” The poet’s life is entirely engulfed, beginning and end, by this walk of wholeness. Even so at the end, the Psalmist still writes, “grant me grace,” admitting that even the most righteous still remain in need of the deep generosity of God’s spirit of welcome.

Our mystic today, Catherine of Siena, had her first encounter with God’s spirit of welcome when she was six years old. She was among the youngest in her family, born a twin and was either the twenty third or twenty fourth child of parents who owned a cloth-dying company. When her parents tried to set her up with a husband, she cut of her hair, protesting the idea of marriage in favor of joining a monastic order. She understood herself to be “going the way of truth,” her way of saying she was spiritually directed to take a different path.

Catherine of Siena was named a “Doctor of the Church,” like Teresa of Avila, and she sought to translate and express her own mystic spiritual encounters with God, so that other too might experience God’s nearness. Later in life she tended to the sick and dying especially those who suffered the plague in her village. As she worked on articulating her spiritual life, she was placed in more and more theologically powerful places, and became friends with Pope Urban VI who was so controversial, the church had a schism, and a second pope was named. When Pope Urban VI tried to run off to another city, Avignon, abandoning Rome, Catherine of Siena famously said “be not a timorous child but manly,” essentially “get your butt back to Rome.” And he did.

She was deeply rooted in Christian doctrine finding theology a trustworthy route toward divine encounter. Her book of prayers uses metaphors with deftness, pushing us into a more meaningful understanding of the divine. I love her deep sea metaphor below.

Prayer from the Mystics: Catherine of Siena (1347–1380)
You, O eternal Trinity,
are a deep sea into which,
the more I enter, the more I find.
Amen.