A Woman Who Knew St. Catherine and the Love of Her Life, Because He Was Her Love, Too

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St. Mary’s in New Haven, Conn. (Kathryn Jean Lopez)

I posted on Facebook earlier today a link to a little email interview I did last year around this day with Sister Suzanne Noffke, O.P. She was a scholar of Saint Catherine of Siena, having translated volumes-worth of her letters and prayers. (April 29 is St. Catherine’s feast day.) She did so much to promote knowledge of the great doctor of the Church, a holy woman and leader and mystic. As I heard a priest say this morning (thank you virtual Masses . . . I both give thanks and groan in sorrow and agony!): Catherine wasn’t a saint because she famously told the pope to return to Rome during the Avignon years, but because she prayed and sacrificed and loved the Lord. What you see in her letters is how deeply she did and how much she implored others to with everything in them! One of the things this coronavirus time has done is show us how short life is, how shoddy our false securities are. Catherine was constantly focused on Christ and showing him, begging others to love Him completely NOW, because time is running out in this precious and fragile gift of life!

As I said last year on this day, I love Saint Catherine, and I want just one little bit of her fervor for the Lord and His good will to rub off on me — and on all of us. We need courage at this time.

And what I learned when I posted the Q&A with Sr. Noffke on Facebook this morning — as you might have guessed from my use of the past tense above — is that she has died, earlier this month. What a humble obituary here, for someone who did such good. She spoke and wrote well of God, by speaking and writing well of his holy servant Catherine! She gave us such gifts during her 83 years. I did daydream that I would visit her and she would tell me all the secrets of Catherine’s sanctity. But she did in her writing, sharing Catherine’s words, so many of them directly inspired by God.

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Thanks be to God for the gift of this woman who dedicated her life to God and learning and teaching His truth. May we continue to learn from her work and get to know St. Catherine better, and by getting to know St. Catherine better, come to love God more completely, as she did, with bold and holy courage.

This obituary for her, by the way, was very humble, fitting for someone who dedicated her life to God. (This one gives a little more of a sense of her scholarship.) She first approached the Dominicans as her possible vocation when she was 15. She saw a lot during those years. God be good to her!

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