So delightfully planted

I've been reading some of Catherine of Sienna's writings lately. This bit in particular has stuck with me.
The Circle of Self-Knowledge
Imagine a circle traced on the ground, and in its center a tree sprouting with a shoot grafted into its side. The tree finds its nourishment in the soil within the expanse of the circle, but uprooted from the soil it would die fruitless. So think of the soul as a tree made for love and living only by love. Indeed, without this divine love, which is true and perfect charity, death would be her fruit instead of life. The circle in which this tree's root, the soul's love, must grow is true knowledge of herself, knowledge that is joined to me, who like the circle have neither beginning nor end. You can go round and round within this circle, finding neither end nor beginning, yet never leaving the circle. This knowledge of yourself, and of me within yourself, is grounded in the soil of true humility, which is as great as the expanse of the circle (which is the knowledge of yourself united with me, as I have said). But if your knowledge of yourself were isolated from me there would be no full circle at all. Instead, there would be a beginning in self-knowledge, but apart from me it would end in confusion.

So the tree of charity is nurtured in humility and branches out in true discernment. The marrow of the tree (that is, loving charity within the soul) is patience, a sure sign that I am in her and that she is united with me.

This tree, so delightfully planted, bears many-fragranced blossoms of virtue. Its fruit is grace for the soul herself and blessing for her neighbors in proportion to the conscientiousness of those who would share my servants' fruits. To me this tree yields the fragrance of glory and praise to my name, and so it does what I created it for and comes at last to its goal, to me, everlasting Life, life that cannot be taken from you against your will.

A beautiful image (tree image!) from a doctor of the church. There's so much packed into that passage! Really, this passage speaks to me of what the novitiate is all about. Spending time to get to know oneself, but in the context of the life of faith, in the context of God. Our constitutions speak of it in terms of "transformation in Jesus Christ." This tree image is a beautiful way really to wrap your head (and heart) around that! You can think of the novitiate process as a "delightful planting" of sorts. Of course it doesn't always seem 'delightful' - there are prickly bits as well - but you know what I mean! ;)


elizabeth anne said...

I have read this before but do not know what it means:

what is a Doctor of the Church?

former Catholic

Susan Rose, CSJP said...

From our friends at Wikipedia:

"In Roman Catholicism, a Doctor of the Church (Latin doctor, teacher, from Latin docere, to teach) is a saint from whose writings the whole Christian Church is held to have derived great advantage and to whom "eminent learning" and "great sanctity" have been attributed by a proclamation of a pope or of an ecumenical council. This honor is given rarely, only posthumously, and only after canonization."

You can read a list of them here.