Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

9/26/2012 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

St. Catherine views the spiritual life as a series of battles - a series of battles wherein we seek to conquer self for the love of God.

The seven spiritual arms identified by St. Catherine of Bolgna should be taken up by every Christian.  They ought to be standard issue for everyone in the Church militant.  One really cannot live the Christian life without them.

Highlights

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

9/26/2012 (2 years ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: St. Catherine of Bologna, The Seven Spiritual Arms, life in Christ, Church militant, fasting, prayer, mission, almsgiving, saintsAndrew Greenwell


CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - In her small treatise The Seven Spiritual Weapons, St. Catherine of Bologna (1413-1463) describes herself as a yelping puppy, a cagnola latrante.  If St. Catherine is a barking puppy in the world of the spirit, I'm not sure what that makes me: perhaps a bungling tortoise or a slithering worm.  But it is for those less perfect that St. Catherine wrote her helpful, simple, and short treatise.

In truth, the treatise is written for women religious--those who entered into the Poor Clare convent in Ferrara of which she was the superioress--but, contrary to most such writings, this one is very easily applied to the spiritual life of the laity. 

The seven spiritual arms identified by St. Catherine of Bolgna should be taken up by every Christian.  They ought to be standard issue for everyone in the Church militant.  One really cannot live the Christian life without them.

St. Catherine views the spiritual life as a series of battles - a series of battles wherein we seek to conquer self for the love of God.  Our standard in these battles is the cross upon which hung "Jesus Christ our savior, who died on the field of battle in order to give us life."

St. Catherine advocates seven spiritual arms be used in this battle: zealous diligence, distrust of self, confidence in God, recollection of Christ's passion and death, awareness that one must die, habitual keeping in mind the glory of our future life in God, and, lastly, a firm and constant dedication to Holy Scripture. 

These seven arms are to be applied while living a life of grace.  They are to be taken up only after an examination of conscience, confession, a firm resolve not ever to sin again mortally, and the resolve "instead to die a thousand times if that were possible" rather than sin mortally.  Someone living in mortal sin "is not a member of Christ, but of the devil," and so the recourse to arms would be quite in vain.

We have to be in Christ's army--which is to say his incorporated into his body, the Church--and in a state of grace for the seven arms to be any good to us.

The first arm is diligence which St. Catherine defines as "solicitude in doing good."  Doing good must be the central aim of our life.  Diligence in doing good is the opposite of negligence, of lukewarmness.  Obviously, doing good means avoiding evil, but it means much more than that.  We have to be like Jesus, in that, with respect to God, we must not be "yes" and "no," but all "yes."  (Cf. 2 Cor. 1:19)  There must be no ambivalence in our life.  It is good, and good alone which must drive us.

And yet even diligence in doing good works is subject to the law of prudence and requires a certain discretion; otherwise, the soul might get ambushed by the Devil who cleverly lies in wait for the soul who has zeal in doing good.  St. Catherine warns us not to kill our souls "under the appearance of good."  These are wise words from a spiritual caretaker: "There is as much danger in too much as in too little."  It is as if she is invoking the wisdom of the saying at the temple at Delphi: meden agan, "nothing too much."

The second weapon is mistrust of self.  This requires a firm belief, one held without the slightest doubt, "that one could never do anything good by oneself."  When Jesus said, "Without me you can do nothing," Jesus meant nothing.  (Cf. John 15:15)  No wisdom, no virtue, nothing is available to us without Christ.

This leads us to the third spiritual arm: to put one's trust in God, and God alone.  Trust is only engendered by love, and so we must love God.  It also leads to hope, hope that God, in all our circumstances "will give us his grace abundantly."  We must be confident in God and that he will help us overcome the wiles of the devil and the weakness of the flesh.  Christ on the Cross overcame all doubt on whether God could ever abandon man, so that a soul can pray with absolute assurance that the prayer will be answered: "God do not abandon me."  God will not abandon any man who seeks his help in doing good and avoiding evil.

The fourth spiritual weapon is "memory of the glorious pilgrimage" of Christ's life, especially, his passion and his death.  Jesus is humanity perfected: the perfect human.  Christ's sacred humanity, particularly as displayed during his passion, is the "cure for all our wounds," a "mother most faithful" that leads to God, a "true and gentle refuge in all adversities," a "supporting nurse" which heals us, a "refulgent mirror" that helps us see our faults, an "impenetrable shield" behind which we might hide from evil, our spiritual "manna suffused with fulsome sweetness," a "ladder most high" which raises us to infinity, a "restorative hospice for pilgrim souls," and "ever-flowing font" for thirsty souls, an "abundant sea" upon which we float our rickety humanity, a "sweet olive tree" with strong branches, a "spouse, gentle to the soul" and always faithfully in love with us.

The fifth spiritual arm is to remind ourselves that we must die: the memento mori.  Recollection of our mortality is a "time of mercy," as it reminds us of time's flux and time's uncertainty and the continual and urgent need to amend our lives "from good to better."  We have to render an account for our time, and nothing recalls this than remembering that we must die, and after death comes judgment. (Cf. Heb 9:27)

The sixth weapon identified by St. Catherine of Bologna is to remember the good of paradise, of heaven, of the afterlife, which is really to remember that we have been promised union with God.  Recalling our eternal good and our promised life of glory gives us strength be "strong and constant in persevering in doing good solely for the pure love of our Lord God."

The last weapon St. Catherine adds to her accoutrement of arms is "the memory of Holy Scripture."  Scripture must impress our minds, form our hearts, and it must be the mother of our counsel and the source of our consolation.  Scripture should be viewed as letters sent to us from our Lover on high.  With Scripture, Jesus defeated the temptations of the devil in the desert.  "Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ," ignoratio scripturarum, ignoratio Christi est, St. Jerome famously said in one of his epistles.  St. Catherine would not have agreed with him more.

After a particularly intense conversion to God, Pascal wrote a "memorial" of that event and sewed it to his coat so as always to remember the fire that he experience in his soul.  It would do us good to take the seven spiritual arms of St. Catherine Genoa as our "memorial," and review our lives as Catholics within the light that the seven spiritual arms offer.  We should take up these arms, as St. Catherine says, "to the praise of Christ.  Amen."

-----

Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas.  He is married with three children.  He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum.  You can contact Andrew at agreenwell@harris-greenwell.com.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2015
Universal:
Scientists: That those involved in scientific research may serve the well-being of the whole human person.
Evangelization: Contribution of women: That the unique contribution of women to the life of the Church may be recognized always.



Comments


More Living Faith

Drinking the Chalice of the Lord: Facing Suffering, Struggle and Failure Watch

Image of All of those who bear the name Christian are invited to follow the path of Jesus' struggle, to walk along with Him on the way of His rejection. We too are invited to climb the mountain of His great saving act of unmerited selfless Divine love. Golgotha beckons.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

James was the son of Zebedee and brother of John. From faithful stock, we see in this encounter that some forms of zeal may indeed be genetic. In fact, the zeal in both of these brothers caused the Lord to name them the Sons of Thunder.(Mk 3:14-17) However, human ... continue reading


A look at the Roman persecutions of the early Church (PART TWO) Watch

Image of A depiction of an early Christian martyr.

By Robert Mullen (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The first 150 years or so of the early Christian Church were undoubtedly bloody. Roman authorities in the Middle East, Italy and much of the Empire actively hounded early worshipers and those who converted, enacting policies intended to destroy the new sect with ... continue reading


ISIS is not the first to persecute Christians, a look at the Roman persecutions of the early Church (PART ONE) Watch

Image of St. James the Greater, one of the first Christian martyrs.

By Robert Mullen (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

It is a sad and disheartening fact that many Christians suffer from constant-and often brutal-persecution today, most visibly in places like the Middle East where the Islamic State rules, or in Asian nations like India or China where Christianity is a ... continue reading


Give God control: 20 verses to help during anxiety and fear Watch

Image of

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Terrorism, disease, natural disasters, war, violence and crime; we live in a world where we see and hear about horrors every day. People are dying every day, in your city, in my city, in a country on the other side of the world. I am afraid. It's hard not to be afraid. ... continue reading


Three type of people your life may be better off without Watch

Image of

By Hannah Raissa Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Have you ever wondered why you're wasting your energy dealing with the kind of person who brings you down? Or maybe you're the opposite - you're the one who loves too much and does not know how to say "No." MUNTINLUPA, PHILIPPINES (Catholic Online) - Reality says that ... continue reading


Frodo Baggins and St Therese: The Little Way Through Middle Earth Watch

Image of Frodo alone, while weighed down by the burden of the Ring, is not tempted to use it for his own long term glory, until at the last moment he weakens and the Ring's power infests his heart. 
Frodo is humble, but he is not weak, and what keeps him from being weak is his obedience

By Fr Dwight Longenecker

In giving us a humble hero Tolkien reminds us that it is the foolish things of God which overturn the wisdom of the world. Things are not what they seem. The small ones turn out to be mighty while the mighty are fallen. It is the secret agents of the world who ... continue reading


Making a Lenten Retreat with Pope Francis: Learning from Elijah Watch

Image of There is a mystery here, deep and profound, yet as simple as the broom tree encounter of our teacher Elijah. God is searching for men and women who will surrender their lives in love to Him in this hour. Often, it takes the depletion of all of our own efforts and resources before we are willing to give up - and give in - to Him. When we do, the life of true faith begins. It is there we learn to hear the God of surrendered love in the whisper of the wind. It is there that we learn the Faith of Elijah, under the broom tree.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

In many respects, our life on this earth is a classroom of love and a continual invitation to holiness. As we age, we are given the opportunities we need to receive the graces we need to empty ourselves of all that clutters up our life - so that we can be free to ... continue reading


Pope Francis opens the Vatican to the homeless Watch

Image of The homeless are now being welcomed into the Vatican and are sleeping there overnight in sleeping bags donated by Pope Francis.

By Marshall Connolly (Catholic Online)

Pope Francis has opened the Vatican to the homeless, providing them with sleeping accommodations. The number of homeless there has doubled in the past six months as the Pontiff makes a difference in the lives of so many people. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - ... continue reading


Your Catholic Voice Foundation (YCVF) Reports - what your generosity did for Syrian and Iraqi Christians in 2014!

Image of YCVF has helped thousands in need. You can be part of this success too. Help now!

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Your Catholic Voice Foundation 2014 Report - Last year, caring, devoted Catholics such as you made thousands of donations to care for Christians in Syria and Iraq. At this time, Your Catholic Voice Foundation would like to report how your donations made a ... continue reading


New rules for Vatican finance offices include protection for 'whistleblowers' Watch

Image of Publishing the new statutes in Italian on its Web site, the new rules governing the Vatican's finances went into effect on March 1. Pope Francis approved the statutes

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Those who find evidence of wrongdoing in the finances governing the Vatican will be protected under new rules. The guidelines governing the guidance, oversight and control of Vatican financial and administrative activities will include the power to levy ... continue reading


All Living Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Genesis 37:3-4, 12-13, 17-18
3 Jacob loved Joseph more than all his other sons, ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 105:16-17, 18-19, 20-21
16 He called down famine on the land, he took away ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 21:33-43, 45-46
33 'Listen to another parable. There was a man, a ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for March 6th, 2015 Image

St. Colette
March 6: Colette was the daughter of a carpenter named DeBoilet at Corby ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter