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'


© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for January 2015
General Intention:
That those from diverse religious traditions and all people of good will may work together for peace.
Missionary Intention: That in this year dedicated to consecrated life, religious men and women may rediscover the joy of following Christ and strive to serve the poor with zeal.



Comments


More Living Faith

Archbishop reprimands Catholic lawmaker, says no true Catholic can dissent from church teaching on abortion Watch

Image of Archbishop Cordileone said in a written statement, that

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, in a press conference on January 22 at the Capitol, was asked twice whether an unborn child 20 weeks into pregnancy is a human being. Pelosi finally replied that a woman has "the right" to abort her child. Archbishop ... continue reading


Religious persecution uniting Christians worldwide in 'Ecumenism of blood,' Pope Francis says Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

"In this moment of prayer for unity, I would also like to remember our martyrs, the martyrs of today," Pope Francis said as he was speaking to members of a number of Christian Churches. Gathered in the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls this past weekend, ... continue reading


Andrew M. Greenwell: Jesus is the Heart and the Marvel of the Gospel Watch

Image of Since the incarnation of the Word, the

By Andrew M. Greenwell

If pursued, and pursued rightly (that is, without moral or intellectual prejudice), metaphysics leads us to a threshold, a threshold we might call the limina fidei, the threshold of faith.  Reason takes us to a place where we know God--that He is.  But ... continue reading


Who Are My Mother and Brothers? We are the Family of Jesus Watch

Image of

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Through our Baptism, we are invited into the very family of God. When we choose to respond to grace and live in obedience to the will and the Word of God; we enter into an eternal relationship with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We actually become a part of ... continue reading


St Francis DeSales Challenges Us to Live a Life of True Devotion Watch

Image of Today in our Liturgical calendar in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, we remember St Francis DeSales (1567-1610). The Saints are all given as examples to emulate. They are our companions on the journey, men and women like us who responded to God's invitation to become like Jesus. They pray for us because we are joined with them in the eternal communion of love. They also put legs on the Gospel, showing us what holiness looks like.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

I say that devotion must be practiced in different ways by the nobleman and by the working man, by the servant and by the prince, by the widow, by the unmarried girl and by the married woman. But even this distinction is not sufficient; for the practice of ... continue reading


Hey Main Stream Media - Do Your Job! Media Bias on March for Life Watch

Image of The hundreds of thousands who gatherred in Washington, DC were virtually ignored by the mainstream media because they gave a voice to children in the womb intentionally killed by procured abortion

By Catherine Contreras

What do you get when over 500,000 people attend the March for Life in Washington DC? Yup. A biased main stream media barely covering it, again. OAKLAND, CA (Catholic Online) - On the 42nd Anniversary of Roe v Wade, the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion in ... continue reading


Arlington Diocesan teachers provide English Language Learners with special support Watch

Image of Fourth-grade students work on personalized language arts activities at St. Thomas More Cathedral School in Arlington. (Christine Stoddard, The Arlington Catholic Herald)

By Christine Stoddard, The Arlington Catholic Herald

Step into Sarah Conrad's pre-kindergarten classroom at St. Thomas More Cathedral School in Arlington and you'll see the usual suspects: tiny furniture, storybooks, brightly colored posters and educational toys. But you'll also notice that laminated labels abound. ... continue reading


'Self righteousness is not going to change peoples' attitudes and save babies,' Cardinal says Watch

Image of Cardinal Sean O'Malley says that the abortion issue in the United States is a call for those of all faiths to action.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In delivering his homily at the March for Life vigil in Washington D.C., Cardinal Sean O'Malley said that indifference is the "greatest enemy" of the pro-life movement, adding that "to change people's hearts we must love them." Speaking at the Basilica of the ... continue reading


Eighth Annual Stand Up 4 Life Rally|Walk in Oakland, California! Watch

Image of Walk for Life in California

By Catherine Contreras

"If Black lives matter, they have to matter in the womb first. Because if Black lives don't matter in the womb, they don't matter anywhere else. So join us and help us speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves." - Walter B. Hoye II, Founder and President of ... continue reading


Papal Nuncio to Join Walk for Life West Coast! Watch

Image of Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigaṇ

By Catherine Contreras

The Walk for Life West Coast is honored to announce that Archbishop Carlo Maria ViganĂ², the Holy Father's Ambassador to the United States, will be attending the 11th Annual Walk for Life West Coast in San Francisco, on January 24, 2015. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic ... 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, Hebrews 10:1-10
1 So, since the Law contains no more than a ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 40:2, 4, 7-8, 10, 11
2 He pulled me up from the seething chasm, from the ... Read More

Gospel, Mark 3:31-35
31 Now his mother and his brothers arrived and, ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for January 27th, 2015 Image

St. Angela Merici
January 27: When she was 56, Angela Merici said "No" to the Pope. She was ... 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