Catherine of Siena was born in 1347, the twenty-fourth of her parents twenty-five children. At the age of seven, she vowed her life to Christ. At the age of fifteen, she cut her hair in disobedience to her parents who were fighting for her to be married. At the age of eighteen she became a part of the Dominicans. At the age of twenty-one she had a mystical experience where she became spiritually espoused to Christ. Those events alone are enough, but through her work and particularly her writings, she became a force in her community and elsewhere and even with Popes.
In her letters and her Dialogue, perhaps the greatest of her writings, she recounts a souls journey through the mystical experience of God. There is much we can discuss about her writings, so I’ll just focus on one idea: she writes out a prayer to Christ, speaking to him about his great love for God’s people and asking him what could drive the Creator of all to pursue his creation so recklessly.
“O priceless Love! You showed your flamed desire when you ran like a blind and drunk man to the opprobrium [the disgrace] of the cross. A blind man can’t see and neither can a drunk man when he is fast drunk. And thus he [Christ], almost like someone dead, blind and drunk, lost himself for our salvation.” Continuing this theme of drunkenness in her Dialogue, she says, “O mad lover! Why then are you so mad? Because you have fallen in love with what you have made! You are pleased and delighted over her within yourself, as if you were drunk for her salvation. She runs away from you and you go looking for her. She strays and you draw closer to her. You clothed yourself in our humanity, and nearer than that you could not have come.”
Continuing elsewhere, she writes, “O unutterable love, even though you saw all the evils that all your creatures would commit against your infinite goodness, you acted as if you did not see and set your eye only on the beauty of your creature, with whom you fell in love, like one drunk and crazy with love. And in love you drew us out of yourself giving us being.”
I am certain that we’ve all been in love before, or at least thought we were, and in that state I feel certain we have all done some pretty stupid things. I’m also fairly certain that most have overly partaken of some intoxicating beverage and done some rather stupid things then as well. If you have had the fortune (or misfortune) of being both in love and intoxicated, then the level of stupidity can reach even higher levels, but that is how Catherine says that Jesus loves us, as though he was drunk and in stupid love with us. That may sound crazy and, to some, irreverent if not blasphemous, but how would you describe a love that lays down his life for you? Logic can’t explain it. Duty doesn’t come close. I suppose we could just say he was crazy, but if we have faith, if we believe that it is the Father’s desire that all should be saved even if we are wicked, then we must at least consider that Catherine was onto something: a love that appears to be a drunken insanity, but which is in fact pure and true.
You don’t have to agree with Catherine’s images of God’s love for us, but take some time to think on that love. Jesus was not intoxicated on wine, but how would you describe and explain his actions? You might just discover that a crazy drunken lover is the best you can do.