Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

9/26/2012 (1 year 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.

Article Highlights

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

9/26/2012 (1 year 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 April 2014
Ecology and Justice:
That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick: That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.



Comments


More Living Faith

Making a Difference

Image of Saints Popes John XXIII and John Paul II prophetically raised their voices on behalf of the suffering masses.

By Tony Magliano

Saints Popes John XXIII and John Paul II prophetically raised their voices on behalf of the suffering masses. They spoke truth to power, and challenged all of us to advance the kingdom of God - a kingdom of love, justice and peace. St. John XXIII, affectionately known ... continue reading


Rome being crushed by millions of pilgrims packing into the city for historic canonization Watch

Image of Pilgrims are packing into Rome, creating a logistical and safety problem for city officials.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

All roads lead to Rome and that isn't a happy thing for everybody as the city is being crushed by millions of pilgrims seeking to attend the canonization of Bl. Popes John Paul II and John XXIII. The city's mayor says the city is prepared, but not everyone is happy ... continue reading


John's Paul II's Doctor: I don't know how he survived the shooting Watch

Image of Pope John Paul II miraculously recovered from assassination attempt. After his recovery, he forgave his would-be killer, visiting him in prison.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The doctor to Bl. Pope John Paul II has explained that he doesn't know how the assassin's bullet intended to kill him did not do so. He also talked about the Holy Father in his last days, as he worked amid failing health. "I don't know how he survived the shooting," ... continue reading


Pope Francis calls for your 'prayer and action' to end global hunger Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis helped launch a worldwide movement to end hunger through prayer and action. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Catholic Online with Your Catholic Voice Foundation is participating, along vwith Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities USA and the ... continue reading


Coptic priest added as Pope Francis' second personal secretary Watch

Image of Some say that the appointment of a Coptic Catholic priest is a sign of  Pope Francis' commitment to dialogue with the Arab and Muslim world.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Coptic Catholic priest Yoannis Lahzi Gaid has been personally chosen by Pope Francis as his second personal secretary. Lahzi Gaid is currently working in the first section of the Vatican Secretariat of State and is also one of the "translators" who reads the ... continue reading


From an Ancient Easter Homily: Jesus Christ, the Source of Resurrection and Life Watch

Image of

By An Ancient Anonymous Preacher

Thus the passion of our Savior is the salvation of mankind. The reason why he desired to die for us was that he wanted us who believe in him to live for ever. In the fullness of time it was his will to become what we are, so that we might inherit the eternity he ... continue reading


TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH: Pope Francis delivers powerful Easter message Watch

Image of Pope Francis enters with his candle symbolizing the light of Christ.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis urged Catholics to share their faith "to the ends of the Earth" during a baptism ceremony at St. Peter's Basilica. The solemn ceremony reminds us that we are called to serve amid the joy of the resurrection. The most enduring call of Christ is for us to ... continue reading


Rome already crushed with pilgrims for historic canonization of Pope John Paul II and John XXIII Watch

Image of Hundreds of thousands packed into Rome for the beatification of Pope John Paul II. This time, the numbers will be far greater.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Rome is well-packed with throngs of pilgrims who have begun a week's long vigil awaiting the most historic canonization in world history. Next Sunday, Popes John Paul II and John XXIII will be canonized by Pope Emeritus Benedict and Pope Francis. ROME, ITALY (Catholic ... continue reading


BREAKING THE RULES or IS HE? Pope Francis washes women's feet and those of undetermined religion Watch

Image of This year, Francis arrived at a center for the disabled and elderly in Rome. Francis kneeled down, washed, dried and kissed the feet of a dozen people, some in wheelchairs, other with grossly swollen and disfigured feet.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis has shown little regard for rules in regards to his papacy. The latest controversy now surrounds his washing the feet of 12 disabled and elderly people, some of who were women and non-Catholics. The pre-Easter ritual, Pope Francis is designed to show ... continue reading


'Priestly joy is a priceless treasure,' Pope Francis says Watch

Image of The pope, presiding over the first of two Holy Thursday liturgies, blessed the oils that will be used in the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, ordination and the anointing of the sick.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

If a priest wants to overcome moments of sadness, exhaustion and boredom, in addition to discovering his true identity, he must head for the exit sign, going outside himself to be with God and his people, Pope Francis said during the Chrism Mass at St. Peter's ... 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, Acts 3:11-26
11 Everyone came running towards them in great ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 8:2, 5, 6-7, 8-9
2 even through the mouths of children, or of babes in ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 24:35-48
35 Then they told their story of what had happened on ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for April 24th, 2014 Image

St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen
April 24: Franciscan Capuchin martyr. He was born Mark Rey is Sigmaringen, ... 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