How to Set the World Afire

Love is like a Northwood’s campfire, spreading warmth amid our world of darkness and sin.

By Fenwick Student Preaching Team Member Mia Scharpf ’22 (Berwyn, IL)

Today is the feast day of St. Catherine, doctor of the Church, patron saint of Italy and Rome, and a Dominican. She dedicated her life to God from a very young age and fought to defend what she called “the vessel of the Church” with her letters and treatise “The Dialogue of Divine Providence.” She was born in 1347 and canonized in 1461.

St. Catherine of Siena

She asks us to “set the world on fire” in several of her quotes and we often hear fire used as a religious symbol in sacraments and the Bible. Tongues of fire came down to the Apostles on Pentecost, God spoke to Moses in the burning bush, John said Jesus will baptize us with fire.

Fire has many purposes and properties. We use it for cooking and for s’mores, and it is the centerpiece of a night at the lake as we laugh with family and friends. Fire helps us stay warm when we are cold and it can help us see when the night is dark. Fire is powerful enough to change what it touches completely; it spreads rapidly and is difficult to extinguish.

Each summer for as long as I can remember, my family has visited my neighbor’s lake house in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. Days are filled with boating, driving into town, eating too many cinnamon donuts, falling off of tubes and water skis, and they’re ended with all 20 of us sitting around the fire singing with my dad as he plays his guitar. When the sun sets, it gets very cold and dark and the mosquitoes come out in swarms. Without the fire, it would be difficult to find the path to the bunkhouse, it would be freezing cold, and the bugs would eat everyone alive. 

This fire is very similar to the fire described in St. Catherine’s quote. Instead of keeping mosquitoes away and shedding light on a path strewn with pine needles, the fire in St. Catherine’s quote provides warmth and light to a world of darkness and sin. It illuminates the path of Christ and reveals the way of love and joy. It allows us to feel the warmth of His unconditional and transformational love. 

“Be who God made you to be and you will set the world on fire.”

– St. Catherine of Siena

But how do we live as who God made us to be? How do we ignite that spark? The first thing that will probably come to mind is service and volunteer work, but there’s so much more to who God created us to be. We each have been given gifts and talents, and instead of burying them in the ground, God calls us to use them to glorify His name. Whether you are a swimmer, a runner, a singer, or an actor, you can give glory to God by working hard at practice or improving in rehearsal. It’s like receiving a sweatshirt from your grandma for Christmas, and when she sees you wearing it proudly, she feels appreciated and loved. When we use our blessings for good, we give thanks to God and live as he made us to be.

St. Catherine used her gifts to make a difference and protect the Church. She fanned her spark into a flame and set the world on fire with her words and works. St. Catherine asks us all to follow her example of spreading God’s love by sharing our blessings. We are called to set our world on fire with this love, to spread its warmth and light, so powerful that it can transform whoever accepts it. I’m certain St. Catherine chose this symbol because love can spread like, well, fire.

ANOTHER STUDENT PREACHER BLOG INSPIRED BY SAINT CATHERINE

Nothing Great Is Ever Achieved without Challenges

Senior student preacher reflects on faith at school Mass for St. Catherine of Siena.

By Joey Schultz ’21 (Clarendon Hills, IL)

Today, we come together to celebrate the Feast of St. Catherine of Siena. Catherine was born during the 1300s in Siena, Italy during the middle of the Black Plague. She was a Dominican laywoman who devoted her entire life to serving the sick and poor.

During the time of St. Catherine, the pope was living lavishly in Avignon, France, instead of in Rome where the Pope traditionally lived. Catherine realized the problem and called for reform in the Church. She also demanded that the pope move back to Rome, and she ended up playing a key role in moving the papacy back to Rome. Perhaps, Catherine’s biggest impact upon the Catholic world was her writings, which have led her to be declared a Doctor of the Church.

Student Preaching Team member Joey Schultz ’21 is a senior from Clarendon Hills, Illinois.

In looking at some of her writings, I came across a quotation that particularly stood out to me. The words of St. Catherine were, “Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring.” There have been many times in my life where I have contemplated my faith. I have questioned God’s existence and role in my life, like I’m sure many of you have.

St. Catherine’s message shows us that there will always be hardships that we endure in order to achieve something great, like a relationship with God. As children of God, we have to persevere through these doubts and pursue a life in complete faith in God. The words of St. Catherine can be brought into our lives as students of Fenwick, too. We as students are called to serve God and be role models for others. It is no easy task to do this, but like St. Catherine said, nothing great is ever achieved without challenges. Everyday we have to endure the grind that is getting up in the morning, going to class, participating in extracurricular activities, coming back home, doing school work, spending time with family and friends, plus many other challenges. On top of all these things, we are expected to live as Christians, through both difficult and easy times.

St. Catherine of Siena (right) is portrayed on stained glass in the Fenwick Chapel.

Have there been any times in your life where you felt too young to make a difference? As a teenager, Catherine was visiting hospitals, helping out the sick and poor. She was such a young woman, yet she was able to make such a big impact on the world around her by devoting her life to serving God and her neighbors. Catherine is a role model, especially for us students, because she shows us that we are never too young to make a difference in the world. Going forward, we should all think of St. Catherine in times of doubt, and we should put our trust in God. 

St. Catherine of Siena serves as a great example of how we should strive to live our lives as Christians. She is an inspiration to all of us, especially women, because of the boundaries and societal norms that she had to break during her time. As a woman during the 14th century, it was much more difficult for her to get into any position of control or influence. Through good works and a passion for justice, she was able to rise up and make a change in the world. St. Catherine shows each and every one of us that we are capable of making a difference in the world through faith and trust in God.

ANOTHER STUDENT PREACHER BLOG INSPIRED BY SAINT CATHERINE