Book Review: A Retreat with Catherine of Siena

Book Review: A Retreat with Catherine of Siena: Living the Truth in Love by Elizabeth A. Dreyer Cincinnati: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 1999 Elizabeth Dreyer, who has a Ph.D. in historical theology, invites us to spend seven days reflecting on the life and wisdom of Catherine of Siena in "A Retreat with Catherine of Siena: Living the Truth in Love." Catherine Benincasa was born March 25, 1347 and lived a mere thirty-three years. During her brief life, she was known for her acts of penance, strong will, and outspoken activity in the public sphere. Much to her mother's chagrin, Catherine rejected marriage at the age of sixteen and instead joined the Dominican Mantellate, a group of mostly older widows devoted to lives of prayer and service. From her mid-twenties on, she became deeply involved in both Church and State politics. She is best known for her attempts to convince Pope Gregory XI to return to Rome from his exile in Avignon and her later efforts to end the schism that resulted when two Popes were elected by two different church factions. Each retreat day focuses on a theme that was important in Catherine's life, such as: living in the Truth, cultivating self-knowledge, confronting illusion, being made in God's image, discernment of spirits, and cultivating wisdom. While Dreyer acknowledges that Catherine's world was very different from our own, these themes are as important in our own day as they were in Catherine's. Each retreat day includes an opening prayer, reflection, questions for further thought, and a closing prayer. Dreyer relies on Catherine's own writings and letters to create clear, concise, thought-provoking reflections. "A Retreat with Catherine of Siena" offers an introduction to Catherine's thought and ways to make it applicable in our own lives. For as Dreyer states, "the final truth about God and about ourselves is that we are called to lay down our lives for the other. We do this not 'in the woods,' but in the ways and woof of daily existence, in our homes, our workplaces, our neighborhood, our community, our world."