St Catherine of Valdstena

Virgin (entered heaven in 1381)

Dear Kate,

You mustn’t believe everything you hear – especially from the prime time newscasters.  They love to spread news of “alleged scandals” caused by prominent Catholics (especially Christians), but when the allegations are proven false, their zeal for the scoop somehow evaporates.  Find better sources for your news about the Church, my dear niece, and learn to guard yourself against all loose talk.

Today’s saint had a wonderful phrase about this particular vice (rumor spreading, speaking ill of others, listening to such speech, etc.), and she knew what she was talking about.  They say that her charity surpassed even that of her mother, St Bridget of Sweden, and that no one ever heard her utter a harsh or impatient word or an unkind criticism. She had plenty of opportunities to do so, however.  She married a devout young nobleman of German extract, and they agreed to live together as brother and sister. She spent her time in service to the poor and in prayer, and encouraged other women she knew to follow her example.  When she began to influence her sister-in-law in this direction, other family members began to exert violent pressure on her husband to make her conform to more normal behavior patterns. Attacks only increased when Catherine made her way to Rome in order to visit her mother, who was engaged in the foundation of the Bridgettine Order.  While she was in Rome, her husband passed away. Roman beaus rushed to win the hand of this strikingly beautiful Swede, but she continued in her widowed state and worked tirelessly for the Kingdom. Her exquisite charity in word and deed slowly became a source of inspiration and moral reform throughout the city, and her description of this virtue became proverbial.  That’s the phrase I alluded to earlier. She came up with it while warning her niece Ingegerda (later Abbess of the Bridgettine Convent in Valdstena, Sweden, which Catherine set on a course) against uncharitable judgments (willful thoughts against one’s neighbor). She told her niece “both the backbiter and the listener carry the devil in their tongues.” I have never run across a better description of that most common (unfortunately) vice.

I hope your kind words and thoughts always repel the poison of detraction, and I am sure you will greatly please the Lord if they do.  God bless.

Your affectionate uncle, Eddy

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