Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Monday 27 September |
Saint of the Day: St. Vincent de Paul
home iconSpirituality
line break icon

Where to begin in the spiritual life, according to St. Catherine of Siena


Public Domain

Philip Kosloski - published on 01/09/19

Those who want to draw closer to God must first do this.

St. Catherine of Siena was an influential saint from the 14th century, and is known and beloved by many for her holiness and tenacity of spirit. She led a profound interior life as a member of the Third Order of St. Dominic and wrote many of her insights in what is now called her Dialogues.

One piece of advice she wrote about was the first step a soul must take in the spiritual life.

The soul, who is lifted by a very great and yearning desire for the honor of God and the salvation of souls, begins by exercising herself, for a certain space of time, in the ordinary virtues, remaining in the cell of self-knowledge, in order to know better the goodness of God towards her.

She explains that this path of knowledge not only revolves around knowing better who you are, but also who God is and his role in your life.

Furthermore, St. Catherine wrote down words of Jesus that were spoken to her in a private revelation that explain how self-knowledge and knowledge of God are intimately connected, with one complementing the other.

I reply that this is the way, if you will arrive at a perfect knowledge and enjoyment of Me, the Eternal Truth, that you should never go outside the knowledge of yourself, and, by humbling yourself in the valley of humility, you will know Me and yourself, from which knowledge you will draw all that is necessary. 

St. Catherine adds that knowledge is always the first step in the spiritual life and naturally leads a person to the next stage.

This she does because knowledge must precede love, and only when she has attained love, can she strive to follow and to clothe herself with the truth. 

Her advice is echoed in the Prologue of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength.

Knowledge of God normally precedes love of God, as we usually only love people after we get to know them.

Therefore, if you seek to begin your journey towards God, first try to get to know him through reading the Bible as well as the traditions passed on by his apostles through the official teachings of the Catholic Church.

Through this knowledge of God, we will better understand who we are and be prepared to embrace God in love.


Read more:
3 Essential keys to begin one’s spiritual life, according to St. Teresa of Avila


Read more:
7 Christian meditation aids for beginners

SaintsSpiritual Life
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
J-P Mauro
Chicago architect models Vatican City from 67,000 LEGO bricks
The Sinai Peninsula and the Dead Sea Rift
J-P Mauro
Experts now believe Sodom was destroyed by a meteor
Philip Kosloski
Why J.R.R. Tolkien loved to attend daily Mass
Bret Thoman, OFS
Exclusive photos: Meet Padre Pio and the place he lived
Giovanna Binci
He’s autistic, she has Down syndrome, and they’re wonderfully hap...
Philip Kosloski
How Our Lady saved Padre Pio from a violent demonic attack
Cerith Gardiner
9 Padre Pio quotes for when you’re feeling scared or uncertain
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.