By Celia Kent
A LASS WITH A DOMINANT AIR
SAINTSAINTS are different, of course, it sobered me up more than somewhat when 1 read that to the end of her life St. Catherine of Siena never really learnt to write.
She might have got away with it, you would think, had she been a simple saint like Bernadette, but an intellectual and an organiser who ticked off Popes and Cardinals and pretty nearly ran the Church, not to be able to write—well, that puts her into the canonisation class right away. Only a miracle kept her job open, you'd say.
But it wasn't quite like that. Today we not only teach our girls to write but we campaign for universities for them.
The brain, apart from the supernatural gifts that were added to it, of a Catherine could have sailed through our universities practically sleeping. and then what a little thing it would have achieved if it had only arrived at Cabinet level. Writing was a special job in Catherine's day, taken up as a career by scribes in much the same way as shorthand is a special qualification now. Catherine employed secretaries who did her writing for her. She merely dictated, others wrote.
What a life she lived, tool I have just finished reading Sigrid Undset's* account of it, and I am staggered by the amount she got through and the hit and thrust method of achieving it. With God behind her, she dared everything, and among her friends were murderers as well as Popes.
Because of her God-consciousness she had no self-consciousness and, unlike most women, she never considered what effect she was having on others..
Sense and sanctity SIGRID Undsers book clearly shows the way Catherine developed. Materially she had no qualification for leadership except that she was pretty and quick. Sanctity developed her wits as well as her soul, and the dyer's daughter, when she was no age, conversed and argued with all the philosophers and theologians of the day, who were so impressed by her knowledge that they believed implicitly in her judgment. By the age of 33 she was dead, having brought the Pope back to Rome from exile in Avignon, and having saved the Church from the worst schism of all time. All this wasn't done by book-learning. It was done through sense (common) and sanctity (uncommon). Our campaigning for higher education would have received the approbation of Catherine who believed in widening the female mind. She and her followers suffered badly from possessive women who worried about them when they were away and fussed over them when at home. She addressed quite sharp and almost acid little notes to these women and told them to take more interest in more important matters.
Let's take St. Catherine up on that and ask her, as an antidote to possessiveness, to give us more university places and raise up a generation worthy to fill them. "Catherine of Siena," by 'Sigrid Unset (Sheed and Ward, 16s.).
Holding the baby
WHICH reminds me; let me thank not only my many correspondents who wrote in favour of university education for women, but also the one who accuses me of making out of culture a new materialism. I did represent its spiritual, as opposed to its material benefits, but still, maybe I'm a near heretic. If so, I cry "Peccavi."
One last word on equal pay—not from my pen but from an Anglican
colleague, Ruth Adam, who writes a'lot of sense about this controversial issue in an article in The Church of England Newspaper, Ruth Adam is more than a colleague, she is a woman after my own heart. She says, "Nowadays if you want to make it clear that you disapprove of something very, very strongly, you explain that it constitutes a `threat to family life.'" Books, films and poor old television even, which so evidently brings the family home, are all belaboured with the same whip. And Ruth Adams, who like myself has had to meet the contention that equal pay will destroy family life, comes down with all her force on specious arguments which lead wrongly to this conclusion.
It evidently shakes her sense of fairness, as it shakes mine, when it is assumed that men must be paid always and all the time more than women because they support a group of people, whereas women only support themselves. We can all point within our own extremely limited circles of examples of men keeping only themselves and women keeping a household.
"Bt7T in any case," writes Ruth "Adam, "the weakness of the argument, like most arguments about family life, is that it presumes that the family is a static institution, requiring the same set of conditions, from the moment that you leave the church covered with confetti, until you retire, hoping for visits from your grandchildren.
'Whereas the truth Is that the cost
and the processes of bringing up a family change yearly. One moment it is made up of a baby in a pram, whose main expense is the immense fee charged by baby-minders.
"Mother, it consists of ruinous
school-fees and a ceaseless purchasing of larger sizes in everything worn by a human being. At yet another time, it consists of a grown-up son or daughter earning more than you did at their age. "It would be ridiculous to base salaries on the assumption that from 25 until 60 a man must be paid to support an average-sized family at a certain level." And it is equally absurd to condemn alike as destroyers of the borne all married women who go out to work whether they have children in cots, or children at school, or no children at all. As for those moralists in our higher-minded Press who shake their heads because married women work in factories in order to buy luxuries for their families, but congratulate married women graduates who work in colleges and schools just to exercise their own nicely lubricated brains —these people have a kind of snobbery which ought to beg heaven for forgiveness—"Lord, they know not what they think."