Catherine Doherty

Religious order founder; Servant of God

Catherine Doherty (15 August 189614 December 1985) was a Catholic social activist, author, and foundress of the Madonna House Apostolate.


  • With God, every moment is the moment of beginning again.
    • The Gospel Without Compromise (1976)
  • I go to my past in order to discern the future.
    • Fragments of My Life (1979)
  • To pass through the door that leads to God's kingdom, we must go down on our knees.
    • Soul of My Soul: Reflections from a Life of Prayer (1985)
  • Lord, give bread to the hungry, and hunger for you to those who have bread.
    • Dearly Beloved, Vol. III (1990)
  • Pain is the kiss of Christ.
    • Dearly Beloved, Vol. III (1990)
  • The duty of the moment is what you should be doing at any given time, in whatever place God has put you. You may not have Christ in a homeless person at your door, but you may have a little child. If you have a child, your duty of the moment may be to change a dirty diaper. So you do it. But you don’t just change that diaper, you change it to the best of your ability, with great love for both God and that child.... There are all kinds of good Catholic things you can do, but whatever they are, you have to realize that there is always the duty of the moment to be done. And it must be done, because the duty of the moment is the duty of God.
    • Dear Parents (1997)
  • We do not have to wait for the hereafter — it is now that we are one with Christ.
    • Love One Another (audio cassette, 2002)
  • What you do matters — but not much. What you are matters tremendously.
    • Madonna House Staff Letter #140
  • You live between two Masses. You exist in the present moment.
    • Madonna House Staff Letter #140

"The Little Mandate" (c. early 1930s)Edit

This is the complete text of the Little Mandate, the various sentences of which came to Catherine Doherty over a period of years.
  • Arise, go! Sell all you possess. Give it directly, personally to the poor. Take up My cross (their cross) and follow Me, going to the poor, being poor, being one with them, one with Me.

    Little, be always little, simple, poor, childlike.

    Preach the Gospel with your life, without compromise. Listen to the Spirit; He will lead you.

    Do little things exceedingly well for love of Me.

    Love, love, love, never counting the cost.

    Go into the market place and stay with Me. Pray, fast. Pray always: fast.

    Be hidden. Be a light to your neighbor's feet. Go without fears into the depth of men's hearts. I shall be with you.

    Pray always. I will be your rest.

Poustinia (1975)Edit

  • True silence is the speech of lovers. For only love knows its beauty, completeness and utter joy.
    • Ch. 1
  • God reveals himself to those who wait for that revelation and who don't try to "tear at the hem of a mystery" forcing disclosure.
    • Ch. 3
  • Real zeal is standing still and letting God be a bonfire in you.
    • Ch. 5
  • Faith sees God's face in every human face.
    • Ch. 12
  • Faith allows us to enter peacefully into the dark night which faces everyone of us at one time or another.
    • Ch. 12
  • It is so important for us to have faith, trust, confidence in one another. It is the only way we can communicate. Without faith there is no communication, there is no love, or if there was a little love it will die without hope, trust, and confidence. Even if it doesn't die right away, it will be so ill, so weak, and so tired that communication will be miserable as well.
    • Ch. 12
  • Purity of heart is love for the weak who constantly fall.
    • Ch. 12
  • The stranger is simply a friend I haven't met yet.
    • Ch. 15

Sobornost (1977)Edit

  • I am third.
    • This means that God must come first in our lives, and our neighbour is second. We are in last place.
  • What binds us together is love, and only love. For love is a Person. Love is God.
  • We do not go to mission lands to 'bring Jesus Christ' as much as to uncover him where he already is.

Molchanie (1982)Edit

  • Lord, give me the heart of a child, and the awesome courage to live it out as an adult.
  • Loving does not necessarily mean liking. But it still is loving, yes — totally, completely, utterly. Take the key of wisdom and unlock your own heart. Then let people in one by one. Listen to them, with full attention, with all your mind, heart, body and soul, unto exhaustion. And look! — the exhaustion will be lifted, and you will be able to listen still more. Yes, love must be communicated person to person; otherwise it will not be effective.
  • When we reach the silver sands and plunge into the great sea of God's silence, we begin to understand that he alone is God — Lover, Friend, the totality of gentleness, peace and rest. He calls us and we cannot resist that call. We have to be alone with him. It is a necessity, it is a hunger. It has been said that prayer is a hunger. But this Christ walks with loneliness and rejection, and so must we.

Unfinished Pilgrimage (1995)Edit

Unfinished Pilgrimage: God's 'Little Mandate' (Combermere, Ontario: Madonna House Publications, 1995). This little book (44 pp.) contains the text of three talks Catherine Doherty gave in the late 1960s about the origin and meaning of the Little Mandate.
  • To be simple is to accept the essence of the message and not try to twist it or adapt it to our own ideas. To be simple we must desire to remain in the image of God. We must not be so complex that we make God into our image! Simplicity is dying to self, an emptying.
    • "For This I Have Laid Down My Life", p. 12
  • Here I want to reiterate very clearly that this Little Mandate did not come to me dictated, or as a whole, but as I am telling it now. Get the picture: it could happen any place, any time, in the midst of a group, in my office, at lunch in a cafeteria. Suddenly a little light, a little added word would come to me. I used to write them down on scraps of paper, on the back of old envelopes, in some diary, maybe lost or forgotten now; though some of them are still here. It was a patchy thing.
    • "How the Little Mandate Came to Be", p. 23
  • Identification [with the other] is difficult but precious. It involves doing violence to yourself. Yet Scripture says that "heaven is taken by violence" to oneself [Luke 16:16]. To identify oneself with the other is to love him beyond words, a total giving of oneself in truth.
    • "Living the Mandate", p. 36
  • What is the market place? Is it the secular city? Is it the factual market place, that is to say the urban inner city? Is it suburbia where all the supermarkets are? No. The market place is simply the soul of man. It is the place where man trades his soul either to God or to the devil or to the 'in between', with indifference, tepidity and complacency.
    • "Living the Mandate", p. 40
    • The last part of the quote, about those who trade their souls to the 'in between', alludes to Rev 3:15-16.


  • A saint is a sinner who loves; it's that simple!
    • (Attributed to Catherine Doherty in Inflamed by Love by Jean Fox)

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