Vatican City (AsiaNews) – We must learn to " love Christ and the Church with courage and in an intense and sincere way ", as did Catherine of Siena, "despite being aware of the human shortcomings of the priests," she always had "a great reverence for them They dispensed through the sacraments and the word, the saving power of Christ's blood". This is the lesson that Benedict XVI gave today to the 9 thousand people who attended the general audience, illustrating the figure of the saint.
In fact, continuing to devote his weekly reflection to the great female figures of the Middle Ages – he said that "even today the Church receives great benefit from the exercise of spiritual motherhood of many women, the strength peoples faith and guide them towards ever greater heights "- the Pope spoke today of Catherine of Siena, who lived in the fourteenth century," a troubled era in the life of the Church and of society in Italy and Europe. However, even at times of difficulty, the Lord continues to bless his people, inspiring saints who move hearts and minds leading to conversion and renewal. "
Catherine was born in 1347 in Siena. At the age of 16, driven by a vision of St. Dominic, she entered the Dominican Third Order, known as the “Mantellate”. "While remaining with her family, she confirmed that a private vow of virginity when she was a teenager, and devoted herself to prayer, penance and works of charity, especially for the benefit of the sick."
When the fame of her holiness spread, she became the protagonist of an intense activity of spiritual advice for a wide category of people: nobles and politicians, artists and ordinary people, consecrated persons, clergy, including Pope Gregory XI who at that time resided in Avignon and who Catherine urged vigorously and effectively to return to Rome". She worked for "internal reform of the Church and to encourage peace between states." For this reason, John Paul II declared her patroness of Europe, "the old continent will never forget the Christian roots that form the basis of its journey and which continue to draw from the Gospel the core values that ensure justice and harmony".
Catherine "suffered greatly, like many saints". It was even thought that "there was a need to be wary of her, to the point that, in 1374, six years before her death, the general chapter of the Dominicans in Florence summoned her for questioning”. She was entrusted to "a learned and humble brother, Raymond of Capua, who later became her confessor and also her" spiritual son ", author of the first complete biography of the saint. She died in 1380 and was canonized in 1461.
Catherine’s doctrine, in the Dialogue of Divine Providence, or the Book of Divine Doctrine, is "a masterpiece of spiritual literature, in her letters and the prayers. Her teaching is of such, that Paul VI, in 1970, declared her "Doctor of the Church," to which was added the title of co-patron of the city of Rome and the patron saint of Italy.
In a vision, "the Virgin introduced her to Jesus, who gave her a golden ring, saying: 'I, your creator and savior, I marry you in faith, which you will always keep pure until you celebrate with me in heaven your eternal wedding’. That ring was visible only to her. In this extraordinary episode we seize upon the vital centre of Catherine’s religiosity and of all true spirituality: Christ. Christ is for her like a husband, with whom there is a relationship of intimacy, communion and fidelity. He is the good loved above all other good".
It 's a "profound union with the Lord" and just like the saint, "every believer feels the need to conform to the sentiments of the Heart of Christ to love God and neighbour as Christ loves. And we too can allow our hearts be transformed and learn to love like Christ, in intimacy with Him nourished by prayer, by meditation on the Word of God and the Sacraments, particularly by frequently and devoutly receiving Holy Communion. Catherine also belongs to the ranks of those Eucharistic Saints with which I wanted to finish my Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis". "The Eucharist is an extraordinary gift of love that God continually renews to nourish our journey of faith, strengthen our hope, ignite our charity, to make us more like Him."
We learn from St. Catherine, concluded the Pope, "the most sublime science: knowing and loving Jesus Christ and his Church." In the Dialogue of Divine Providence, she describes Christ as a bridge launched between heaven and earth. It consists of three steps, consisting of Christ’s feet, His side and His mouth. By drawing oneself up through these three steps, the soul passes through three stages of every path of sanctification: detachment from sin, the practice of virtue and love , sweet and loving union with God. "