Pope Benedict focused today on the life of St. Catherine of Siena, saying that although the 14th century mystic was “aware of the human failings of the clergy,” she had the “greatest reverence” for them.
The Pope gave his Wednesday general audience talk in the presence of 7,000 people at the Paul VI Hall in the Vatican on Nov. 24.
He opened his discussion on St. Catherine of Siena by recalling how the Italian saint joined a Dominican community at the age of 16, dedicating herself to a life of prayer, penance and working with the poor.
"As fame of her sanctity spread," the Pope explained, "she became intensely active in the spiritual counseling of many,” including “nobles, politicians, artists, common people, consecrated persons, ecclesiastics ... ”
The pontiff also highlighted how “Catherine energetically and effectively” convinced Pope Gregory XI – who at that time lived in France – to return to Rome.
Named a doctor of the Church, she also traveled extensively and authored the "Treatise on Divine Providence," her "Letters" and a collection of "Prayers."
St. Catherine was also considered a great mystic who had famous visions, the Pope noted. One of them entailed her exchanging hearts with Christ, and involved the Blessed Virgin presenting her the Baby Jesus, who gave her a ring.
“The living center of Catherine's religiosity and of all authentic spirituality,” he said, "is Christocentrism. For her, Christ was as a bridegroom with whom she maintained a relationship of intimacy, communion and fidelity.”
The Pope added, “we can all allow our hearts to be transformed and learn to love like Christ through familiarity with Him, nourished by prayer, mediation upon the Word of God and the Sacraments, especially ... Holy Communion.”
Pope Benedict also emphasized that St. Catherine, "though aware of the human failings of the clergy, always had the greatest reverence for them.”
This, he explained, is “because through the Sacraments and the Word they dispense the salvific power of the Blood of Christ.”
“The saint invited holy ministers,” he said, “to remain faithful to their responsibilities, moved always and only by her profound and constant love for the Church.”
“They called her 'mother,' because, as spiritual children, from her they drew nourishment for the spirit. Today too the Church receives great benefit from the spiritual maternity of many consecrated and lay women, who nurture the idea of God in people's souls, strengthen their faith and orient Christian life towards ever higher peaks,” the Pope said, finishing his teaching.