Holy Father remembers intense spirituality of 'God's nightingale'

Pope Benedict XVI
Pope Benedict XVI


Medieval nun and saint, Matilda of Hackeborn is still a model of devotion to the Sacred Heart for people today, said the Pope at this week's general audience. Her exemplary fidelity to the Church and union to Christ, he taught, continues to be "a strong invitation to intensify our friendship with the Lord."

The Holy Father hosted 9,000 pilgrims and faithful in St. Peter's Square on Wednesday for the general audience. Among those present on the clear autumn morning were representatives from the "In the footsteps of St. Francis" pilgrimage group from the Archdiocese of Seattle and new students and staff from the Pontifical Irish and Venerable English Colleges.

During the catechesis, Pope Benedict XVI focused on the figure of Cistercian nun St. Matilda of Hackeborn, the 13th-century Germanic saint. Recalling the intense spiritual and intellectual atmosphere in which she was formed at the convent of Helfta in Saxony, he said that this environment, coupled with the gift of divine illumination, led her to write prayers and offer advice and consolation to many.

He remembered her humility, simplicity, purity, intelligence and the intense way she lived her spiritual life, noting also that because of her natural gift for singing, she had the nickname of "God's nightingale."

Respected for these gifts, she became the director of the her convent's novices, choir and school and was a spiritual guide to the likes of St. Gertrude the Great, who Pope Benedict noted also as an important figure of Germanic monasticism.

Concluding her biography, the Pope said that St. Matilda's life of personal and liturgical prayer, guided by Sacred Scripture, nourished by the Holy Eucharist and supported by the liturgy of the hours, led her to live "every moment of her monastic life in full fidelity to the Church."

Her intense spirituality guided her to an intimate union with Christ, he noted, which is "also for us a strong invitation to intensify our friendship with the Lord, especially towards daily prayer and attentive, faithful and active participation in the Holy Mass.

"The Liturgy," he said, "is a great school of spirituality."

Noting also St. Matilda's devotion to the Sacred Heart, Pope Benedict prayed that all people might "grow in that devotion, through the power of her intercession."

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