Only Christ Can Clean a Conscience, Says Pope

Reflects on Life of Medieval French Carthusian Nun

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 3, 2010 ( This autumn, Benedict XVI is inviting the faithful to not only clean the dirt off the streets, but to also clean out the trash in their own consciences and souls.

The Pope encouraged Christians to look toward Christ for help in cleaning out their consciences today during his weekly general audience in a reflection on the figure of the medieval French Carthusian nun, Sr. Marguerite d’Oingt. The Holy Father is dedicating the current cycle of catechesis to medieval Christian authors, of which the first eight have all been women.

Marguerite d’Oingt was born around the year 1240 into a noble family. There is little biographical information of the nun, aside from her own spiritual writings, which speak of her path of interior purification that led her to have profound mystical experiences.
She, and later her sister Agnes, joined the Carthusian monastery of Poleteins, and in 1288 Sister Marguerite became the monastery’s fourth prioress. She remained in this post until her death in 1310.

Benedict XVI noted that the Medieval Carthusian nun might seem «distant from us, from our life, from our way of thinking and acting,» but added that the Christians of today could learn much from her.

He explained the spirituality of Sr. Marguerite was one of «a journey of purification up to full configuration with Christ.»

The Pope said that Sr. Marguerite considered Christ to be a «book that is written, which daily influences her heart and life. […] Every day, beginning in the morning, Marguerite dedicated herself to the study of this book.

«And, when she had looked at it well, she began to read the book in her own conscience, which showed the falsehoods and lies of her own life.»

The medieval nun, he continued, worked «to make her life every day marked by confrontation with the words and actions of Jesus, with the book of his life. And she did this so that Christ’s life would be imprinted in her soul in a stable and profound way, until she was able to see the book in her interior, that is, until contemplating the mystery of God Trinity.»
«She fixed her gaze on the Lord,» he continued, «she considered him a mirror in which her own conscience also appeared. And from this mirror light entered her soul: She allowed the word to come in, the life of Christ in her own being and thus she was transformed; her conscience was enlightened, she found criteria, light and was cleansed.»

«It is precisely this that we also need,» Benedict XVI affirmed, «to let the words, life and light of Christ enter our conscience so that it is enlightened, understands what is true and good and what is wrong; may our conscience be enlightened and cleansed.»

«Rubbish is not only on different streets of the world,» the Pope continued. «There is rubbish also in our consciences and in our souls. Only the light of the Lord, his strength and his love is what cleanses us, purifies us, showing us the right path.

«Therefore, let us follow holy Marguerite in this look toward Jesus. Let us read the book of his life, let us allow ourselves to be enlightened and cleansed.»

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