VATICAN CITY, NOV. 24, 2010 (Zenit.org).- In order to learn to love like Christ, we have to allow our hearts to be transformed, and frequent, devoted reception of the Eucharist is key, says Benedict XVI.
The Pope affirmed this today when he dedicated his general audience in Paul VI Hall to a reflection on a 14th century woman saint and doctor of the Church: Catherine of Siena.
The Holy Father noted how her time period was rife with challenges, both for society and the Church. “However,” he said, “even in the moments of greatest difficulty, the Lord does not cease to bless his People, raising men and women saints who stir minds and hearts, bringing about conversion and renewal. Catherine is one of these and still today she speaks to us and pushes us to walk courageously toward sanctity to be disciples of the Lord in an ever fuller sense.”
The Pontiff reflected on St. Catherine’s Christcentered heart and spirituality. He recounted the experience of her marital union with Jesus: “In a vision that never left Catherine’s heart and mind, Our Lady presented her to Jesus who gave her a splendid ring, saying to her: ‘I, your Creator and Savior, espouse you in the faith, which you will always keep pure until you celebrate with me in heaven your eternal nuptials.'”
Benedict XVI stated that this “extraordinary episode” reveals the “center of Catherine’s religiosity and of every authentic spirituality: Christocentrism. Christ was for her a spouse, with whom she had a relationship of intimacy, communion and faithfulness; he is the cherished good above any other good.”
The Holy Father also spoke of another of Catherine’s mystical experience that reflected her “profound union with the Lord.”
“[T]he Lord Jesus appeared to her with a bright red human heart in his hand, opened her chest and placed it in her, and said: ‘Dearest daughter, as the other day I took your heart that you offered to me, behold now I give you mine, and henceforth it will be in the place that yours occupied.'”
“Like the Sienese saint,” the Pope said, “every believer feels the need to be conformed to the sentiments of the heart of Christ to love God and neighbor as Christ himself loves. And we can all let our hearts be transformed and learn to love like Christ, in a familiarity with him nourished by prayer, meditation on the Word of God and the sacraments, above all by receiving Holy Communion frequently and with devotion.”
Mother of souls
The Bishop of Rome reflected as well on St. Catherine’s spiritual motherhood, noting how she addressed as her sons those who sought her counsel.
“Many placed themselves at her service and above all considered it a privilege to be guided spiritually by Catherine,” he said. “They called her ‘mamma,’ because as spiritual children they received the nourishment of the spirit.”
“Today also the Church receives great benefit from the spiritual maternity of so many women, consecrated and lay, who nourish in souls the thought of God, reinforce people’s faith and orient Christian life toward ever higher summits,” the Pope reflected.
As well, the Holy Father noted Catherine’s reverence for priests.
“Though aware of the human defects of priests, [she] always had great reverence for them,” he said. And this was because “[t]hrough the sacraments and the Word they dispense the salvific strength of the blood of Christ. The Sienese saint always invited the sacred ministers, including the Pope, whom she called ‘sweet Christ on earth,’ to be faithful to their responsibility, moved always and only by their profound and constant love of the Church.”
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