EVENTS FOR THE BEATIFICATION OF JOHN PAUL II
VATICAN CITY, 29 APR 2011 (VIS) - This morning in the Holy See Press Office there was a meeting with journalists to explain and clarify the events planned for the beatification of the Venerable Servant of God John Paul II. (IMAGE SOURCE RADIO VATICANA)
The speakers were Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J., director of the Holy See Press Office; Msgr. Marco Frisina, director of the Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Vicariate of Rome; Fr. Walter Insero, director of the Office of Social Communications of the Vicariate of Rome; and Angleo Scelzo, undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.
Fr. Lombardi explained that this morning, in the Vatican Grottoes, "the tomb of John Paul II was opened and the case containing the body of the Venerable Servant of God was extracted".
"As can be recalled, the Pope was buried in three coffins, the first of wood, which was displayed during the funeral, the second of lead, which is sealed, and the third, external one, which is also made of wood and was the one revealed this morning at the moment of the extraction from the tomb. It is in a good state of preservation, even though showing signs of the passage of time.
After the procedures to open the tomb, which began first thing in the morning, the coffin was displayed on a dais at the gravesite until 9:00am, when Cardinal Angelo Comastri, after a brief prayer, intoned the litanies.
Besides Cardinal Angelo Comastri, Archbishop Giuseppe D'Andrea, and Bishop Vittorio Lanzani, representing the Basilica and the Chapter of St. Peter, there were also present Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of State; Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, President of the Governorate of Vatican City State; Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, Archbishop of Krakow, Poland and former personal secretary to John Paul II; Archbishop Fernando Filoni, substitute for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State; Cardinal Carlo Maria Vigano, secretary general of the Governorate of Vatican City State; Archbishop Piero Marini, who was Master of Liturgical Celebrations under John Paul II; Zygmunt Zimowski, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care; Sr. Tobiana and the religious of the papal apartments of John Paul II; Commander Angelo Gugel; the heads of the Corps of the Gendarmerie of Vatican City State and the Swiss Guard; and other persons.
All together there were several dozen persons including the workers of the Fabric of St. Peters who carried out their task with great devotion and a profound spiritual participation.
While singing the litanies during the brief passage, the case was translated before the tomb of St. Peter in the Vatican Grottoes and was covered with a wide cloth embroidered in gold.
The Cardinal Secretary of State offered a short final prayer and the assembly disbanded at 9:15am.
The great stone of the tomb, removed and placed in another part of the grottoes, is intact and will be moved to Krakow where it will be placed in the new church dedicated to the Blessed John Paul II.
The coffin, as already announced, will remain in the grottoes until Sunday morning when it will be translated to the Basilica, before the main altar, for the homage of the Holy Father and the faithful after the beatification. In the meantime the Vatican grottoes will be closed to the public.
In all likelihood the permanent placement of the Blessed under the altar of the Chapel of St. Sebastian will take place in the afternoon of Monday, 2 May, when the Basilica will be closed".
Msgr. Frisina explained that the celebration of the Vigil on 30 April (from 8:00pm to 11:30pm) at Circo Massimo - which will be open to the public beginning fom 5:30pm - will be enlivened by the Choir of the Diocese of Rome and the Orchestra of the Santa Cecilia Conservatory, which he will conduct. The choir of the Philippine community in Rome and the Gaudium Poloniae Choir will perform two traditional pieces.
During the first part of the vigil a celebration of memory, recalling the words and gestures of John Paul II, is planned. "On stage", Msgr. Frisina said, "there will be a large reproduction of the image of Mary Salus Populi Romani, patroness of the city of Rome. Through images we will also relive the last months of the pontificate of John Paul II, which were marked by his suffering".
Later, testimonials of some of those who worked with the pope will be given: Joaquin Navarro-Valls, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, and the French nun Marie Simon-Pierre whose miraculous cure opened the path to his beatification. Likewise, the testimonial of some of the youth of Rome on the importance of the example and the words of the Blessed on their lives will be offered. At the end of this second part, Totus Tuus, composed for the fiftieth anniversary of the priestly ordination of John Paul II (1996), will be sung.
Msgr. Frisina noted that the second part of the Vigil will begin with a few words addressed by Cardinal Agostino Vallini, Vicar General of the Diocese of Rome that "will summarize the spiritual and pastoral character of the Blessed". Afterward will follow the recitation of the Mysteries of Light of the Holy Rosary, with a live link with five Marian shrines. Each of the Mysteries will be tied to a prayer intention of importance to John Paul II: at the sanctuary of Lagiewniki in Krakow, Poland the intention will be for the youth; at the sanctuary of Kawekamo, Bugando, Tanzania the intention will be for the family; at the sanctuary of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, Mexico the intention will be for hope and peace among nations; at the sanctuary of Fatima, the intention will be for the Church. At the conclusion, Benedict XVI, in a live link from the Vatican, will give the final prayer and will impart the apostolic blessing to all participating.
Regarding the beatification Mass on 1 May, the Sunday after Easter or Divine Mercy Sunday, an hour before the service begins - that is, at 9:00am - there will be an hour of preparation during which the faithful shall pray together the Devotion of Divine Mercy, which was introduced by St. Mary Faustina Kowalska and was dear to Blessed John Paul II. The preparation will conclude with an invocation to the Mercy of God in the world, with the hymn "Jezu ufam tobie" (Jesus, I trust in you).
Directly following will be Holy Mass, with the readings of the Sunday after Easter. At the end of the rite of beatification, when the tapestry depicting the newly Blessed is unveiled, the Hymn of the Blessed will be sung in Latin. At the end of the Mass, a reliquary of John Paul II will be brought to the altar for the veneration of all the faithful.
The Mass of Thanksgiving (Monday 2 May, in St. Peter's Square at 10:30am) will be presided over by Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone and will be preceded by an hour of preparation during which we will hear some of John Paul II's poetry recited by two actors, one Polish and the other Italian. The Eucharistic celebration will be enlivened by the Choir of the Diocese of Rome with the participation of the Choir of Warsaw and the Symphonic Orchestra of the Radio of Katowice, Poland. The texts will be those from the Mass of the newly Blessed.
For his part, Fr. Watler Insero, director of the Office of Social Communications of the Vicariate of Rome, clarified a few points regarding the events connected with the beatification, among which was the "white night" of prayer that the city of Rome will hold for the first time.
"After the Vigil in Circo Massimo, beginning at 11:30pm", he said, "it will be possible to continue praying until dawn in eight churches in the city center that are found on the journey from Circo Massimo to St. Peter's Basilica: Santa Anastasia, San Bartolomeo all'Isola, Santa Agnese in Agone (in Piazza Navona, which will be led by a group of Polish youth), San Marco al Campidoglio, Santissimo Nome di Gesu all'Argentina, Santa Maria in Vallicella, San Andrea della Valle, and San Giovanni dei Fiorentini".
"The Roman youth, serving as hosts of this evening of faith, will greet the pilgrims, inviting them to enter the churches and join in the prayers. During the night, in keeping with the common format adopted by the churches involved, there will be an alternation of the various following moments programmed: the reading of and meditation on the Word of God; silence and Eucharistic adoration; and the reading of some texts that John Paul II addressed to the youth. There will also be testimonials from some young persons, songs performed by youth groups, and the recitation of the Rosary and Divine Mercy Devotion. In these eight churches (...) many priests will be available to hear confessions.
Fr. Walter Insero also announced that Caritas' soup kitchen for the poor and service center at Termini Station will be dedicated to Blessed John Paul II. It is "a sign of love offered by the Diocese of Rome to recall her beloved bishop and his pastoral concern for the poorest of the poor". He also noted that the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Vatican Radio, Vatican Television, and the Office for Social Communications of the Vicariate of Rome have realized an important project focused on social networking that is called "Digital Sentinels".
"It is an initiative", he said, "has created groups of faithful, young and old, who bring the witness and teaching of the newly Blessed to the web, especially through Facebook and Twitter. The entire initiative is described at:http://www.pope2you.net/index.
"'Digital Sentinels', which was launched this 5 April", Fr. Walter Insero concluded, "has had an excellent reception and resonance in the communications world. ... Almost 1000 persons (specialized journalists, communications experts, ...) will follow our live Twitter feed and more than 3000 persons on Facebook are populating our Sentinel groups ... Also, thanks to the new Pope2You service, almost 40,000 ecards have been sent with quotes addressed by John Paul II to the youth".
OTHER PONTIFICAL ACTS
VATICAN CITY, 29 APR 2011 (VIS) - Today the Holy Father appointed Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education as his special envoy to the celebration of the VI centenary of the dedication of the Cathedral of Wloclawek, Poland that will take place on 26 June of this year.
Both Catholic and Anglican Churches have issued special prayers to be said for the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales has published the following:
Prayer for Prince William and Catherine
we ask your blessing
upon his Royal Highness, Prince William and Catherine
as they pledge their love for each other in marriage.
May your love unite them through their lives.
Grant them the strength to serve you, our country and the Commonwealth with integrity and faithfulness. Through Christ our Lord.
The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams issued these two prayers for Prince William and Catherine Middleton and all couples preparing for their wedding.
Prayer ahead of the Royal Wedding
God of all grace,
friend and companion,
look in favour on William and Catherine
and all who are made one in marriage.
In your love deepen their love
and strengthen their wills
to keep the promises they will make,
that they may continue
in life-long faithfulness to each other; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Prayer for school children praying for the Royal Wedding
we pray for Prince William and Catherine Middleton
as they get ready for their wedding day.
Keep them safe,
make them happy
and help them
to look after each other always. Amen
Source: CBCEW/Archbishop of Canterbury
IMAGE SOURCE: NANNU.INFO
CNA REPORT: Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich told the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast that his conversion to Catholicism helped him discover the “transforming power of faith” in the face of the “increasingly aggressive secularization” of the United States.
“People ask me when I decided to become Catholic,” he told those gathered at Washington D.C.’s Marriott Wardman Park Hotel on the morning of April 27. “It would be more accurate to say that I gradually became Catholic and then realized one day that I should accept the faith that surrounded me.”
“The depth of faith and history contained in the life of the Catholic Church were increasingly apparent to me,” he added. “Slowly, over a decade, the centrality of the Eucharist in the Catholic Mass became more and more obvious to me.”
Gingrich, who entered the Church in 2009, is widely mentioned as a potential Republican presidential candidate.
His wife Callista’s long involvement with the choir of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception brought him to Mass every Sunday, he recounted. He often spoke with Basilica rector Msgr. Walter R. Rossi, especially during a 2005 trip to Rome.
Gingrich said he thought George Weigel’s book “The Cube and the Cathedral” captured the “crisis” of European civilization as “militant, government-imposed secularism undermines and weakens Christianity.”
“As Monsignor Rossi and I discussed the crisis of secularism in Europe and the growth of a government-favored pagan culture to replace Christianity, a terrible parallel grew in my mind between what had been happening in Europe for the last century and what is now happening in the United States,” he said.
“The American elites are guided by their desire to emulate the European elites and, as a result, anti-religious values and principles are coming to dominate the academic, news media, and judicial class in America.”
Criticizing U.S. courts as “especially powerful engines of coerced secularization,” he said the 1962 Supreme Court decision that barred prayer from schools marked the beginning of “a decisive break with the essentially religious nature of historic American civilization.”
Gingrich continued to explore his own beliefs and he reconsidered his own tolerance for aggressive secularization.
“Callista and I have two grandchildren,” he said. “The more I thought about the culture they are surrounded by and the direction of that culture’s evolution, the more troubled I became.”
His “moment of confirmation” about the Catholic faith came during Solemn Vespers with Pope Benedict XVI during the pontiff’s April 2008 visit to the U.S. The Pope’s “joyful and radiating presence” helped Gingrich confirm many of his thoughts and experiences.
“Pope Benedict’s message of ‘Christ our Hope’ was exactly right,” he told the prayer breakfast. “It captured in three words the heart of the salvation Christianity offers.”
The same “transforming power” of faith also had an impact in Poland during Pope John Paul II’s “extraordinary” nine-day visit in June 1979, which Gingrich and his wife have chronicled in his documentary “Nine Days that Changed the World.”
“Amidst a Communist dictatorship, Pope John Paul II reminded the Polish people that freedom and human potential could only be achieved through a relationship with Jesus Christ,” Gingrich explained.
In the face of “continuous anti-religious war” imposed by the Soviet Union, John Paul II’s biblical exhortation “Be Not afraid” gave courage to Catholics and caused fear in Moscow.
“For nine days the Holy Father crisscrossed Poland evangelizing and teaching. For nine days the people of Poland watched, listened and participated,” Gingrich said. “By the end of his pilgrimage something decisive had changed.”
He credited the papal visit for the eventual fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
Gingrich and his wife believe their documentary is a movie with “universal meaning” that is “directly relevant” to contemporary America and to “our crisis of culture and civilization.”
He prayed that the soon-to-be beatified John Paul II will intercede for us so that “we too will be a positive, evangelizing influence in today’s world.”
The Seventh National Catholic Prayer Breakfast brought Catholics to Washington, D.C. for an April 26 Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and for a breakfast the next morning.
Bishop William E. Lori of Bridgeport, Conn. delivered the keynote address for the morning event. Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and pro-life investigative reporter Lila Rose also spoke.
In their statement, the Christian and Muslim women highlight that “while the elite of our society, including our political leaders, live in the lap of luxury, poverty and unemployment are the lot of the majority; the consequent hoards of idle youths in our country are major reasons for the violence we have experienced. Corruption and the lack of transparent implementation of policies are among our gravest cancers in Nigeria.... Although religion is a principal factor in violent conflict here in Northern Nigeria, as in many other parts of the world today, we are convinced that religion can be invaluable in promoting understanding and reconciliation. This can be done within each religious community but we believe it is particularly effective when it is done at an interfaith level.”
The statement continues: “Our two Religions, Islam and Christianity, are invaluable as instruments of reconciliation and of peace because they teach necessary values for co-existence such as peace, forgiveness, mercy, love and so on. Also, because religious leaders carry great authority and are present at all levels of society they can be effective advocates of peace and reconciliation. We believe that we urgently need to exploit that potential of religion here in Northern Nigeria and call on all stakeholders, particularly government, to encourage interfaith platforms at all levels.”
In particular, they welcome the establishment in each State, of the Nigerian Inter-Religious Council, NIREC, which plays an important role in conflict prevention and peace building. The statement further calls on women of all religious beliefs to perform an educational role in promoting a culture of peace and reconciliation.
Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) - The development of a common pastoral letter to all Catholics in Vietnam, a model for the formation for priests and seminarians, preparation for the conference of Asian bishops, to be held in Ho Chi Minh City, the reconstruction of National Marian Shrine of La Vang, expectations for the beatification of Bishop Pierre Lambert de la Motte and Francois Pallu and the choice of delegates to the synod of bishops on the new evangelization were the central topics of the annual meeting of the bishops of Vietnam (see photo), held at the pastoral center of the diocese of Saigon from April 24 to today.
The meeting was attended by all heads of 26 dioceses in the country and, for the first time, the non-resident representative of the Holy See, Mgr. Leopoldo Girelli. He recalled that he is "not a nuncio, as the country does not have diplomatic relations with the Vatican," and emphasized his role as a link between the Holy See and the local Church.
But among all the activities, what is the real purpose of the shepherds? To serve the people of God, that all bishops and cardinals are to pray, to be joined together to build the community and listen to the people of God to build the Church. "I hope - he said - to be an instrument of brotherhood among the local priests, religious and lay people and the people of Vietnam".
A recent survey of one hundred Catholic intellectuals and hundreds of lay has shown that many consider " the conference of bishops non-essential. They listen to the diocesan reports, clapping one another on the back. "They worry about the 'monumental activities' (Hoat Hoanh đồng trang), but are incapable of concerning themselves with the laity, the poor, the suffering of the population, with abandoned children, marginalized communities and the injustice that is rampant in their areas."
The survey also shows the diminished confidence of Catholics in leaders of the Episcopal Conference, who "say nice words, but are not to the people of God." "Those who have responsibility - says Kieu Trinh, a young woman from the archdiocese - should respond to the responsibility that God has entrusted to them. One can not work for two masters. When you die, in front of the holy face of God, how will they answer His questions? ".
"The Church of Vietnam - some faithful tell AsiaNews – has really important issues. There are many reactions in public opinion, so many cries for help, but some local church leaders have not yet given attention to these major issues: the apparent phenomenon of pastors who work for two masters. " That's why hundreds of thousands of faithful and Catholic intellectuals say "the flock needs a true shepherd" and that "the flock does not need a part-time pastor".
In fact, there are Catholic intellectuals and "ordinary" believers who have the belief that "if it happens that the Holy See does not meet the wishes of some shepherds, they will certainly be 'protected' by the authorities. They can 'nương nau' (take the envelope), retain their positions in the Church and run the formal business, even in the absence of moral depth. " "The presence of Mgr. Girelli - some Catholics of Ho Chi Minh City told AsiaNews - is particularly important at this time for Vietnamese Church. The Holy Father Benedict XVI sent him and it is the first time that this has happened in 36 years since 1975."
The assembly of bishops was also an opportunity to listen to the situation of the diocese. It was found that, while there are many conversions, the Church is still facing difficult challenges. In vast areas of Central Highlands and northern provinces near the borders with China and Laos, the faithful are still not allowed to meet to pray, while the priests are still prevented from celebrating the Eucharist and carrying out their pastoral ministry.
The situation of what happened to Mgr. Michael Hoang Duc Oanh has been highlighted in particular, who, having finally managed to celebrate Easter Mass in Lang Son, had to do it in the hostile presence of police and women of the Communist League who outnumbered the faithful and who controlled and mocked both bishop and Catholics. In other areas, priests and faithful who have petitions to celebrate Mass, see their religious freedom subject to the irrational mood swings of local authorities.
This proves that "the legal status of the Church is still not recognized" and that there is the hostility of local authorities against Catholics, which sometimes arrives at forms of open persecution.(J. B. Dang An collaborated)
St. Catherine of Siena
DOCTOR OF THE CHURCH, DOMINICAN MYSTIC, AND PAPAL ADVISER
Feast: April 29
St. Catherine was born at Sienna, in 1347. Her father, James Benincasa, by trade a dyer, was a virtuous man; and though blessed with temporal prosperity, always chiefly solicitous to leave to his children a solid inheritance of virtue, by his example, and by deeply instilling into them lessons of piety. Her mother, Lapa, had a particular affection for this daughter above her other children; and the accomplishments of mind and body with which she was adorned made her the darling and delight of all that knew her, and procured her the name of Euphrosyna. She was favored by God with extraordinary graces as soon as she was capable of knowing him. She withdrew very young to a solitude a little out of the town, to imitate the lives of the fathers of the desert. Returning after some time to her father's house, she continued to be guided by the same spirit. In her childhood she consecrated her virginity to God by a private vow. Her love of mortification and prayer, and her sentiments of virtue, were such as are not usually found in so tender an age. But God was pleased to put her resolution to a great trial. At twelve years of age, her parents thought of engaging her in a married state. Catherine found them deaf to her entreaties that she might live single; and therefore redoubled her prayers, watching, and austerities, knowing her protection must be from God alone. Her parents, regarding her inclination to solitude as unsuitable to the life for which they designed her, endeavored to divert her from it, and began to thwart her devotions, depriving her in this view of the little chamber or cell they had till then allowed her. They loaded her with the most distracting employments, and laid on her all the drudgery of the house, as if she had been a person hired into the family for that purpose. The hardest labor, humiliations, contempt, and the insults of her sisters, were to the saint a subject of joy; and such was her ardent love of crosses, that she embraced them in all shapes with a holy eagerness, and received all railleries with an admirable sweetness and heroic patience. If any thing grieved her, it was the loss of her dear solitude. But the Holy Ghost, that interior faithful master, to whom she listened, taught her to make herself another solitude in her heart; where, amidst all her occupations, she considered herself always as alone with God; to whose presence she kept herself no less attentive than if she had no exterior employment to distract her. In that admirable Treatise of God's Providence, which she wrote, she saith, "that our Lord had taught her to build in her soul a private closet, strongly vaulted with the divine providence, and to keep herself always close and retired there; he assured her that by this means she should find peace and perpetual repose in her soul, which no storm or tribulation could disturb or interrupt." Her sisters and other friends persuaded her to join with them in the diversions of the world, alleging, that virtue is not an enemy to neatness in dress, or to cheerfulness; under which soft names they endeavored to recommend the dangerous liberties of worldly pastimes and vanities. Catherine was accordingly prevailed upon by her sister to dress in a manner something more genteel; but she soon repented of her compliance, and wept for it during the remainder of her life, as the greatest infidelity she had ever been guilty of to her heavenly spouse. The death of her eldest sister, Bonaventura, soon after confirmed her in those sentiments. Her father, edified at her patience and virtue, at length approved and seconded her devotion, and all her pious desires. She liberally assisted the poor, served the sick, and comforted the afflicted and prisoners. Her chief subsistence was on boiled herbs, without either sauce or bread, which last she seldom tasted. She wore a very rough hair-cloth, and a large iron girdle armed with sharp points, lay on the ground, and watched much. Humility, obedience, and a denial of her own will, even in her penitential austerities, gave them their true value. She began this course of life when under fifteen years of age. She was moreover visited with many painful distempers, which she underwent with incredible patience; she had also suffered much from the use of hot baths prescribed her by physicians. Amidst her pains, it was her constant prayer that they might serve for the expiation of her offences, and the purifying her heart. She long desired, and in 1365, the eighteenth year of her age, (but two years later, according to some writers,) she received the habit of the third order of St. Dominic, in a nunnery contiguous to the Dominicans' convent. From that time her cell became her paradise, prayer her element, and her mortifications had no longer any restraint. For three years she never spoke to any one but to God and her confessor. Her days and nights were employed in the delightful exercises of contemplation: the fruits whereof were supernatural lights, a most ardent love of God, and zeal for the conversion of sinners. The old serpent, seeing her angelical life, set all his engines at work to assault her virtue. He first filled her imagination with the most filthy representations, and assailed her heart with the basest and most humbling temptations. Afterwards, he spread in her soul such a cloud and darkness that it was the severest trial imaginable. She saw herself a hundred times on the brink of the precipice, but was always supported by an invisible hand. Her arms were fervent prayer, humility, resignation, and confidence in God. By these she persevered victorious, and was at last delivered from those trials which had only served to purify her heart. Our Saviour visiting her after this bitter conflict, she said to him: "Where west thou, my divine Spouse, while I lay in such an abandoned, frightful condition." "I was with thee," he seemed to reply. "What!" said she, "amidst the filthy abominations with which my soul was infested!" He answered: "They were displeasing and most painful to thee. This conflict therefore was thy merit, and the victory over them was owing to my presence." Her ghostly enemy also solicited her to pride, omitting neither violence nor stratagem to seduce her into this vice; but invincible humility was a buckler to cover her from all his fiery darts. God recompensed her charity to the poor by many miracles, often multiplying provisions in her hands, and enabling her to carry loads of corn, oil, and other necessaries to the poor, which her natural strength could not otherwise have borne. The greatest miracle seemed her patience in bearing the murmurs, and even the reproaches, of these ungrateful and importunate people. Catherine dressed, and served an old woman named Tocca. infected to that degree with a leprosy, that the magistrates had ordered her to be removed out of the city, and separated from all others. This poor wretch nevertheless made no other return to the tender charity of the saint, but continual bitter complaints and reproaches; which, instead of wearying out her constancy, only moved the saint to show her still greater marks of sweetness and humility. Another, whose infectious cancer the saint for a long time sucked and dressed, published against her the most infamous calumnies; in which she was seconded by a sister of the convent. Catherine bore in silence the violent persecution they brought upon her, and continued her affectionate services till, by her patience and prayers, she had obtained of God the conversion of both these enemies, which was followed by a retraction of their slanders.
The ardent charity of this holy virgin made her indefatigable in laboring for the conversion of sinners, offering for that end continual tears, prayers, fasts, and other austerities, and thinking nothing difficult or above her strength. All her discourses, actions, and her very silence, powerfully induced men to the love of virtue, so that no one, according to pope Pius II., ever approached her who went not away better. Nannes, a powerful turbulent citizen, being brought to our saint to be reclaimed, all she could say to him to bring him to a right sense of his duty was of no effect; upon which she made a sudden pause in her discourse, to offer up her prayers for him: they were heard that very instant, and an entire change was wrought in the man, to which his tears and other tokens bore evidence. He accordingly reconciled himself to all his enemies, and embraced a most penitential life. When he afterwards fell into many temporal calamities, the saint rejoiced at his spiritual advantage under them, saying, God purged his heart from the poison with which it was infected by its inveterate attachment to creatures. Nannes gave to the saint a stately house which he possessed within two miles of the city. This, by the pope's authority, she converted into a nunnery. We omit the miraculous conversion of James Tholomei and his sisters, of Nicholas Tuldo, and many others; particularly of two famous assassins going to die with blasphemies in their mouths, and in transports of rage and despair, who were suddenly converted in their last moments, on the saint's praying for them, confessed their crimes to a priest with great signs of repentance, and appeared thoroughly resigned to the punishment about to be inflicted on them. A pestilence laying waste the country in 1374, Catherine devoted herself to serve the infected, and obtained of God the cure of several; amongst others, of two holy Dominicans, Raymund of Capua, and Bartholomew of Sienna. The most hardened sinners could not withstand the force of her exhortations to a change of life. Thousands flocked from places at a distance in the country to hear or only to see her, and were brought over by her words or example to the true dispositions of sincere repentance. She undertook a journey to Monte Pulciano to consecrate to God two of her nieces, who there took the religious veil of Saint Dominic: and another journey to Pisa, by order of her superiors, at the earnest suit of the citizens. She there restored health to many in body, but to a far greater number in soul. Raymund of Capua and two other Dominicans were commissioned by pope Gregory XI., then residing at Avignon, to hear the confessions at Sienna, of those who were induced by the saint to enter upon a change of life; these priests were occupied, day and night, in hearing the confessions of many who had never confessed before; besides those of others who had acquitted themselves but superficially of that duty. While she was at Pisa, in 1375, the people of Florence and Perugia, with a great part of Tuscany, and even of the Ecclesiastical State, entered into a league against the holy see. The news of this disturbance was delivered to Catherine by Raymund of Capua, and her heart was pierced with the most bitter sorrow on account of those evils, which she had foretold three years before they came to their height. The two furious factions of the Guelphs and Ghibellines, who had so disturbed and divided the state of Florence, then a powerful commonwealth, united at last against the pope, to strip the holy see of the lands it possessed in Italy. The disturbance was begun in June, 1373, and a numerous army was set on foot: the word Libertas, written on the banner of the league, was the signal. Perugia, Bologna, Viterbo, Ancona, and other strongholds, soon declared for them. The inhabitants of Arezzo, Lucca. Sienna, and other places, were kept within the bounds of duty by the prayers, letters, and exhortations of St. Catherine, and generously contemned the threats of the Florentines. Pope Gregory XI., residing at Avignon, wrote to the city of Florence, but without success. He therefore sent the cardinal Robert of Geneva, his legate, with an army, and laid the diocese of Florence under an interdict. Internal divisions, murders, and all other domestic miseries amongst the Florentines, joined with the conspiracy of the neighboring states, concurred to open their eyes, and made them sue for pardon. The magistrates sent to Sienna to beg St. Catherine would become their mediatrix. She could not resist their pressing entreaties. Before she arrived at Florence, she was met by the priors or chiefs of the magistrates; and the city left the management of the whole affair to her discretion, with a promise that she should be followed to Avignon by their ambassadors, who should sign and ratify the conditions of reconciliation between the parties at variance, and confirm every thing she had done. The saint arrived at Avignon on the 18th of June, 1376, and was received by the pope and cardinals with great marks of distinction His holiness, after a conference with her, in admiration of her prudence and sanctity, said to her: "I desire nothing but peace. I put the affair entirely into your hands; only I recommend to you the honor of the church." But the Florentines sought not peace sincerely, and they continued to carry on secret intrigues to draw all Italy from its obedience to the holy see. Their ambassadors arrived very late at Avignon, and spoke with so great insolence, that they showed peace was far from being the subject of their errand. God suffered the conclusion of this work to be deferred in punishment of the sins of the Florentines. by which means St. Catherine sanctified herself still more by suffering longer amidst a seditious people.
The saint had another point no less at heart in her journey to Avignon. Pope John XXII., a Frenchman, born at Cahors, bishop, first of Frejus, then of Avignon, lastly of Porto, being made pope in 1314, fixed his residence at Avignon, where John's successors, Benedict XII., Clement VI.. Innocent VI., and Urban V., also resided. The then pope Gregory XI., elected in 1370, continued also there. The Romans complained that their bishops had for seventy-four years past forsaken their church, and threatened a schism. Gregory XI. had made a secret vow to return to Rome; but not finding this design agreeable to his court, he consulted the holy virgin on this subject, who answered: "Fulfil what you have promised to God." The pope, surprised she should know by revelation what he had never discovered to any person on earth, was immediately determined to carry his good design into execution. The saint soon after left Avignon. We have several letters written by her to him, to press him to hasten his return; and he shortly after followed her, leaving Avignon on the 13th of September, in 1376. He overtook the saint at Genoa, where she made a short stay. At Sienna, she continued her former way of life, serving and often curing the sick, converting the most obstinate sinners, and reconciling the most inveterate enemies, more still by her prayers than by her words. Such was her knowledge of heavenly things, that certain Italian doctors, out of envy, and with the intent to expose her ignorance, being come to hold a conference with her, departed in confusion and admiration at her interior lights. The same had happened at Avignon, some time before, where three prelates, envying her credit with the pope, put to her the most intricate questions on an interior life, and many other subjects; but admiring her answers to all their difficulties, confessed to the pope they had never seen a soul so enlightened, and so profoundly humble as Catherine. She had many disciples: among others, Stephen, son of Conrad, a senator of Sienna. This nobleman was reduced by enemies to the last extremity. Seeing himself on the brink of ruin, he addressed himself to the saint, who, having first made a thorough convert of him from the world and its vanities, by her prayers miraculously, on a sudden, pacified all his persecutors, and calmed their fury. Stephen, from that time, looked upon as dust all that he had formerly most passionately loved and pursued; and he testified of himself, that by her presence, and much more by her zealous discourses, he always found the divine love vehemently kindled in his breast, and his contempt of all earthly things increased. He became the most fervent among her disciples, made a collection of all her words as oracles, would be her secretary to write her letters, and her companion in her journeys to Avignon, Florence, and Rome; and at length, by her advice, professed himself a Carthusian monk. He assisted at her death, and wrote her life at the request of several princes; having been witness of her great miracles and virtues, and having experienced often in himself her spirit of prophecy, her knowledge of the consciences of others, and her extraordinary light in spiritual things.
St. Catherine wrote to pope Gregory XI., at Rome, strongly exhorting him to contribute by all means possible to the general peace of Italy. His holiness commissioned her to go to Florence, still divided and obstinate in its disobedience. She lived some time in that factious place, amidst daily murders and confiscations, in frequent dangers of her own life many ways; in which she always showed herself most undaunted, even when swords were drawn against her. At length she overcame that obstinate people, and brought them to submission, obedience, and peace, though not under Gregory XI., as Baillet mistakes, but his successor, Urban VI., as her contemporary historian informs us. This memorable reconciliation was effected in 1378; after which Catherine hastened to her solitary abode at Sienna, where her occupation, and, we may say, her very nourishment, was holy prayer: in which intercourse with the Almighty, he discovered to her very wonderful mysteries, and bestowed on her a spirit which delivered the truths of salvation in a manner that astonished her hearers. Some of her discourses were collected, and compose the treatise On Providence, under her name. Her whole life seemed one continual miracle; but what the servants of God admired most in her, was the perpetual strict union of her soul with God. For, though obliged often to converse with different persons on so many different affairs, and transact business of the greatest moment, she was always occupied on God, and absorbed in him. For many years she had accustomed herself to so rigorous an abstinence, that the blessed eucharist might be said to be almost the only nourishment which supported her. Once she fasted from Ash Wednesday till Ascension-day, receiving only the blessed eucharist during that whole time. Many treated her as a hypocrite, and invented all manner of calumnies against her; but she rejoiced at humiliations, and gloried in the cross of Christ as much as she dreaded and abhorred praise and applause. In a vision, our Saviour is said one day to have presented her with two crowns, one of gold and the other of thorns, bidding her choose which of the two she pleased. She answered: "I desire, O Lord, to live here always conformed to your passion, and to find pain and suffering my repose and delight." Then eagerly taking up the crown of thorns, she forcibly pressed it upon her bead. The earnest desire and love of humiliations and crosses was nourished in her soul by assiduous meditation on the sufferings of our divine Redeemer. What, above all things, pierced her heart was scandal, chiefly that of the unhappy great schism which followed the death of Gregory XI. in 1378, when Urban VI. was chosen at Rome, and acknowledged there by all the cardinals, though his election was in the beginning overawed by the Roman people, who demanded an Italian pope. Urban's harsh and austere temper alienated from him the affections of the cardinals, several of whom withdrew; and having declared the late election null, chose Clement VII., with whom they retired out of Italy, and resided at Avignon. Our saint, not content to spend herself in floods of tears, weeping before God for these evils of his church, wrote the strongest and most pathetic letters to those cardinals who had first acknowledged Urban, and afterwards elected another; pressing them to return to their lawful pastor, and acknowledge Urban's title. She wrote also to several countries and princes in his favor, and to Urban himself, exhorting him to bear up cheerfully under the troubles he found himself involved in, and to abate somewhat of a temper that had made him so many enemies, and mollify that rigidness of disposition which had driven the world from him, and still kept a very considerable part of Christendom from acknowledging him. The pope listened to her, sent for her to Rome, followed her directions, and designed to send her, with St. Catherine of Sweden, to Joan, queen of Sicily, who had sided with Clement. Our saint grieved to see this occasion of martyrdom snatched from her, when the journey was laid aside on account of the dangers that were foreseen to attend It. She wrote however to queen Joan: likewise two letters full of holy fire to the king of France, also to the king of Hungary, and others, to exhort them to renounce the schism.
We pass over the ecstasies and other wonderful favors this virgin received from heaven, and the innumerable miracles God wrought by her means. She has loft us, besides the example of her life, six Treatises in form of a dialogue, a Discourse on the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin, and three hundred and sixty-four Letters, which show that she had a superior genius, and wrote perfectly well. While she was laboring to extend the obedience of the true pope, Urban VI., her infirmities and pains increasing, she died at Rome on the 29th of April, in 1380, being thirty-three years old. She was buried in the church of the Minerva, where her body is still kept under an altar. Her skull is in the Dominicans' church at Sienna, in which city are shown her house, her instruments of penance, and other relics. She was canonized by pope Pius II. in 1461. Urban VIII. transferred her festival to the 30th of this month.