Thursday, January 13, 2011

Pope Benedict Talks Caterina of Genoa and Purgatory (Full Enlgish Translation)

The Pope spoke another great woman of the Church yesterday. That is Caterina of Seina / Bologna. In that he gave a quick important overview of the Grace filled FACT of Purgatory.
The full English translation is not out yet at the Vatican web site. However an English translation can be found here on this page
It is reproduceed below in full s. I think it is so important to go ahead since it is in the news insteading waiting for the easy Vatican web site link.

Dear brothers and sisters, Today I wish to speak to you of another saint named Caterina - after Caterina of Siena and Caterina of Bologna.

I speak of Caterina of Genoa, who is best known for her vision of purgatory. The text which describes her life and thought was published in her native city in Liguria in 1551. It is divided into three parts: the Life, itself, properly speaking; the demonstration and declarations on Purgatory - better known as the Treatise on Purgatory; and the Dialog between the soul and the body (cfr. Libro de la Vita mirabile et dottrina santa, de la beata Caterinetta da Genoa. Nel quale si contiene una utile et catholica dimostratione et dechiaratione del purgatorio, Genova 1551) [Book on the admirable life and sacred doctrine of the blessed Catarinetta of Genoa. Which contains a useful and catholic demonstration and declaration on purgatory].
The final editor was Caterina's confessor, the priest Cattaneo Marabotto. Caterina was born in Genoa in 1447. The youngest of five children, she was orphaned of her father, Giacomo Fieschi, when she was a girl. Her mother, Francesca di Negro, gave her children a valid Christian education, so that the older of her two daughters became a nun. At 16, Caterina was given in marriage to Giuliano Adorno, a man who, after various commercial and military experiences in the Middle East, came back to Genoa to get married. Married life was not easy, if only because of her husband's character, since he was addicted to games of chance. Caterina herself was initially induced to live a worldly life, in which, however, she failed to find peace.

After 10 years, she had a profound sense of emptiness and bitterness. Her conversion began on March 20, 1473, thanks to a singular experience. Having gone to the church of St. Benedict and to the convent of Our Lady of Graces, to make a confession, and kneeling in front of the priest, "I received," she wrote later, "a wound in the heart, God's immense love", with a very clear vision of her failings and her defects, and at the same time, of the goodness of God, that she almost passed out. She was touched in the heart by this self-knowledge, by the empty life that she led, and by God's goodness. This experience led to the decision that oriented the rest of her life, expressed in the words: "No more of the world, no more sin" (cfr. Vita mirabile, 3rv). Caterina fled, not finishing her confession.

Back home, she entered the room that was most hidden and cried at length. At that moment, she was instructed interiorly about prayer and she became conscious of the immense of love of God towards her, a sinner - a spiritual experience which she would not be able to express in words (cfr. Vita mirabile, 4r). It was on this occasion that the suffering Jesus appeared to her, carrying his Cross, a vision that is often represented in the saint's iconography. A few days later, she went back to the priest to complete a good confession.

This began her 'life of purification' which, for a long time, brought her constant pain for the sins she had committed and impelled her to impose penances and sacrifices on herself to prove her love to God. Along this path, Caterina came closer to the Lord until she entered what has been called the 'unitive life', which is a relationship of profound union with God. In the Life, it is written that her soul was led and instructed interiorly only by God's tender love which gave her all that she needed. Caterina abandoned herself so totally into the hands of the Lord that she lived, for almost 25 years, as she writes, "not through any creature, but only instructed and governed by God" (Vita, 117r-118r), nourished above all by constant prayer and by Holy Communion received daily, which was not common in her time.

It was only several years later that the Lord gave her a priest who would be her spiritual guide. Caterina was always unwilling to confide and manifest her experience of mystical union with God, especially because of the profound humility that she felt in the face of the Lord's grace. Only the prospect of giving glory to him and to be able to play a part in the spiritual journey of others impelled her to narrate what had happened to her, from the moment of her conversion, which was her original and fundamental spiritual experience.

The place where she reached mystical peaks was the hospital of Pammatone, the largest Genoese hospital complex, of which she was the director and organizer. So, Caterina lived a totally active existence, notwithstanding the profundity of her interior life. In Pammatone, a group of followers, disciples and collaborators, fascinated by her life of faith and her charity, started to form around her. Her own husband, Giuliano Adorno, was conquered to the point that he abandoned his life of dissipation to become a Franciscan tertiary and worked in the hospital to help his wife. Caterina carried on her commitment to care for the sick to the end of her earthly life, which came on September 15, 1510.

From her conversion to her death, there were no extraordinary events, but two elements characterized her whole life: on the one hand, the mystical experience, that is, her profound union with God, which she experienced as a spousal; and on the other, her care of the sick, managing the hospital, service to her neighbor, especially the neediest and the abandoned. These two poles - God and her neighbor - totally filled her life, which she lived almost entirely within the walls of the hospital. Dear friends, we should never forget that the more we love God and are constant in prayer, the more we will love him who is within us and whoever is around us, because we will be capable of seeing in every person the face of the Lord, who loves without limit and without distinction.
The mystic does not create a distance from others, she does not create an abstract life, but rather comes closer to others as she begins to see and act with the eyes and with the heart of God. Caterina's thoughts on Purgatory, for which she is particularly known, is condensed in the last two parts of the book cited earlier: the Treatise on Purgatory and the Dialog between the body and the soul. It is important to note that Caterina, in recounting her mystical experience, never makes any specific revelations on purgatory and the souls who are undergoing purification. Nonetheless, in the inspired writings of our saint, it is a central element and the way it is described has original characteristics with respect to the image of it in her time. The first original characteristic is the 'place' where souls are purified. In her time, this was mainly depicted using an image of a space where purgatory was located.
But in Caterina, purgatory is not presented as an element of the landscape in the earth's bowels - it is an interior fire, not external. This is purgatory, an interior fire, and the saint speaks of the soul's journey of purification towards full communion with God, starting from its own experience of profound pain for sins committed, compared to God's infinite love(cfr. Vita mirabile, 171v). We learned of the moment of her conversion, when Caterina suddenly experienced the goodness of God: the infinite distance of her own life from that goodness was a burning fire within her.

This is the fire that purifies - the interior fire of purgatory. Even here, there is an original feature compared to the thinking in her time. In fact, in her vision, one does not begin to experience the torments of purgatory in the afterlife - as was usual in her time and perhaps even today - and from there to begin the way of purification or conversion. Our saint begins with her own internal experience in her journey towards eternity. The soul, Caterina says, presents itself to God still bound to desires and to the sorrow that comes from sin, and this makes it impossible for it to enjoy the beatific vision of God. She says that God is so pure and holy that the soul that is still stained with sin cannot be in the presence of his divine majesty (cfr. Vita mirabile, 177r).

Even we feel how distant we are from God, how laden we are with so many things that we cannot see God. The soul is aware of the immense love and perfect justice of God, and consequently, suffers from not having responded correctly and perfectly to such love, and the very love for God becomes a flame that purifies the soul from the slag of sin.
We can detect in Caterina the presence of theological and mystical sources from which it was usual to draw in her time. In particular, an image typical of Dionysus the Areopagite, namely, that of the golden thread that links the human heart to God himself. When God has purified man, he binds him with a most subtle thread of gold, which is his love, and draws man to himself with an affection so strong that man is "overcome and conquered and totally out of himself". And thus, man's heart is invaded by God's love which becomes the only guide, the only motor of his existence (cfr. Vita mirabile, 246rv).
This condition of elevation towards God and of abandonment to his will, expressed in the image of the golden thread, is used by Caterina to express the action of divine light on the souls in purgatory, a light that purifies them and lifts them towards the radiant light of God (cfr. Vita mirabile, 179r).

Dear friends, the saints, in their experience of union with God, reach a 'knowledge' of the divine mysteries that is so profound, in which love and knowledge compenetrate. They are of help to theologians in their own studies of intelligentia fidei (knowledge of the faith), intelligentia about the mysteries of the faith, of real knowledge in depth of the mysteries - for instance, what purgatory is.

With her life, St. Caterina teaches us that the more we love God and enter into intimacy with him in prayer, the more he makes us know him and inflames our heart with his love. Writing about purgatory, the saint reminds us of a fundamental truth of the faith which becomes for us an invitation to pray for the deceased so that they may achieve the beatific vision of God in the communion of saints (cfr. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1032).

Moreover, the humble, faithful and generous service that the saint devoted all her life at the hospital in Pammatone is a luminous example of charity for everyone and an encouragement, specially for women. who make a fundamental contribution to society and to the Church with their valuable work, enriched by their sensitivity and attention towards those who are poorest and neediest. Thank you.


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