Skip to comments.Catherine of Bologna: Spiritual Weapons Against Evil
Posted on 12/29/2010 8:50:46 PM PST by ELS
Catherine of Bologna: Spiritual Weapons Against Evil
VATICAN CITY, 29 DEC 2010 (VIS) - The Holy Father dedicated his catechesis during today's general audience, held in the Paul VI Hall in the presence of 8,000 people, to St. Catherine of Bologna (1413-1463).
Born to a noble family in the Italian city of Bologna, at the age of ten she moved to Ferrara where she entered the court of Niccolo III d'Este as a maid of honour. There she received a very careful education which would later serve her during her monastic life when "she used the cultural and artistic knowledge acquired over those years to great advantage", the Pope said.
In 1427, at the age of fourteen, she left the court to dedicate herself to religious life in a community of young women. Two years later the leader of this group founded an Augustinian convent, but Catherine and a number of others preferred Franciscan spirituality and transformed the community into Poor Clares.
The saint "made great spiritual progress in this new phase of her life, though she also had to face great trials", the Pope explained. "She experienced the night of the spirit, tormented even by the temptation of disbelief in the Eucharist. After much suffering, the Lord consoled her. In a vision He gave her the clear awareness of the real Eucharistic presence". In another vision God revealed the forgiveness of her sins, giving Catherine a "powerful experience of divine mercy".
In 1431 the saint had yet another vision, this time of the Final Judgement, which led her "to intensify her prayers and penance for the salvation of sinners. Satan continued to assail her as she increasingly entrusted herself to the Lord and the Virgin Mary. In her writings, Catherine left us essential notes on this mysterious struggle, from which, by the grace of God, she emerged victorious".
These notes are contained in her one written work, the "Treatise on the Seven Spiritual Weapons" in which Catherine teaches that to combat evil it is necessary: "(1) to be careful always to do good; (2) to believe that we can never achieve anything truly good by ourselves; (3) to trust in God and, for His love, never to fear the battle against evil, either in the world or in ourselves; (4) to meditate frequently on the events and words of Jesus' life, especially His passion and death; (5) to remember that we must die; (6) to keep the benefits of heaven firmly in our minds, (7) to be familiar with Holy Scripture, keeping it in our hearts to guide all our thoughts and actions".
"In her convent Catherine, though used to the court of Ferrara, ... performed even the most humble tasks with love and ready obedience", said the Holy Father, recalling also that, out of obedience, the saint "accepted the job of mistress of novices, although she felt she was incapable of carrying out the role". In the same spirit she agreed to move to Bologna as abbess of a new monastery though she would have preferred to end her days in Ferrara.
Catherine died on 9 March 1463 and was canonised by Pope Clement XI in 1712. "With her words and life", Benedict XVI concluded, "she strongly invites us always to allow ourselves to be guided by God, to do His will every day even if it does not always correspond to our own plans, and to trust in His Providence which never abandons us. In this perspective, St. Catherine also invites us to rediscover the value of the virtue of obedience". AG/ VIS 20101229 (600)
[The Holy Father then greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Our catechesis today deals with Saint Catherine of Bologna, a Poor Clare abbess of the fifteenth century and a woman of great wisdom and culture. Born of noble stock, Catherine spent her childhood at the court of Ferrara. At fourteen she joined a group of other young women devoted to the common life and eventually became a Poor Clare. In her spiritual journey, Catherine endured her own dark night of the soul, experiencing doubts and temptation, but also great consolations. In her treatise The Seven Spiritual Weapons, she writes of the many graces she received and lists the most effective means of resisting the temptations of the devil. She also relates the visions which led her to understand both the severity of the Last Judgment and, at the same time, God’s infinite mercy. Catherine’s entire life was a model of humility and obedience; indeed, she saw all disobedience as a sign of that spiritual pride which destroys all virtue. May the example and prayers of Saint Catherine of Bologna inspire in us humble obedience to God’s will in our daily efforts to remain faithful to His plan for our lives.
* * *
I greet the seminarians of the American College of Louvain and I offer prayerful good wishes for your studies. May this pilgrimage to Rome be a source of spiritual enrichment as you prepare for priestly ministry in the United States. I thank the choirs for their praise of God in song. Upon all the English-speaking visitors present at today’s audience I cordially invoke the joy and peace of Christ our newborn Saviour.
© Copyright 2010 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana
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Zenit News appears to have taken a hiatus. The Vatican Web site has not posted, yet, the English translation of the full text of the Holy Father's catechesis.
Interesting that a woman could receive a stellar education in that time period.
These notes are contained in her one written work, the “Treatise on the Seven Spiritual Weapons” in which Catherine teaches that to combat evil it is necessary:
“(1) to be careful always to do good;
“(2) to believe that we can never achieve anything truly good by ourselves;
“(3) to trust in God and, for His love, never to fear the battle against evil, either in the world or in ourselves;
“(4) to meditate frequently on the events and words of Jesus’ life, especially His passion and death;
“(5) to remember that we must die;
“(6) to keep the benefits of heaven firmly in our minds;
“(7) to be familiar with Holy Scripture, keeping it in our hearts to guide all our thoughts and actions.”
Wise and inspired words from a holy woman.
She’s my patron saint.
The body of St. Catherine, which remains in-corrupt, is preserved in the chapel of the Poor Clares at Bologna. St. Catherine was canonized by Pope Benedict XIII. Her feast is kept on the 9th of March throughout the Order of Friars Minor.
The body of St. Catherine, which remains in-corrupt, is preserved in the chapel of the Poor Clares at Bologna.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In a recent catechesis I spoke of St. Catherine of Siena. Today I would like to present to you another less well known Saint who has the same name: St Catherine of Bologna, a very erudite yet very humble woman. She was dedicated to prayer but was always ready to serve; generous in sacrifice but full of joy in welcoming Christ with the Cross.
Catherine was born in Bologna on 8 September 1413, the eldest child of Benvenuta Mammolini and John de’ Vigri, a rich and cultured patrician of Ferrara, a doctor in law and a public lector in Padua, where he carried out diplomatic missions for Nicholas III d’Este, Marquis of Ferrara.
Not much information about Catherine’s infancy and childhood is available and not all of it is reliable. As a child she lived in her grandparents’ house in Bologna, where she was brought up by relatives, especially by her mother who was a woman of deep faith.
With her, Catherine moved to Ferrara when she was about 10 years old and entered the court of Nicholas III d’Este as lady-in-waiting to Margaret, Nicholas’ illegitimate daughter. The Marquis was transforming Ferrara into a fine city, summoning artists and scholars from various countries. He encouraged culture and, although his private life was not exemplary, took great care of the spiritual good, moral conduct and education of his subjects.
In Ferrara Catherine was unaware of the negative aspects that are often part and parcel of court life. She enjoyed Margaret’s friendship and became her confidante. She developed her culture by studying music, painting and dancing; she learned to write poetry and literary compositions and to play the viola; she became expert in the art of miniature-painting and copying; she perfected her knowledge of Latin.
In her future monastic life she was to put to good use the cultural and artistic heritage she had acquired in these years. She learned with ease, enthusiasm and tenacity. She showed great prudence, as well as an unusual modesty, grace and kindness in her behaviour.
However, one absolutely clear trait distinguished her: her spirit, constantly focused on the things of Heaven. In 1427, when she was only 14 years old and subsequent to certain family events, Catherine decided to leave the court to join a group of young noble women who lived a community life dedicating themselves to God. Her mother trustingly consented in spite of having other plans for her daughter.
We know nothing of Catherine’s spiritual path prior to this decision. Speaking in the third person, she states that she entered God’s service, “illumined by divine grace... with an upright conscience and great fervour”, attentive to holy prayer by night and by day, striving to acquire all the virtues she saw in others, “not out of envy but the better to please God in whom she had placed all her love” (Le sette armi necessarie alla battaglia spirituali, [The seven spiritual weapons], VII, 8, Bologna 1998, p. 12).
She made considerable spiritual progress in this new phase of her life but her trials, her inner suffering and especially the temptations of the devil were great and terrible. She passed through a profound spiritual crisis and came to the brink of despair (cf. ibid., VII, 2, pp. 12-29). She lived in the night of the spirit, and was also deeply shaken by the temptation of disbelief in the Eucharist.
After so much suffering, the Lord comforted her: He gave her, in a vision, a clear awareness of the Real Presence in the Eucharist, an awareness so dazzling that Catherine was unable to express it in words (cf. ibid., VIII, 2. pp. 42-46).
In this same period a sorrowful trial afflicted the community: tension arose between those who wished to follow the Augustinian spirituality and those who had more of an inclination for Franciscan spirituality.
Between 1429 and 1430, Lucia Mascheroni, in charge of the group, decided to found an Augustinian monastery. Catherine, on the other hand chose with others to bind herself to the Rule of St Clare of Assisi. It was a gift of Providence, because the community dwelled in the vicinity of the Church of the Holy Spirit, annexed to the convent of the Friars Minor who had adhered to the movement of the Observance.
Thus Catherine and her companions could take part regularly in liturgical celebrations and receive adequate spiritual assistance. They also had the joy of listening to the preaching of St Bernardine of Siena (cf. ibid., VII, 62, p. 26). Catherine recounts that in 1429 — the third year since her conversion — she went to make her confession to one of the Friars Minor whom she esteemed, she made a good Confession and prayed to the Lord intensely to grant her forgiveness for all her sins and the suffering connected with them.
In a vision God revealed to her that He had forgiven her everything. It was a very strong experience of divine mercy which left an indelible mark upon her, giving her a fresh impetus to respond generously to God’s immense love (cf. ibid. IX, 2, pp. 46-48).
In 1431 she had a vision of the Last Judgement. The terrifying spectacle of the damned impelled her to redouble her prayers and penance for the salvation of sinners. The devil continued to assail her and she entrusted herself ever more totally to the Lord and to the Virgin Mary (cf. ibid., X, 3, pp. 53-54).
In her writings, Catherine has left us a few essential notes concerning this mysterious battle from which, with God’s grace, she emerged victorious. She did so in order to instruct her sisters and those who intend to set out on the path of perfection: she wanted to put them on their guard against the temptations of the devil who often conceals himself behind deceptive guises, later to sow doubts about faith, vocational uncertainty and sensuality.
In her autobiographical and didactic treatise, The Seven Spiritual Weapons, Catherine offers in this regard teaching of deep wisdom and profound discernment. She speaks in the third person in reporting the extraordinary graces which the Lord gives to her and in the first person in confessing her sins. From her writing transpires the purity of her faith in God, her profound humility, the simplicity of her heart, her missionary zeal, her passion for the salvation of souls. She identifies seven weapons in the fight against evil, against the devil:
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