St. Catherine of Siena Encouraged Priests 'to Be Faithful to Their Responsibility'

Pope's weekly audience recalls saint's love for the Church and reverence for the priesthood.

Pope Benedict XVI waves upon arriving to lead his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Nov. 24. In the background is U.S. Archbishop James Harvey, prefect of the papal household.
Pope Benedict XVI waves upon arriving to lead his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Nov. 24. In the background is U.S. Archbishop James Harvey, prefect of the papal household. (photo: CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Despite their human weaknesses, priests bring the saving power of Christ to the faithful through the sacraments and the word of God, Pope Benedict XVI said.

“The Eucharist is an extraordinary gift of love that God continually renews in us to nourish our journey of faith, reinvigorate our hope and arouse our sense of charity in order to become ever more like him,” he said during his weekly general audience Nov. 24.

In his catechesis, the Pope described the life of the 14th-century doctor of the Church, St. Catherine of Siena, a Dominican and a “woman of great holiness.”
Just like St. Catherine, every Catholic should feel compelled to conform one’s life and one’s heart to the heart of Jesus, he said.

He asked that everyone let their hearts be transformed “and learn to love like Christ, in familiarity with him, nourished by prayer, reflection on the word of God and the sacraments,” especially the Eucharist.

People of every social standing were fascinated by St. Catherine’s moral authority, he said. She exercised a “spiritual maternity” like that still benefiting the Church today thanks to the dedication of many lay and consecrated women, said the Pope.

Such spiritual mothers encourage people to keep their thoughts and lives focused on God and prompt people to aim to live holier lives, he said.

St. Catherine’s love for the Lord and his Church was so great that even though she was aware “of priests’ human defects, she always had a great reverence for them: They confer, through the sacraments and the word, the saving power of the blood of Christ,” the Pope said.

Motivated only by her “deep and constant love for the Church,” St. Catherine always encouraged priests and even the Pope “to be faithful to their responsibility,” he said.

St. Catherine teaches people today that authentic spirituality has Christ at its center, the Pope said. Like the Italian saint, “let us learn to love Christ and the Church with courage, intensity and sincerity,” he said.

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