How St. Catherine Brought the Pope Back to Rome

In the pantheon of great women in Church history, pride of place should be accorded the young mystic from Siena, St. Catherine, whose feast we celebrate today.

Born in 1347 to a humble wool-dyer, Catherine became one the most influential persons of fourteenth-century Christendom. After she became a Dominican tertiary at the age of nineteen she embarked on a life of intense spiritual practices. Her reputation for great holiness spread quickly, and she found herself answering letters from some of Europe’s most powerful people, seeking her advice on matters spiritual as well as political and even military (she was a supporter of the Crusading movement).

But the topic which most concerned her was the return of the papacy from Avignon, France, where popes had lived since 1309. Catherine took up the mantle of encouraging the pope to return home to Rome after the death of St. Bridget of Sweden (1303 – 1373), who first exhorted the papal return in 1350 and spent twenty years trying to convince popes to move back to Italy.

Late thirteenth-century Christendom had witnessed a titanic struggle of egos and wills  between King Philip IV, “the Fair,” of France (r. 1285–1314) and Pope Boniface VIII (r. 1294–1303). Philip and the Boniface clashed over the authority of the pope in France, primarily especially over the raising and spending of clerical taxes. Philip used money raised for Church expenses to finance his personal wars and Boniface responded with a series of biting pronouncements, including a papal bull entitled Ausculta fili, or “Listen, son!” Philip responded by arresting the papal legate and Boniface threatened the king with excommunication.

Entire article – How St. Catherine Brought the Pope Back to Rome


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