Friday, March 26, 2021

Lenten Book Club Final Week: Of mobs and antipopes...


My goodness, this Lent just flew by, did it not?! I can hardly believe that we are at the end of our Lenten Book Club for 2021! This Book 5 was pretty quick and speedy, yes? And I'm soooo excited to chat about the conclusion to our adventures with St. Catherine of Siena!

We pick back up with lots of action ongoing. The pope is miserable back in Rome, afraid for his life, and feels like the country is against him. Fra Raymond is requested by the pope to lead a different community (maybe in Rome? I was confused about this), and Catherine is crushed. The pope is no longer responding to her letters (ingrate ;-)), so she sends Fra Raymond with a note to include within one of his correspondence to the Holy Father. Based upon this, the pope agrees to let Catherine (but no priests, fearing for their lives) go to Florence to try and work with them further on ending the war. Florence, meanwhile, is ignoring the Interdict and generally distancing themselves more from the pope. 

Oh boy, things aren't good. And THEN... the pope dies. 😭 And things go from bad to worse. There is chaos with regard to the papal successor. I definitely found this part interesting, so much historical information that I did not have the details of: the first man elected was an Italian (Urban VI), and apparently this was because a mob broke into the Vatican demanding that it be so? 😳 eeeeekkkkksssss. But then the cardinals announced that the new pope was French, leading to the very first antipope in Avignon (Clement XII)! This is referred to as the Western Schism. Who knew?

While in Florence, a mob goes after Catherine, and she is unafraid to meet martyrdom, thus her quiet and powerful witness convinces them to leave without harming her. Catherine had actually desired to be martyred and was disappointed!

Meanwhile in Rome, the new pope is a bit abrasive. Catherine begins to write to him, too, trying to develop a rapport and do her part to keep the papacy in Rome. She gives her last will and testament to her priestly advisors, which is her Dialogue

An even bigger war develops, between those loyal to the pope, and those loyal to the antipope. The new pope likes Catherine and respects her opinion. Catherine goes to Rome to do whatever she can to support the pope and change the people's hearts back to loyalty to him. 

Unfortunately, Catherine has an attack of some sort and becomes gravesly ill. She dies at age 33, her mother by her side to give her her blessing. 

In the conclusion, we find out that her good friend and sister Alessia dies only a few months later. Fra Raymond becomes Master General of the Dominican Order, and wrote the very first Life of St. Catherine of Siena. Pope Urban VI holds the papacy for 9 years before he dies, but never becomes well liked amongst the people of Rome. The schism continues for 35 years, but the papacy never left Rome again.

Wow. I mean, WOW! What a story! I learned so much from this book about history, and about Catherine. I admired her firm faith, developed in mere childhood, and her sweet but powerful presence. She had charisma, people were so drawn to her, but she wasn't a showy person. She channeled it all back to Christ and His Church. Great stuff!

What were your thoughts on the ending to Lay Siege to Heaven? I would love to hear them in the comments!

P.S. Since next week is Holy Week, and I usually post on Fridays, I'm anticipating taking the week off from blogging to focus on the Triduum liturgies! I'll be back the first week of Easter to revel in all the liturgical details, and make plans for the spring!

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