Friday, March 19, 2021

Lenten Book Club Week 4: Of papal audiences and sea voyages...

Hello everyone, and happy Friday! We're past the halfway point of Lent, and I can hardly believe it. It seems to be flying by this year! 

I worked quite steadily through Book 4 of our St. Catherine saga this week, and we're now 85% of the way through the book! This section was also pretty dense, lots of political doings and voyages between Italy and Avignon. I'm enjoying it, but definitely the intricacies of the historical context are eluding me a bit, so I'll sum up as best I can!

We have our dear, brave Catherine writing a lot of letters to the pope. She has become much more well respected throughout her community and amongst men in the Church. Some of the cardinals, though, are a bit mystified at how the pope seems to quite heavily consider and weigh Catherine's opinions.

There is a lengthy, and somewhat amusing scene, of negotiations between emissaries from Florence with the pope, and that does not go well, at ALL. Here I had to do a little online encyclopedia background research:

Eight of War (War of the Eight Saints) - a coalition of Italian city states led by Florence that objected to the expansion of the Papal States into territory Florence considered it's own. The Avignon popes insisted on this expansion as part of their conditions of return to Rome. This ultimately leads to the end of the Avignon Papacy (which lasted for 67 years!). Ends in 1378 with return of Gregory XI to Rome, but interestingly, his death soon thereafter spurs the infamous antipopes back in Avignon.

Interdict - This is imposed by the pope on Florence, and is a ban on ecclesiastical functions, so no mass for them!

Catherine ultimately travels to Avignon and goes to see the pope. There is some intrigue here involving a group of snooty ladies, one of whom is the pope's niece, who try to thwart Catherine and expose her as a "fraud" by stabbing her with a needle during one of her ecstasies 😱, but they are unsuccessful. During her papal audience, Catherine convinces him to return to Rome, which is HUGE. It is an arduous journey for them both, separately, back to Italy, and they both stop over in Genoa. The pope actually sneaks out at night dressed as a regular priest to see Catherine. He's worried about the rebels killing him, but is convinced by Catherine to press on, and the papacy officially returns to St. Peter's as we complete Book 4.

Wow. Even though I continue to struggle a bit to totally follow the political situation, I still grasped the larger point and significance of the major events, and am sooooo glad we chose to read this book this Lent! What did you all think? We finish up next Friday with Book 5!

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