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This helps put things in context, from Thomas McDermott, OP:
Catherine lived during a time of pessimism and cynicism. Barbara Tuchman, in her historical narrative A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century, described the period as “a time of turmoil, diminished expectations, loss of confidence in institutions, and feelings of helplessness at forces beyond human control.” The popes lived in exile in Avignon between 1309 and 1377, only returning to Rome after Catherine went personally to the papal court and pleaded with Gregory XI. Monasteries and convents in Europe were decimated by the Plague, and in order to re-populate them unsuitable candidates were often accepted. The secular literature at the time described clerical celibacy as a joke. By the time Catherine died in 1380, the Church was in schism with the election of an anti-pope, Clement VII.
Years - Death - Catherine - Illiterate - Life
Three years before her death, Catherine (who was illiterate for most of her life) began dictating, while in a mystical state, “il libro,” or the compendium of her spiritual teaching which we know today as the Dialogue. The work is God’s answer to four requests made by Catherine, the first of which pertained to enlightenment regarding the situation of the Church and its moral and spiritual reform. The eternal Father’s reply is found mostly in chapters 110-134, a major portion of the book. It is here that Catherine manifests great respect and love for priests who, the eternal Father tells her, are his “christs,” sent “like fragrant flowers into the mystic body of the Holy Church.” Notwithstanding, Catherine was fearless in exposing and criticizing the failures of priests and bishops. In fact, she is so indelicate in her criticism that portions...
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