Founders of Oratory of Divine Love
SAINT CATHERINE OF GENOA, FOUNDER OF THE FIRST ORATORY OF DIVINE LOVE
The first Oratory was begun by Saint Catherine of Genoa, a wife, mother and mystic who died in Genoa, Italy, in 1510. Although she wanted to become a cloistered nun, Catherine's wealthy parents married her to a wealthy patrician Guiliano Adorno. Guliano was unfaithful, violent, and a spendthrift. After suffering silently for five years, and trying to hold to her faith, Catherine decided "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em," and adopted worldly airs to try to win her husband's affection. This cost her dearly for she lost her religious fervor and , when Catherine was twenty-six, she decided to have recourse to divine assistance.
On the the eve of the Feast of St. Benedict, 1473, Catherine prayed, "Saint Benedict, pray to God that He make me stay three months sick in bed." When she told her sister, a nun, about this prayer, her sister advised her to go to confession. In confession, Catherine was overwhelmed by her sins and also by the love of God for her. Drawn back to the path of devotion, she had a vision of our Lord carrying His cross, which caused her to cry out, "O Love, if it be necessary I am ready to confess my sins in public!"
Catherine's mystical ascent, severe mortifications, fasting, and fervor persisted. A group of religious people, the first Oratorians, gathered about her to be guided into a Spirit-filled life. Eventually her husband was converted, became a Franciscan tertiary, and agreed to live with Catherine in continence.
Catherine and Giuliano and those who followed them cared for the sick in the city hospital and the poor in their homes. Catherine became director of the hospital of Pammetone in 1490. Her Oratorians were instrumental in nursing plague victims in 1493 and in bringing the teachings of Christ to a country falling away from the faith. Catherine wrote two mystical works, Dialogue between the Soul and the Body and Treatise on Purgatory. Her feast day is September 15.
THE ORATORY TODAY
Father Benedict Groeschel, CFR, was the modern re-founder of the Confraternity of Penitents. He had been an encouraging supporter of the Confraternity of Penitents for many years. On April 30, 2005, in Stamford, Connecticut, at the first weekend retreat for the Oratory of Divine Love, Father Benedict gave the Confraternity of Penitents his blessing with his prayer that the Confraternity "would always follow the spirit of Saint Francis." He repeated this blessing several times at various Days of Reflection which he gave, when healthy enough to do so, at St. Edmund's Retreat, Mystic, Connecticut. It was at one of these Days of Reflection that Fr. Groeschel bequeathed the Oratory of Divine Love to the Confraternity of Penitents, to continue its weekly reflections and mission.
The Confraternity of Penitents supports the work and goals of the Oratory of Divine Love. We encourage penitents to consider founding a small oratory in their own locales. Only three to six people are needed to begin an Oratory, and Oratorians do not have be CFP members.
With the encouragement and permission of Father Benedict Groeschel, the Confraternity of Penitents continues to provide a weekly reflection for Oratorians.
Father Groeschel passed to his eternal reward at 11 pm on October 3, 2014, the Vigil of the Feast of Saint Francis which falls on October 4. A pious Franciscan legend states that all faithful followers of Saint Francis who are not yet in heaven will be released from Purgatory on the Feast of Saint Francis. If that is true, then Fr. Groeschel spent an hour in Purgatory!
We pray that God may bless and use the Oratory of Divine Love to spread the good news of our faith across the world. We thank the Cleffi's and Father Benedict for their prayers for the Confraternity of Penitents and offer them our prayers in return. May God guide us always into closer union with Himself.
FATHER MICHAEL ANTHONY SISCO, REFLECTION AUTHOR
Father Michael Anthony Sisco, Pastor of Blessed John Paul II Parish in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, USA, often writes the Oratory Reflections. Members and Associates of the Confraternity of Penitents research the saints' quotes, prayers, and create the questions for reflection.