Topic: St. Catherine of Alexandria

Things That Remain

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"Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away."  Luke 21:33.

Rev. Br. Gian Matteo Serra, OPClose to the village where I was born, in northern Sardinia, in the open countryside, there is a small and ancient Romanesque church dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria. Each year about a thousand people gather to celebrate the holy woman, and, of course after Mass, lunch is offered to all present. It’s a big feast. I remember that every year I used to blow off school for St. Catherine’s feast. My parents belong to the group of people who have organized that feast for many years. <--break->

When I was eighteen I moved to Rome to study economics. It was a big surprise for me to discover there the body of St. Catherine in a church in the city center. My family was very happy, and we planned to organize a pilgrimage. <--break->

I often went to pray in this church. It was a familiar place where I could find a piece of my home.  The day I discovered that the body in that church, Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, was that of St. Catherine of Siena, and not that of the martyr of Alexandria, I became really sad. However, I continued to pray there, thinking that the two saints in heaven would come to an agreement in sharing my prayers.

After a couple of years I met the Dominicans. The friar who helped me with my discernment suggested that I choose St. Catherine of Siena as my patron saint.  He did not know that I already had  a friendship with her, or more precisely, with her namesake.

When, after some time, I found out that Catherine of Alexandria was a patron of the Dominican Order, I no longer had any doubt that the two saints had been planning a meeting about my vocation. 

I don’t think I’m making a mistake if I consider this "planned meeting", a beautiful expression of the communion of saints. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, referring to the communion of saints, outlines two aspects that make it up: "communion in holy things" (sancta) and "among holy persons" (sancti).  The two are closely knit. The first aspect refers in particular to our walking as a church on earth sharing the same faith in Christ, and whose expression are the sacraments and especially the Eucharist.  The second aspect, the communion among holy persons, refers to the relationship between us and the saints. They, who already contemplate the face of God, intercede for us and help us on our life’s pilgrimage.

The two aspects of the communion of saints are ordered to the same purpose, which is the vision of The Face of the Creator Father for eternity. To enter into the communion of saints who see, praise, and worship God face to face is our true calling.  The “today”, the present moment, should be lived as the waiting of this fullness of praise and contemplation to which we are called. With our life we should prepare ourselves every day, through the practice of charity. In during so, we begin, here and now, to contemplate God in faith, with the hope of seeing Him on the last day. 

The Saints, sometimes with a sense of humor, come into our lives.  They are not just an example to follow, but they are a presence that touches our hearts to increase in us the desire to be part of the family of those who praise God for eternity.

I think that today’s Gospel can help us understand how each of us is responding to our given vocation. The contrast between the things that pass and the things that remain can be the criterion of discerning to which direction we orient our lives.

Are we growing in our communion of holiness? Everything we do: our work, our apostolate, our study, our liturgy, our daily life - as important and indispensable as they are - belongs to the things that pass. All these things are a way and an instrument that must bring us to what truly remains: his Word, his presence. At every moment, we have to judge whether what we are doing in response to our vocation, is really bringing us close to God.

But we should be mindful that the call to the communion of saints is universal. That’s why we are sent to evangelize.  We must be witnesses of the beauty of this loving plan of God, so as to increase in the people we meet, their desire to find the source of our joy .... provided that we are joyful!

Of course, as a Dominican I can tirelessly preach.

But sometimes I ask myself: Does my life on earth preach that I choose to belong, first of all, to the communion of love and holiness in heaven?