By Alyssa Bormes
Sometimes when you are in Rome, the places you want to go are closed, so you have to have gelato, sit by a fountain, and chat about St. Catherine of Siena. Now, I find that a cone with chocolate raspberry gelato is best for deep theological discussions – you may find another sort better – but as long as you have two scoops, everything should be fine. Plus, I don’t think that it hurt that we were sitting by a fountain in front of the Pantheon, but sitting at any piazza in the Eternal City should work.
At any rate, I was sitting with two friends. Let’s call them Celeste and Carmen, even though their names were Cheryl and Julie. The three of us were waiting to go into Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, which means Saint Mary over the temple of Minerva. It happens that the body of St. Catherine is under the main altar there. We had about thirty more minutes before we could go to her. Carmen wanted to know a little something about St. Catherine, as she hadn’t heard of her before. Celeste and I gave a rough history, but then began speaking of her as a friend, a partner in prayer. Carmen immediately exclaimed, “This is where you Catholics are crazy!”
Wow! Was she right? Are we crazy to have the Saints as friends? I used to agree with Carmen – until Catherine became my friend.
We first met in Siena – I mean Catherine and myself. It was during my first tour of Italy. Everyone else on the tour already knew her. I was a latecomer, as I had just returned to the Church, and was just discovering the Cloud of Witnesses. Here was what attracted me to Catherine; we went to the places she had been when she was alive. Somehow being in her home allowed me to know her. Walking around her town gave me a sense of her. She was real – not just some wild legend.
She spent much of her time at the Basilica in Siena. Her head is still there. Maybe this is why people think Catholics are crazy. Except for me, it made us less crazy.
I stood looking at the face of St. Catherine, and recalled the Creed. We profess the belief in the resurrection of the body. At the end of time, we will be reunited with our bodies. As I stood in Siena and prayed with Catherine’s head, and later prayed with her body in Rome, the whole Communion of Saints became clear.
Catherine is alive in Christ. We are here living life – but she is fully alive in heaven. One day, God willing, Catherine and I will meet again. At the end of time, we will be in our glorified bodies – and somehow, we will recognize each other. I’ll thank her for the many times when she interceded for me. She’ll remind me of that day with Celeste and Carmen, and the gelato. And we will both have that knowing grin that shortly after our double cone in front of the Pantheon, Carmen met Catherine, and a friendship began to bud.