Monday, April 30, 2018

Saint Catherine of Siena and My Roman Days

As the end of this month was approaching, I had a vague feeling that something was missing. It was like... "Something happens around this time, something special, what the heck is it?"

Then along comes April 29th.

SUNDAY, April 29, 2018.

Oh geepers, this is usually one of my favorite days.

Ah, but Sunday takes precedence over most of the saints' days in the current Roman Rite. That's why it's missing from my calendar.

Why it was missing from my brain I cannot say. How could I forget Kate? ...Kate my homie, from Romie!

April 29th is usually the day we honor the great Saint Catherine of Siena. Definitely one of the Captains of God's Girl Squad. Her remains are under the high altar of the church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva in Rome. (Well, most of her remains are there, but that's a long story.)

She is a great "presence" in Rome. Indeed, I believe she helped me a lot.

A quarter of a century ago, I lived in Rome. And when I say "lived in Rome" I mean literally in Rome, in a small palazzo on the Via Liberiana across the street from Santa Maria Maggiore. The bells of the great 1500 year old Basilica rang every quarter hour from early morning to around 21:00 in the evening (my fellow Americans, that means 9 PM). I can still hear them in my head.

I was working on a research project and living with some Italian friends in an 18th century building that would have been a museum if it were in the U.S.A., whereas in Rome it was just a building. I had lots of time flexibility, and I used it to explore the ancient neighborhoods.

Rome is a great city to walk in. And after a while you get used to things in a way you never would have thought possible: "Oh yeah, Trajan's column that's cool,...another Borromini church,...hey there Pantheon, ...hmm Colosseum, Colosseum, lots of cats and pickpockets over there..." But you don't get bored.

Rome is a great place to visit, and to live (if you're willing to put up with certain things). It's a great place to study. It's a great place to goof around. It's a great place to eat! It's even a great place to have an epic psychological meltdown (insofar as any place can be).

On all these things I speak from personal experience.😜

I lived in Rome for a very significant year of my life. I was there long enough to have "all the feels" (which in my case was/is way too many "feels" but, hey, I've learned to manage things since then). I knew very little about mental illness back then, or about my own depression and OCD and all the neurological knots in my brain. It was all just raw.

But Catherine was there. Obviously, I had a lot of other kinds of help, and continued to get help. But I will always be grateful to her for what she taught me about how God's love is beyond all calculation.

I think I'm not unlike some of the people she wrote to in her amazing letters. She would have written something like these words to me:

"Rise up, open your eyes,
and take as your model the boundless goodness
and the love God has shown to His creatures...

"Be engulfed and set on fire in Him,
constantly gazing into the gentle eye of His charity,
for then you will love perfectly what he loves...
Imitate that dear [Saint] Paul, who was so in love,
and be a vessel of affection that bears and proclaims
the name of Jesus.
It seems to me that Paul gazed into this eye
and lost himself in it.

"And he was granted such a great soul
that he was willing and even desired 
to be separated from God, an outcast, 
for the sake of his brothers and sisters.
Paul was in love with whatever God was in love with.

"He saw that charity is never scandalized, is never confounded."