At times I wonder whether St. Catherine of Siena might not be an @SLU_Billikens fan.
No doubt, this 14th century Italian mystic (and Doctor of the Church) has bigger fish to fry at the heavenly banquet than worrying about who wins or loses a college basketball game in 21st century America.
Still, I definitely had a “Catherine of Siena” moment or two yesterday as my Billikens put a whuppin’ on the Explorers of LaSalle University. The great saint once famously observed, “all the way to heaven is heaven.” And it sure felt like heaven to me…to see my team win a game in non-nail-biting fashion for once.
Could be, too, that my experience of the divine had something to do with the company I was keeping inside Chaifetz Arena. My wife and two dear friends were also “in the house.” The four of us had long planned to take in a game as a way of catching up – so the convincing win simply put a positive spin on the already-profound blessing of our friendship.
As it turned out, this blessing of “encounter” extended beyond just the four of us. For starters, our randomly-chosen seats in Section 206 plunked us down in the row right behind some other friends from the parish. Then as the game wore on, I learned that our eldest son…two of my brothers…and a niece…were also taking in the game. Thereupon, a veritable “friends and family” conclave convened in the concourse after the contest.
Maybe you had to be there, but it did seem like a little piece of heaven to me: The things we had planned…worked together with the things we had not planned…to remind me of the many little ways in which God’s presence is every day made known to us. Little pieces of heaven, strewn all about in our everyday lives – and there to be gathered up and treasured in a faith-filled heart and mind.
It’s probably also true that one must be of a certain age – old enough, say, to remember Monroe Douglas and Roland Gray – in order to have any idea what I’m talking about here. I suspect most of those in the crowd of 8,000 thought they were just taking in a basketball game yesterday. But the older you get, the more you have a chance to savor the God-incidences in your life. The joys seem a bit deeper. The heartbreaks, a bit more puzzling. And ultimately, you realize that all of it belongs – including (and especially) the parts of life that are totally out of your control.
Another great saint, Paul, attempts to unpack this mystery in the passage from 1 Corinthians we hear at Mass on Sunday:
We speak a wisdom to those who are mature, not a wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age who are passing away.
Rather, we speak God’s wisdom, mysterious, hidden, which God predetermined before the ages for our glory…
Mysterious, hidden wisdom. Wisdom…set in motion before the ages, for our glory.
I for one know that I am not especially worthy to receive such a gift – a veritable blowout of grace. I’m guessing Catherine of Siena understood something like that about the simple joys in her life, too.
…eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, what God has prepared for those who love Him…
…Including something like a little piece of heaven, perhaps, tucked under four of the cheap seats at Chaifetz on an ordinary Saturday afternoon.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.