Santa Maria Sopra Minerva

TodMichelangelo4christ2.jpgay, being the feast of Saint Catherine of Siena, the destination of our weekly passeggiata was the Church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva where the body of the saint is enshrined beneath the altar. Folks of all sorts were queued up to pray at the tomb from behind the altar. We took our places and each of us had a moment of prayer resting our heads on the effigy of Saint Catherine. I remembered all my Dominican friends there and even placed my rosary on the tomb while I prayed.

I cannot think of Saint Catherine without recalling her burning love for the Precious Blood of Christ. One’s dying words are not improvised. They are the expression of a lifetime. Saint Catherine, having lived immersed in Blood of Christ, died with the Blood of Christ on her lips. On the January 30th before her death, she prayed for the Church, the Bride of Christ: “O Eternal God, accept the sacrifice of my life within this Mystic Body of holy Church. I have nothing to give but what you have given me. Take my heart, then, and squeeze it out over this Bride’s face.” For the Blood of Jesus’ Heart, Catherine gave her own heart’s blood and, like her Bridegroom and Lord, she gave it for the Church. Her last recorded prayer, uttered three months later, is this:

Lord, you are calling me to come to you, and I am coming to you — not with any merits of my own but only with your mercy. I am begging you for this mercy in virtue of your Son’s most sweet Blood. Blood! Blood! Father, into your hands I surrender my soul and my spirit.

It was April 29th, 1380. Catherine was thirty-three years old. Her identification with the Blood of the Paschal Lamb was complete. Today, with my forehead resting against Saint Catherine’s tomb, I prayed through her intercession: “Blood of Christ, purify my mind, flood my soul, inflame my heart.” Also in Santa Maria Sopra Minerva is Michelangelo’s breathtakingly beautiful “Christ the Redeemer.” See it above. The sacristy contains wonderful frescoes by Fra Angelico. The side chapel dedicated to Saint Dominic is dark and recollected. There too I offered a prayer for Father Jacob and my other Dominican friends.

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