By Karen Mannino Monday, November 4th, 2013
On Friday, I took a friend to a small chapel on the campus of the local Jesuit university. It is up on the third floor of a building full of rather drab old classrooms. It is a long low room with narrow pillars and stained glass windows filling both sides. The windows came from an older church on the other side of the country and they depict a good collection of Christianity’s finest. The figures are a little bigger than life size and so close, in that intimate space, that it is easy to feel the communion of saints there praying with me. My friend is getting ready to join the Church. It seemed appropriate to take her around and introduce her to some Saints on All Saints Day. So we walked slowly around the room, savoring the colored sunlight on our faces as I tried to remember what century these people lived in and how they died. I didn’t know everyone’s full story. But I told all my favorite details about all the Saints I knew, trying to convey their personality as well as the facts of their lives. I wanted my friend to know that these were people, like her, who had their sufferings and their triumphs, passions and pitfalls that formed their path to God.
I had to admit that while I have always loved Katari Tekakwitha, and I have read about her several times, I can never remember the main events of her life. What I remember is that she was brave. She was often alone, and so she needed to be steadfast and courageous in her faith. I remember the cold of Canada and the pox marks on her face.
We spent a long time on St. Francis of Assisi. He has a million fun stories attached to him. “It looks like he was crucified” my friend observed. No, I explained, that is called the Stigmata. It was a gift for him to share the wounds of Christ.
I like the gory details of the death of St. Cecilia, and the strangeness of a body that keeps insisting on a particular posture in burial. Beyond the morbid fascination, there is a young woman peering back at me who sang her joy to belong to Christ. To visit her grave is on my bucket list.
Being a part of the Body of Christ gives us the power to reach across time and space and connect ourselves to these lives. We are seeking the face of Christ, and these brothers and sisters of ours walked that path also. Something about telling their stories brings me closer to them. Fitting in the human details that I can only guess at, but seem to fit. Katari was brave. I wonder if she was an introvert like me, who retreated to the inner riches of her faith when the people around her ridiculed her. The greatest wonder is that they reach back for us also, by their prayers, waiting, longing for the day when we will join them in perfect unity with God.
Karen Mannino picked St. Zita has her patron because the two of them have almost nothing in common, and because Karen was fourteen and thought the name sounded cool. If Karen ever becomes a competent house keeper it will be entirely by Zita’s intercession.