Listen to Sister Rose Marie's Preaching
On April 29, 2020, the Feast of the Dominican mystic St. Catherine of Siena, Sister Rose Marie Riley preached for The Community Room, a series of virtual gatherings of Springfield Dominican Sisters and Associates launched in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic. Her text was from the Gospel of John 6:30-45. Her preaching follows.
Photo: Some of the participants in The Community Room, April 29.
Jesus said to the crowds,
“I am the bread of life;
whoever comes to me will never hunger,
and whoever believes in me will never thirst.
The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus addresses the crowds. Clearly, he sees everyone as neighbor: whoever hungers; whoever thirsts. I am the bread of life for you, for all of you, he tells them.
The Unplanned Journey
In this time of shelter-in, you and I are away from the crowds. But hasn’t this pandemic sharpened our awareness that we are OF the crowd? COVID19 is taking you and me and the entire global community on an unplanned and undesired journey. In the midst of our isolation, however, our interconnection with all who hunger and thirst, suffer and grieve, inspire and encourage, cannot be denied.
Jesus addresses each of us: I am the bread of life. Isolation offers the space to bring this message to heart.
Catherine's World, Our World
Today we have with us someone who offers us wisdom in our current situation. We are celebrating the life of our Dominican Saint, Catherine of Siena. Catherine was born over 600 years ago during the time of another pandemic: the black or bubonic plague. Her world suffered from severe illness, wars, natural disasters, scandal in the Church, extreme poverty and corruption at every level. Sound familiar?
As a young woman Catherine wanted nothing more than to spend contemplative time in prayer and quiet. In fact she put herself in self-imposed shelter in, living in a little cell for three years. Imagine! The more she gave her heart to Christ in solitude, the more Catherine discovered her inter-connection to the global community of her day. She heard Christ saying: “Catherine, I need you to walk with two feet; love of God and love of all that God loves.” In other words, the more Catherine came to know the bread of life, the more she realized she was called to be bread of life for others.
As a result of this new awareness, Catherine was transformed. She left her cell and walked the two feet of love of God and love of God’s creation until she died. She accompanied the imprisoned, the sick, and the poor. She became a political activist addressing scandal in the Church and injustice in society. Her example, writings and spiritual teachings continue to be bread of life for us.
Opening our Hearts to Christ
Although Catherine lived in a different historical, ecclesial and cultural era than we, her life holds a universal message. As we navigate these chaotic and stressful times, she encourages us to sit quietly and open our hearts to Christ’s presence.
Let us pray for the courage to walk the two feet of love of God and love of all that God loves. Christ is risen; we are his body. May we, in whatever way we are called, be the bread of life for the global community.
Sister Rose Marie Riley is the Director of Jubilee Farm, a center for ecology and spirituality sponsored by the Dominican Sisters of Springfield. Jubilee Farm is open for those who want to reconnect with nature during the pandemic. Visit their website for details.