We Are the Believing Heart of the Church

For 29 April 2024, Feast of Saint Catherine of Siena, Doctor of the Church, based on John 7:27–39

(Image is a Watercolor of Catherine of Siena by John Gerlach, OP)

I love the watercolor of St. Catherine of Siena painted by American Dominican John Gerlach, OP, inspired by the white marble sculpture of Catherine placed outside Castel Saint Angelo in Rome with the Vatican Basilica in the distance. Catherine, in both the painting and the sculpture, is in urgent motion on behalf of the poor and the Church.
Catherine was a fourteenth-century lay Dominican mystic, a servant to the poor at the time of the Black Plague, and a defender of the unity of the Church at a time of schism. She is a patron of Rome, Italy, and Europe. Certainly, she is one of our most beloved Dominican saints. You can learn more about Catherine by going to the website of another American Dominican, Thomas McDermott, OP, at www.drawnbylove.com.
When I last preached at The Word on March 12, our reading from chapter 47 of Ezekiel gave us an image for the Second Vatican Council—its water flowing ankle-deep, knee-deep, and now in the Synod on Synodality, waste-deep from the temple. We listen to the Holy Spirit speaking to us about baptism and ministry in new ways. In March, I asked for your prayers for twenty-seven preachers and theologians gathered from around the world at Aquinas Institute of Theology to consider proposals for lay preaching at the Eucharist. Fr. Scott Steinkerchner has posted our two-page proposal to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Synod in Rome at www.word.op.org. Feel free to share this statement with others.
One of the proper Mass readings for the feast of St. Catherine of Siena also speaks about rivers of living water.

Today’s passage is from the Gospel of John 7:27–39:

On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

In the Fourth Gospel, the water flows out, not from the temple, but from the “believer’s heart.” Today, we celebrate the believer’s heart of Catherine of Siena—a woman, a devoted follower of St. Dominic, a lay preacher, and a prophetic leader whom Pope Paul VI declared a doctor of the Church in the aftermath of Vatican II.
Like Catherine in her place and time, we wade into baptism and ministry in our time and circumstances. This same water of God’s Holy Spirit flows in our believer’s hearts. With our believers’ hearts, we listen, discern, preach, serve, and prophecy. The synodal Church is us, along with so many more. Today, with St. Catherine of Siena and so many more in baptism and ministry, we pray for the Church, the poor, and our world.

Scripture passage from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright 1989, 1993, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

About Gregory Heille, O.P.

Gregory Heille, O.P., serves as Professor of Preaching and Evangelization and director of the Doctor of Ministry in Preaching at Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis, Missouri. He is a friar of the Province of St. Albert the Great USA and has a particular interest in racial equity education.