“I am the true vine…. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want, and it will be done for you.” John 15:1-8.
As the “true vine,” this allegory in John’s gospel reveals who Jesus is and what he does for us. There are thirty or more metaphors of Jesus’s identity contained in this gospel; each is a prism to see the risen Lord in the guise of the shepherd, the gate, the way, the truth, the light.
In John’s Gospel alone, there are forty references to wine and winemaking and the traditional role that wine plays in festival celebrations. After all, Christ’s very first miracle at Cana to demonstrates the fullness of his intent for Israel is in the second chapter of John.
Ever the evangelist, John’s all-embracing intent is that we are rooted in Jesus and one another — in a family, history, and memory.
Like vines, our roots go deep and provide us with identity and self-knowledge. What of our community identity in Christ? How do we express our religious identity boldly at Santa Catalina?
Let’s consider these two quotes from sources that might help us to see our identity in Christ.
The first of these quotes is ““To the love of heavenly treasures, lift our hearts’ desire.” This quotation is at the very center of our religious identity on campus since you see it written boldly on the threshold above the door of Rosary Chapel. Of course, it’s written in Latin, so that leaves most of us to wonder about these words: “Ad amorem supernorum Trahe desiderium.”
These words have remained a mystery to me. What do these words mean? How do they prepare us to enter into this place? What’s the intent for our school community?
With help from Dr. Murphy, here’s the translation: “To the love of heavenly treasures, lift our hearts’ desire.” What does it mean? Where do these sentiments come from?
With a bit of investigation and help from Google, these lines of poetry come from a French poet of Latin verse, Adam of Saint-Victor. He remains a very obscure figure, but in the 12th century, this writer composed hymns and festival poems to be used at Mass.
In our case, this line of his comes from a much longer sequence used on Pentecost Sunday. Maybe a non-literal translation might be that as we open the doors of this chapel, we call on the Holy Spirit, who might also open this treasure to see more deeply into the desires of our hearts.
“Lift Our Hearts — to Love Your Treasures!” We call this discernment — to examine our lives more deeply now and in our most promising future.
The Rosary Chapel welcomes us – students, faculty, staff, and our many friends who come here and come closer to the Holy Spirit whose wisdom we may draw on — for learning and preparing ourselves for lives of promise and service.
Here’s the second quotation, “Preach the Truth as if you had a million voices. It is silence that kills the world.” This past week, Thursday, April 29, was the feast day of Saint Catherine of Siena, our patron, and, of course, these were her words.
If there were ever a bold figure in religious and public life, examine the life of Caterina di Jacopo di Benincasa. She was born in 1347, she died in 1380 at thirty-three. Hers was a brief but noteworthy life — an outspoken woman and leader, a visionary, and a mystical writer.
In a newly published book about her, an advertisement reads: “Catherine of Siena is one of the most intriguing and explosive saints in Church history.” She lived in a time of crisis — a witness to the pandemic Bubonic plague, the Hundred Years’ War, fierce political rivalry among the Italian city-states, and the papal exile in Avignon.
She once said: “Preach the Truth as if you had a million voices. It is silence that kills the world.”
This young laywoman was known for her intense mystical experiences inspired preaching and a prolific letter writer. There we find example after example of her ideas about the corruption in politics and the Church.
Today, Saint Catherine is a Doctor of the Church, the patron saint of Italy, along with Saint Francis of Assisi. In 1999, Pope John Paul II named her patron saint of Europe.
Again, like the vine and the branches, Catherine holds together the fragile vines of religious belief even today.
So too, our roots go deep and provide us with identity and self-knowledge. In our first reading from Acts of the Apostles, Luke describes the apostles like Saul speaking boldly and praying for boldness.
On behalf of Jesus, our words must match actions in the care for those in need and our search for learning and truth.
For Saint Catherine of Siena: “Preach the Truth as if you had a million voices. It is silence that kills the world.”
Rosary Chapel, Santa Catalina School, Monterey, CA.
Listen to Adam Saint-Victor’s “O Maria Stella Maris.”