It is about the unity of our faith but in concrete terms. When you are a member of one body (mystical body of Christ) with a billion bodies across the globe (not to mention the ranks upon ranks in the church purgative and triumphant in heaven) you may think the world a large place. Au contraire - the Catholic Church in fact makes the world a smaller place - which brings people together (communion) under the strangest of conditions.
Anyway - I was chided recently in an e-mail (very gently of course) by a good priest from Shreveport, LA for not mentioning such a surprise encounter I had with him and a group of people from Shreveport here in Italy on pilgrimage! and rightly so . . .
So there I was in Norcia, a remote valley town in the mountains of Italy. I was retreating and praying and being holy and all 0:) when all of sudden who sits down beside me in the monastic chapel but Fr. Peter Mangum of Shreveport!?! (Now some may or may not know that my family is originally from Shreveport, Louisiana) Now the last time I was in town visiting relatives he had told me that he was bringing a group with him to Italy, but it was still a surprise to look up and see him sitting next to me!
He and a few of the pilgrims had broken off from the rest of their tour group to take a side trip to Norcia in order to see an old friend of theirs, Brother Benedict. Brother Benedict is a monk of the abbey where I was doing my retreat. He is also about to be ordained a priest (this Saturday to be precise) Here is where it gets even more Catholic - he attended the University of the South in Sewanee, TN (Diocese of Nashville, near Mont Eagle but still near enough that priests of the Diocese of Knoxville fill in masses there) where after a conversion he made a profession of faith and entered into full communion with the Catholic Church. He went to school there with some friends, a brother and sister from, of all places, Shreveport, LA who had also converted to the Catholic Faith. So what are the chances of all of these people converging on one remote place and all at the same time? Pretty low if left by itself, but if you factor in the great grace that Jesus Christ founded a Church that was intended to go to the four corners of the world, you get pretty good odds.
So there we were, a strange collage of acquaintance in a remote valley of Italy - gathered because we have come to know and to believe in Jesus Christ and His Church! Well, we all piled into the monastery's car: there were six of us - myself, Fr. Peter and his nephew (il furbo), Mrs. Walker and her daughter (one of the friends from Shreveport/Sewanee) and Brother Benedict who drove us up to Castellucio for a nice pranzo (lunch) at the Refugio, a stop along the Great Ring Trail of the Monti Sibillini.
On the way back we stopped to get a picture - here is an artistic shot. I am taking a picture of Fr. Peter taking a picture of Brother Bendedict and Mrs. and Ms. Walker as they stand before the picture of the grandeur of God - His creation!
Sorry for being so poetic - but sometimes you just have to be when it's a Catholic Moment such as this:)