It is surprising to start the year with an invitation to sit at the table. At a time when it is difficult to gather together because of the constraints of covid, it is good to know that you are awaited, welcome guests at an appetising banquet of joyful conviviality. It is not a question of breaking the rules by adding a few places at the table according to the current rules in your region. There is no limit here, because the invitation is open to everyone, and for a whole year! And it is actually to sit at the table with a saint. Not bad in these times when we risk a life of isolation and solitude. The invitation to take part in a “tableful”, together with many other different people, is new and enchanting. This, in fact, is the proposal for the Jubilee Year of the eighth centenary of the death of St Dominic, which opened on January 6, 2021, in the Bologna Basilica where the co-patron saint of the city is buried. At a time when we are experiencing long-distance relationships on various online platforms – schools know something about this! – and when we are struggling to recover our social relations, knowing that we are “awaited” at the table, physically present and close to one another, prompts a motion of fraternity that overcomes pessimism and fear. The call to share food, both material and spiritual, prompts in us all not just a reflection but, as is appropriate for a kind invitation, a response and a willingness to come together.

Sitting at the table. In a world of loneliness and pandemics, it is important that there are those who take the time to lay a place for others, to make community. The friars of the Order of Preachers have chosen as the title of their Jubilee “At Table with St Dominic”, inspired by the sacred image known as the “Mascarella” which shows him, in the first known painting of him, with twenty-four friars from all over Europe. In company, together with his brothers, eating. A holiness that is close at hand, not far away. Within reach… of the meal.

At table we can talk about anything and everything, exchange opinions and experiences, help each other along the day’s pathway. St Dominic chose to come here to Bologna because it was the seat of the university, the oldest in Europe. Down the centuries the Dominicans have been a constant presence for the church and the city. A calendar of initiatives in 2021 will revive that heritage in the context of the present time, in a profoundly changed world in which people need to see and hear one another, in company. To be a saint today is to seek heaven through the use of reason, in the culture of encounter, in the relationships that arise precisely from good eating.

Alessandro Rondoni – Avvenire BO7 Sunday 10 January 2021