Sunday, January 12, 2014

THE BANQUET TABLE


slow roasted pork (8 to 10 HOURS at 250) with fennel seeds and garlic
"There is great satisfaction in remaining faithful; perhaps it is the greatest satisfaction of all. Even if not one knows about your faithfulness, even if no one values it."
-- Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Cancer Ward

A few months I was at morning Mass when Father said, “You know what we need more of in the Church?”...Fervent laypeople? I thought eagerly. Single people who faithfully, with burning hearts, trudge to Mass? Contemplative hermits in the city? Sober alcoholics to spread the word to all the drunks in church?

...“We need more good Catholic families!” Father exclaimed.

I stifled a snicker: my hopes for being special, singled out, recognized, dashed again. Plus, we do need more good—by which I took to mean he meant ardent, excited, questing—Catholic families.

No accident that the Gospels begin with the star rising over the Holy Family: father, mother, child.

I have always seen the teachings of the Church on sex as an invitation to sit at the table with the rest of the human family. Otherwise, as a single, husbandless, childless woman past child-bearing age, I would have no place at the table. There is no status lower in our society--unless it’s an aging, single, gay man. Trust me, if that is your status, you feel it. You wash your face and comb your hair and put on a clean shirt, because Christ said don’t make a big deal of your fasting, but you feel it. You feel it in the unbelievable lack of gallantry, of courtesy, from some—not all by any means, but some—men. You feel it from the cruelty and utter lack of fellow feeling from some—not all by any means, but some—other women.

I feel it and boo-hoo: we all have some huge cross we feel all the time. And the longer I am in the Church, the more I see that without her teachings on sex, and everything else, I would have no place at the table and my life would have no meaning. Because to be in the Church is to be part of the Mystical Body. It's to be in solidarity with everyone, including all those who for whatever reason could not have sex; could not attract, or be, a spouse; could not or were not moved to raise a family; the old, the unattractive, disabled, and poor; the misfits and malcontents and die-hard solitaries, the temperamentally unsuited and vocationally unavailable; the sexually, emotionally and physically damaged, wounded, and disordered. Because we are all disordered, in our ways, and we are all responsible for what we do as adults, and we all fail in our duty to the children of the world.

It’s not the Church that has no place for me; it’s the world. So I didn’t take the least offense at Father’s remark. I didn’t think he was discriminating me, or belittling me, or minimizing my contribution. I thought he was saying Isn't it grand, no matter our station in life, no matter if we're on our deathbeds, we get to offer ourselves up for all of creation. I thought of my three unborn children and of how we share the same guardian angel. I thought of my six godchildren, each of whom I also pray for daily. I thought about all the young people in my life: the seminarians, the teachers, the writers, the sober drunks and addicts, the whole crazy pageant of people—young and old—with whom I’ve been blessed, that keep me alive and vital and juiced.

I thought of the new way I’ve found to pray: as I pray, I visualize holding the baby Jesus to my breast. In Him are all the other children in my life, who’ve been entrusted, in some small way to my care. In Him is myself as a child, receiving both the love I did and maybe did not get. In Him is my mother, and her mother, and all the women in my bloodline, and all their sorrows and joys, and also all those women, and of course men, in my life now, and who are to come. In Him are all the wounded, glorious people in my life. Because when you’re an addict a lot of the people in your life are also addicts, given to strange silences, unexplained disappearances, moodiness, depression, trauma they carry in their bones and blood and they try to be kind and to participate anyway, like me, with mixed results. Your feet get bloody when you go on pilgrimage, said Catherine Doherty, because you go with bare feet, into people’s hearts, and people’s hearts are jagged and rocky. I know mine is. So to learn to love people who are so much like me, to not strike back and also not to run but just to stand still, to stand by, silently with love…this is a great gift, the pearl of great price.

And really, the more I pray this way, the more I see that is what my own mother did for me, my whole childhood and adolescence and adulthood, while her own heart must have been breaking, and while she was also hemorrhaging from her own childhood wounds with no-one to comfort her.

Do you see? As my love gets ever more channeled, my love ever more enlarges. So I hold the baby Jesus to my breast, and he totally gets it. Without that, I would be nothing: aging, unwanted, dried up. I’d be desperately trolling "match" or calling the plastic surgeon.

To hell with that! I cooked all day Saturday for my friends! Donald and Alan; Benny McCabe, visiting from Dublin; Tensie and Dennis and their two kids Rozella and Thomas down from the Guadalupe Catholic Worker.

Suffer the children to come unto me, Christ had said. and Unless you become like this child, you cannot enter the Kingdom of heaven.

these went into the quinoa salad with grilled leeks and charred dates....
quince--that was a trip to the farmer's market on foot
(an essential part of the meal)
roasted potatoes, apples and quince with thyme and
a whole ton of olive oil and butter.
not pictured: salsa verde with Italian parsley, mint, and basil,,
home-made rosemary flatbread,
 tzatziki,
pear and sour cherry crisp with walnut streusel and whipped cream.
unable to be pictured: the conversation. communion and love.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY DEAR TENSIE!!

8 comments:

  1. You seem to be a master cook... also that was an amazing post

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow! You are so wonderfully positive and so all-embracing, and it's that all embracing, unique take on the Kingdom of God that just astounds me every time. Thanks for everything you give me through your posts.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you for reminding me of my place in the church and the world. I am a 59 year old, single, childless woman and sometimes I wonder if I did something wrong and it resulted in me being without a husband or a religious vocation. Your post has helped me more than you know!

    ReplyDelete
  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I love your blog. What you have written here is so simple but we need to be reminded, so thank you for pouring out your words and your heart as a reminder.

    I just wanted to say thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Our parish is hosting Fr. Jacque Phillipe for a 4 day retreat Growing into Union with God. His main point has been the power of faithfulness to prayer, how this faithfulness to prayer allows us to come to know God and to know ourselves. Thank you for sharing the quote from Solzhenitsyn. I enjoy your blog and contributions to the Magnificat. This post was particularly rich. Thank you

    ReplyDelete
  7. Yet another reader weighs in: my 24-year-old friend Greg Camacho who, in the same email turned me on to some great new music ("Lately these four musicians have been keeping me company: Los Saicos, The Growlers, Black Lips, and an Austin Texas country/folk-rock singer named Shakey Graves. Growlers and Black Lips are just moody fun, while Los Saicos have historical interest (wild teen proto-punks from 1960's Peru, possibly the first in the world) and are definitely bizarre/genius, and Shakey is like... I dunno. The closest musician I can think of to compare him to is Townes Van Zandt, but Shakey has a lot more kick, sometimes, and versatility").

    Oh, yes, and his take on the Banquet Table: "It's never occurred to me that the Church discriminates against women, although you hear it all the time, some even going so far as saying that Justice Sotomayor is part of the "war on women" because she ruled that Catholic nuns don't have to pay for contraception. Which is like, okay, then ... So-and-So tripped over a rock? Patriarchy! Braves won the world series? Bad for women! Not that women aren't persecuted, even for being women, and not that femininity isn't despised in this world... but so is humanity, period. The human heart is feared and abandoned, like the narrow road, though it's beautiful. At the end of time, we'll all more or less confess with St. Augustine, "You were in me, but I was outside myself." But hopefully that won't be the end of the story for any one person. Hopefully we find grace and healing, and learn that strength and weakness are for love."

    ReplyDelete
  8. My second child, a daughter, was born on Monday, Jan 13. Our first is not yet 17 months old. We have received great blessing in them both, through our deep embrace of the Church's teachings, with gratitude and humility. We are beset with the labors of life, its sorrows, and even this joy too is a cross to be shouldered as our lives are given up: sleepless nights, financial stress, chapped nipples. My mother-in-law, who is herself on the way to sainthood, stayed with us until today, cooking, cleaning, changing our son's diapers, doing laundry: she was Christ in our midst.

    Your post is beautiful, and your faithfulness to God, with your 6 godchildren, together with the intercessions of all the angels and saints, will make you more fecund than we'll ever know this side of the Kingdom coming. Two of my sisters-in-law are nuns in the Sisters of Life, biological mothers and physical wives of none, but spiritual mothers of hundreds if not thousands and wed in body to Our Savior.

    We are a Catholic family, small and not far along the path of marriage, parenthood, careers, etc., but your post made me realize that my family is bigger than just those under my roof, and the truth is that we are large, strong, growing, with many, many fathers and mothers interceding for us, and much that we can do to intercede for those who are following.

    Thank you.

    ReplyDelete

I WELCOME your comments!!!