Mariellen and I will be going to Holy Mass, soon. Will you?
If not, I do hope that you encounter Him somewhere along your day. This is the season, and now is the time for such. he comes closer, and is only nine days from our observance once again of His first appearance in the flesh with us. But, if you truly understand, He is never removed, He has never been.
In witness to that may I offer this; a repeat of the telling of a day spent in His presence in a number of good people. Since this is what I refer to as the “Eating Season”, also, there are a couple of recipes along with the story of a Simple Meal:
A EUCHARISTIC MORNING
A tradition of hospitality, a requirement, if you will, is to provide food for the weary traveler, to make the guest welcome with meat and drink, even in the desert of Lent. Surprises happen, epiphanies even, sometimes while that is all taking place on the surface. You all know the stories about serving angels and such. Sr. Teresa is a Polish nun who has recently become an American citizen. She has been a nun for about 25 years, now. We met her several months ago. It’s a long story. But now she is staying with us for as long as her heavenly Spouse wishes to lodge her in our midst. In a way she is a gift to us from Him whom she refers to quite matter of factly as her husband, our hospitality to her a gift to Him, a small thanksgiving for the grace of her presence.
It can get positively bewildering, don’t you know, this volleying of gifts back and forth between a generous God and his grateful people; or two of them anyway. If you want to change your life in a big way, and quickly, move a vowed contemplative into the house.
This morning we were visited by some friends of Sister’s from Connecticut, Joseph and his wife Christina, and Ana, who drove them up here and who had previously opened her home to Sister before she moved on to us. I am just now considering the meanings in those three names, the permutations and redolences, the ripples of significance they open up as one meditates on the persons themselves and the names they carry. How strange and wonderful they are becoming to me. I’m not usually one to wonder about or marvel at these, what shall I call them, coincidences? And yet… I can’t help considering that something else was going on here during the few hours of their visit with us on a beautifully clear and sweet day in February; that other persons were joining us and, perhaps, contributing to the character of this meeting of old and new friends.
We prepared for this visit as if for royalty, of course. We would do the same for you. We were delighted to learn that Ana, who had been so kind to us on several occasions, recently, was coming up here. And, Sister had told us of the kind of people Joseph and Christina were, deeply prayerful, peaceful and joyful. The feeling I had deep in my heart was that we were, indeed, receiving royalty, the King was coming disguised as three good friends of one good woman. There you go again, more deeply meaningful signs behind a simple act of friendship. And Love’s behind it all.
They would be arriving early in the morning and would stay for a few hours before leaving shortly after noon. That meant that we must be ready with breakfast after a long road trip. Since we would be meeting Joseph and Christina for the first time we wanted them to be at their ease. Since they were, really, here to visit Sister we wanted them not to spend to much time dawdling and waiting. Mariellen had a great idea to serve a breakfast casserole, basically a meal in a dish, and a couple of breads along with it.
Since I have been occupied lately with the really important stuff a retired man does…finding comfortable places to doze in…I allowed her to do the research through our vast library of food tin labels for suitable recipes. I chose from the three she had narrowed it down to:
BREAKFAST SAUSAGE CASSEROLE
1pkg (16 oz) bulk pork sausage, cooked, drained and crumbled
4 cups cubed day old bread (we used a combination of several kinds)
2 cups (8 oz) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 12 oz. cans evaporated milk
10 large eggs beaten lightly
1 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp onion powder
Ground black pepper to taste
GREASE 13×9 inch baking dish. Place bread in prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with cheese. Combine evap. milk, eggs, dry mustard, onion powder and pepper in medium bowl. Pour evenly over bread and cheese. Sprinkle with sausage. Cover , refrigerate overnight. PREHEAT oven to 325 degrees. BAKE for 55 to 60 mins. or until cheese if golden brown. Cover w/ foil if browning too quickly.
It is a delicious concoction and served the six of us quite handsomely, with enough left over for seconds, though no one wanted any. That may have been because Sister had made a lovely raisin-carrot bread from a recipe given us by our friend Cindie. We look forward to Christmas and getting Cindie’s bread as a special treat with one of her lovely hand made cards. Cindie’s gifts are all the more precious because she has stolen time from the tiny bit she has left to herself after taking care of her seriously ill mother 24/7. Hers is a work of great charity and grace, and her gifts, because of this, are almost sacramentals. (It’s a Catholic thing.)
Slathered with cream cheese, each slice of her bread is delightful for breakfast, or any time of day; and very good for you, too:
RAISIN CARROT BREAD
Prep: 20 minutes Baking: 55 minutes Oven: 350degrees
3/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup rum or orange juice
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1 beaten egg
1 cup finely shredded carrots (about 3 large)
1/4 cup cooking oil
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1. Grease the bottom and i/s inch up th side of an 8x4x2 inch loaf pan. Set aside. In a small bowl stir the raisins and rum or orange juice together. Set aside.
2. In a medium mixing bowl stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and allspice. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Set aside.
3. In another medium mixing bowl combine egg, carrots and cooking oil. Stir in raisin mixture. Add egg mixture all at once to the dry ingredients. Stir just till moistened (batter should be lumpy). Fold in the walnuts.
4. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake in a 350 deg. oven for 55 to 60 minutes or till a wooden toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack 10 munutes. Remove from pan. Cool completely on the rack. Wrap; store overnight. One loaf makes 16 servings.
They arrived and entered the house slowly, almost shyly, but smilingly. After greetings and introductions Sister showed her guests around and we sat down to eat. Within a few minutes, really, we were acting as if, to quote another friend of mine, as if we were “old shoes”. There were no awkward silences, no searching for the next word. Conversation, natural conversation, and conviviality flowed freely around the table.
And the food was eaten.
Sister took her friends away for a short walk to the ponds nearby and a visit to our church, St. Christopher’s. When they returned, Joseph, 82, and I sat outside in the front of the house listening to the singing birds, talking of God’s generosity with his creation, the freedom and beauty all around us, and how good it was to be in it. The two hours we spent together were two of the most amazing hours I have spent with anyone in a long time. Here I was, in front of my house with someone who was unknown to me until that morning, and we were speaking together as if we had been companions for years.
Reluctantly, I left him to go inside and see about what I needed to do as a host, wondering as I did so who was the host, who the guest; on many levels.
Lunch was to be sandwiches and a special slaw, a recipe of Mariellen’s from her “wild” days living in voluntary poverty in Ohio. Alas, our guests had to leave and couldn’t sit down with us. We made up some rations for the trip but were left with a near mountain of deliciously adulterated cabbage. Hurried goodbyes and promises of future visits were made and, all too soon for me, they drove off; certainly not strangers, not family but more than friends. Just what that is I am thinking deeply about. And my thoughts all center on that term often used, but almost never experienced, the Body of Christ; more specifically, the mystical Body of Christ.
From this remove, some eight hours after they have left, the whole morning seems to have been set aside as an occasion of grace for us all, a meeting place for the temporal and the eternal; the way things are meant to be.
Anyway, our beloved Polish Sister, no stranger to ways of preparing cabbage, was delighted with this when she tasted it at our simple and much quieter lunch:
JUST PLAIN SLAW
1/2 cup oil
3 tbsp vinegar
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 flavoring package from Chicken Flavored Ramen noodles
Mix together one medium head of cabbage, shredded, broken noodles from Ramen soup package, 1/2 cup slivered almonds, 1/2 cup sunflower seeds.
Pour dressing over all and toss well.
We are prepared to do it all again for you, too.
Oh, I forgot to add there was home made Irish brown bread, gallons of black tea, deep dishes of jams, preserves and marmalades, and slatherings of golden butter, for the still hungry. A simple meal.
After all, a body needs nourishment.
February 28, 2004