I had the opportunity for a rare treat on Monday night. I got to attend a Lenten soup supper and presentation sponsored by the women's guild at my parents' parish.
This, of course, also used to be my parish, but it has been many years since I've been considered a member there and in those intervening years, the parish community has built a beautiful new church. I don't know my way around anymore, so I tend to think of it as an entirely new parish. Still, it is a truly lovely church in a very traditional style. Not at all movie theater-like or spaceship-esque (those seem to be the two things that church designers in the 70s and 80s went for.)
I'll admit that I wasn't exactly excited to attend the program, mostly because evenings are a busy time here, and my parents' parish is an hour away. Rob arranged to leave work early, but as it was, we still passed each other like ships in the night, with me yelling directions for finishing dinner on my way out.
I hate that harried feeling, and I had poorly judged my time with other tasks during the day, so I was not as far along on dinner as I would have liked for Rob's sake. Especially since I knew he would have to handle the homework detail as well.
Once I got to the church, I saw how the whole program was set up (which was adapted from a very similar program at a neighboring parish). The hall was filled with long tables, eight women to a table. Each table began with a hostess. That hostess was responsible for inviting the women seated at her table, for setting and decorating her table, and for providing fruit for after the meal. My mother was the hostess of our table, and I sat with her, my sister, my sister-in-law, my aunt and my cousin.
My mother was also in charge of arranging for the soup, and let me just tell you, people came out of the woodwork with crock pots full of soup. I brought a pot of baked potato soup, but there was every kind of soup you could imagine. There were so many pots of soup, that they had to create three soup "stations" to fit them all. I myself had three different bowls of soup (chicken tortilla, crab bisque, homemade tomato), which is not a very Lenten attitude, but what could I do? All these women had gone to the trouble of preparing all that soup! And we soaked up all that soup with bread donated from a local bakery and grocery store.
The theme of the program was a Lenten journey through Mary to Christ, with a specific focus on the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady. After we all ate our fill (and then some), we listened to a talk given by a parishioner who had experienced a great tragedy in her life; ten years ago she accidentally backed over her little daughter in the driveway and killed her. I cannot imagine her pain or being able to speak the way she did, but since it was her daughter's tenth anniversary, she wanted to do something to honor her.
She spoke very simply and honestly about how faith was the only thing that brought her and her family through that time. Not only her faith, but the faith of her parish, of her community, and especially the prayers of the children close to her daughter. It was a very lovely, hope-filled, and affirming presentation.
After we had our fresh fruit dessert, we listened to another presentation by an IHM sister. Her talk was very interesting to me, as she delved a little more deeply into the seven sorrows of Mary. She talked at length about Simeon's prophecy to Mary, "Behold, this child is destined for the fall and the rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted, and you yourself a sword will pierce, so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed." (Lk 2:34-35)
Because she was Jesus' mother, Mary would have to bear great sorrow. Piercing sorrow. Sister spoke about how Mary's way was to ponder all these things quietly in her heart, but that the Blessed Mother was not without consolation. Further on in Luke we find the prophetess Anna. "And coming forward at that moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem." (Lk 2:38)
Sister said she loved the passage about Anna because at the moment of Simeon's heaviest words about the future, Anna was there to carry Mary through with her faith and her hope. She softened the blow, and Sister said how often we have Anna's in our lives. People who "come forward at that moment" when our distress is so great. We are also called to be Annas to the people around us. We need to be the ones to soften the blow for someone else if we can. I thought it was a beautiful reflection for Lent.
Once the meal and the presentations were finished, I hopped in the car and stopped to visit my dad before I drove home. We stood in the kitchen, talking, and I had a strange flashback to when we used to do that while I was in high school. Everything about the kitchen felt familiar and strange at the same time. I didn't live there, but I belonged there in a way, and I'm glad that I got to stop and see my dad alone.
The drive home was late and long, but pleasant because I was alone with my thoughts. (And the 80s on 8 channel on the satellite radio. Can't help it.) Lately, the kids have been so loud and all encompassing, that I've begun to wonder if I even have thoughts anymore. It was nice to find out that there are one or two still rattling around in the old noggin.
All in all, it turned out to be a great evening, and if all these ideas would only jump start the blogging again now that I'm back online, I'd be golden.