First, A Feast
Today we celebrate the feast of the great Spanish mystical theologian, John of the Cross who, along with St. Teresa of Avila, reformed the Carmelite Order.
Last Advent a friend and I decided to tackle St. John’s masterpiece Dark Night of the Soul. No easy task, that. I can tell you that it was one of the most challenging reads I’ve ever undertaken. I will have to return to it one day to find some greater comprehension.
John’s feast was moved to December 14 in the Nu calendar for no apparent reason but that’s OK because we’re all the same Church, right? Either way, as they say, “On Carmel’s heights, day and night, someone is always praying for you.” Thank God for that! Stepping off of soapbox now.
Second, Another Feast
This morning I continued the great tradition handed on by my dad. When I was 14 years-old, my father, who never cooked a day all year but insisted on assuming the responsibilities of Thanksgiving dinner in toto for his family of 16, woke me up at an ungodly hour. I think it was before 5AM. I am the youngest son in my family. Eight older brothers and he picked me for the task. Not sure if it was because he trusted me over them, if it’s because I faithfully accompanied him to early Mass every morning, or because I was the last one… “Its time to stuff a few birds,” he said. I stumbled out of bed, grabbed a cup of coffee and learned from the man how to feed an army on the native bird. I still remember cracking a joke that he didn’t find too amusing. “I’ve conducted a postmortem,” I said. “Looks like he died of blunt force trauma,” I remarked of the 25 lb turkey as I pulled it’s neck out of its thoracic cavity. “Poor bastard never stood a chance.” But dad took this day very seriously. He furrowed his brow and then said, “Hand me that can of beer. I have to batter the stuffing.”
The following year I was eager to help Dad again. I went to bed excited to rise early and spend time preparing dinner with the patriarch. Except it didn’t go down like that. He was no fool. It turns out he had only been training me – not for some distant future when I’d have my own family to feed but for the next year when he would finally get to sleep in. “Son, it’s time for you to stuff the birds…” And I’ve been doing it ever since.
And I still love this day. It reminds me of him. It reminds me of the importance of family, of being grateful to God for my Catholic faith, my many blessings, and of course, my wife and children, and all the friends we get to feed this year.
An additional note: one of the things Dad and I would do on this day would be to start the traditional Christmas music playlist. We’d have the classics going all morning in the kitchen while the parade played on a TV in the next room.
This morning I kept that one up too. When my kids asked me, “Where’s Mariah Carey?” I had but one response.
“One, kiddos, she’s a twit and also, no.” As I explained further, “Since my liturgical ‘preferences’ lie in 1954, my Christmas music may as well, too.” And then I played the following for them.
By the way, I totally want to host a party like the one above – gold Century 21 realtor’s jacket and all.
St. John of the Cross, pray for us!