What's the Magic in St. Anthony's Soup Suppers?
How hard is it to slide a chair over? It might be tough if the chair is in a crowded middle school cafeteria at lunchtime and some kid you never saw before wants to join the group at your table. Do you slide your chair over and make room? Or not? On some days, that’s not an easy decision…and even light years later when you’re seventy-something, it can be a challenge to let new people into your circle, to slide your chair over and make room. But there was a lot of sliding going on in the parish hall last Saturday night at the Lenten soup supper. In fact, there were so many people that we ran out of chairs to slide!
(…by the way, to those five or six people I saw standing near the stage, sipping their supper, I really appreciate your patience and resolution!) I’m happy to say that table space was extended and circles were opened. Parties of seven made room for ten; smaller groups of twos and threes merged into tables of twelve.
So what’s the magic ingredient in St. Anthony soup that makes the people so friendly and the suppers so popular? Well, folks, it ain’t in the soup…it’s in what happens around the tables… More and more, I am convinced that most people intuitively recognize there is more to life than simply getting through it with “straight A’s” and a lot of pretty toys. They search for some kind of meaning to attach to their existence on this planet. Faith, spirituality, and religion help define this search, of course. Then, when you mix in some kind of concrete task that benefits some other human being—fly to Nicaragua and build a house, use Legos to raise half a mil for CancerCare, or make a pot of soup and lug it down to the parish hall on Saturday afternoon—suddenly a sense of community starts to simmer.
Being part of an assembly who shares a common direction and purpose, who upholds similar values and dreams, who believes in a God who has a plan, all serve to form a solid foundation for a healthy and exciting parish. It makes for tables of people who are more than willing to slide over their chairs and make room for another because that excitement is even better when shared. That kind of hospitality is attractive to guests, so attractive that sometimes we run out of chairs. You might be thinking that this is an awful lot to hang on a simple soup supper. But when you con- sider that all this grace is at work in our parish community in addition to the benefits donations given to the Merton House, if you’re like me, it makes you marvel at the wideness of God’s vision……and how all the “chair-sliding” starts with just one pot of soup.