The Perfect Meal

In the end, a great meal is not about the food or the wine. A great meal is an emotional experience. We try to make it an extraordinary one by creating a beautiful place, one filled with staff who care about it as they care about their home, and care for you as the most important guest in it. Our chefs are obsessive about the culinary details and fundamental techniques that are the foundation of an exciting culinary imagination and a kitchen that delivers the very best products of the earth to the table. No detail or element can be less important or more important than another. Because a great meal is not one that fills you up. A great meal is a kind of a journey that returns you to sources of pleasure you may have forgotten and taken you to places you haven’t been before. Thomas Keller, Per Se

That is the description of the restaurant Per Se on Manhattan in New York. What an invitation! As important as the sentiments are about that table, should our sentiments about the two tables we share be as well: the table of our hearts (homes) and the table of our community (the church’s altar)

Francis of Assisi, for all his interest in self sacrifice and diminishment of person, found two things to be lavish about. Once when a friar was ill and basically starving to death, he got up himself and brought the friar to the kitchen and sat and feasted on meat with him. Another time at Christmas he decided that the house should also celebrate in the feast of the incarnation and took food and smeared the walls with it!! (Don’t try that at la ‘buelita’s house!!).

Even more so, in his personal austerity was he persnickety about making sure the linens, and vessels and everything else about the table of the Eucharist were in order and honorable!

Are these attitudes at Per Se and in the legends of Francis just niceties? Or are they expressions of what we need to be about ourselves. We’re at the “end-time” reflection weeks of the liturgical year. In these two weeks we reflect on what we are about in what we do: only concerned about the judgment? …or truly aware of the call in hospitality and generosity to the Gospel life?

The comment from Keller at Per Se calls us to hospitality – as does Jesus and at the wedding feast at Cana and at the last supper and when picking heads of grain for the starving disciples as well as in the house if Matthew and in Bethany and in the sending of the disciples on their first missionary journey. Francis calls us to being generous in the legends of his life as Jesus did at the feeding of the five thousand and three thousand. Are we capable of these in our households and shared lives in community?

Thanksgiving Day is coming up. With whom will we feast this Thanksgiving Day? Will the table be the focus or will it include the feeding of the hearts who gather at the table? So much to prepare for, but at the same time to be aware of in the lives of the one’s with whom we share life.

We gather and reflect on what we have in common as family and friendships as well as a worshipping community. Let us also share the hospitality and generosity of Jesus as we draw together and begin preparing for another year.

As we care for [one another] as the most important guest [at our table] we care for Jesus (because it is) and we care for the hungry brother of Francis (which we are) we fulfill the call to nurture one another and we receive eternal life.

fr. Charles


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