February 6, 2015

Emmaus Walk / Debra Tomaselli

Special dinner with pastor provides a lifelong lesson

Debra TomaselliSometimes ordinary actions make profound statements.

Like the day I arrived home from school and found my mother at work in the kitchen, wearing an apron. Puzzled, I cocked my head. Aprons were typically reserved for holidays.

She hugged me.

“Hurry and do your homework,” Mom said, wiping her hands on a checkered dish towel. “Father Ryan is coming over tonight.”

My heart jumped. Really? Our pastor was coming to visit us?

We’d just moved to Las Cruces, N.M., and joined Holy Cross Parish, where my brothers and I attended school. My parents had invited Father Ryan to dinner.

I threw my books on the sofa, and followed my nose into the kitchen. There, Mom, glancing at a cookbook, was preparing chicken.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Apricot chicken,” she said. She squared her shoulders. “It’s a new recipe I found.”

I frowned.

“You’ll like it,” she promised. “Don’t you and your brothers eat the last piece. Leave some in case our guest wants a second helping.”

I scanned the countertop. There were fresh rolls waiting to bake, real butter, and makings for a chocolate cream pie, my personal favorite.

Dad came home from work early. It’s the only time I remember him helping set the table, as he and Mom arranged linens, fine silver and china plates.

The doorbell rang and Father Ryan arrived, wearing a broad brimmed cowboy hat, which he removed upon entering our home. My brothers and I stared at him like he was a movie star while he and my parents exchanged greetings.

Later, we took our places at the dining room table. My brothers and I remembered our manners. My parents and Father Ryan found much in common, and their conversation was sprinkled with laughter.

When Father Ryan left, he donned his hat. Smiling, he welcomed us to the parish and thanked my parents for the enjoyable evening. It felt like a holiday. I got to stay up late on a school night.

Now, decades later, that evening remains a vivid memory.

While it wasn’t distributed in a single meal, that evening represented the faith my parents treasured and offered to me. I’m thankful for that. We attended Mass every Sunday and holy day of obligation, stood in confessional lines on Saturdays, celebrated sacraments, and prayed as a family. My parents showed us how to listen, help, forgive and sacrifice for each other. They taught us to help others by donating clothes we’d outgrown and stocking food pantries for the needy.

Looking back, I learned never to underestimate the value of your actions of faith. Simple, everyday deeds, like that of a meal, can be a powerful witness to a child, a co-worker, a neighbor or a priest.

Wherever you find yourself, whatever you are doing, you can reach people with the Gospel message. There’s nothing more important than that.

(Debra Tomaselli writes from Altamonte Springs, Florida. She can be reached at dtomaselli@cfl.rr.com.)

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