My mother and I attended the same elementary school. I hated it, but she didn’t mind it. When she attended, mass and confession were a daily occurrence. When I attended, we only had service during holy days and I can only recall a singular confession.
My mother’s funny. She attends weekly mass, but she couldn’t tell you one word or even the theme of the priest’s homily. She can also tell you the names of visiting priests who, “talk way too long.” My memory is very, very different from hers. I still remember a homily Fr. Kraker gave when I was in elementary school.
I’ve written about this particular homily on this blog at least once (I would link to it but I don’t know what I’ve titled it). In the story, Fr. Kraker describes the difference between heaven and hell. In both locations, short-armed people are seated at a table with extra long utensils. In hell, the people are starving because they can’t feed themselves, but in heaven the people are well fed because they used the long utensils to feed the person seated across from them.
I thought about this story while putting dishes away and it reminded of a dinnertime experience that, in Catholic terms, had to be purgatory. Some time ago, our neighbors invited us over for dinner in an effort to acknowledge the many meals they have had at our home. Honestly, we didn’t really want to go because my neighbors aren’t very good cooks and their house isn’t very clean. We didn’t want to be rude so we accepted.
Now, when someone invites you over for dinner, don’t you think it reasonable to expect them to at the very least cook food? I know folk who don’t always feel like cooking so they have the meal catered. The latter option we never expected because my neighbors don’t have the money to cater a meal, so we anticipated eating what they prepared.
So at dinner time we walk next door and in the kitchen stands a woman we don’t know. Our neighbors invited us to sit and then introduced the stranger to us. We learned then that this woman would be preparing the meal–not because she was a chef but because the pots, pans, and bowls she used to prepare the food would feature among other items this woman was selling. I don’t remember the company, but I know it wasn’t Pampered Chef because I recognize their brand, and own some of their products. Our neighbors explained that they met this woman at someone else’s house and thought it would be great to host her. Somehow, they missed the part about this woman working as an agent for a company that sold cooking supplies. They seemed to think that she was a good cook and could offer you a chance at being a good cook if you bought the products she just happened to be selling. They were completely clueless when it came to recognizing that they were wasting this woman’s time so that we could have a free meal.
The meal was pretty awful. My husband and I don’t like chicken thighs and we didn’t like whatever the mystery sides were that she served along with the chicken. Dessert was some kind of chocolate cake made from ground vegetables in place of flour. We didn’t like any of it but we smiled and praised her anyway. My neighbors didn’t always like how certain dishes turned out and told her so! We were appalled that they would have the nerve to criticize this woman as though she were their paid chef.
After dinner, we looked through the catalog of kitchen items for sale because we really wanted to buy something from this woman as recompense for her trouble. Unfortunately, everything in the catalog was out of our price range. The least expensive item was an $80 mixing bowl. Well, I already have mixing bowls and thought purchasing an $80 “pity bowl” too extravagant given my budget. I’m sure we said something about going through the catalog more thoroughly and contacting her later, but mostly I remember wanting to get the hell out of there.
My mother was appalled when I told her about this dinner. Though she and I experience Mass differently, we share a vision of hospitality, respect, and consideration. I’m certain my mother would’ve bought the $80 bowl, given it to me, and then jumped on the phone to tell everyone she knew about my “triflin’ neighbors.” Me, I’d think about it for a while before sharing the tale of my meal in pergutory.