Sunday, June 19, 2011

Chili and the Doctrine of the Trinity

Yesterday morning, as I was making pancakes for the eleven girls who spent Friday night with us, people began showing up and unloading amazing amounts of equipment on the Arts and Crafts parking lot. I kept looking out the kitchen window as I flipped pancakes, wishing I could go down and watch them set up booths, decorate them, and start chopping up their meat and veggies.

Our first annual Chili Cook Off was underway! Pretty soon, you could small bacon frying, and other mysterious scents, all the way up the hill at the main house. By noon, all twelve entries were ready for sampling and the public spread out eating, talking, and sipping beer and lemonade. Kids were playing on the playground equipment. Old folks were sitting in the shade enjoying some luscious music. Singer/songwriter John Mayock filled the air with some really great sounds and made the afternoon just perfect. Not to mention blue skies, puffy white clouds, and cool breezes.

Oddly enough, a reporter from the Winsted Journal showed up. He began circulating and asked everyone the same question: "What makes a great chili?" I was advised by Nancy and a few others to be prepared. He was not asking questions about Trinita itself. Soon, he was overcome by the tempting smells and sat down to try some chili, so I parked myself at the same picnic table and introduced myself. Sure enough: "In your opinion, what makes a great chili?"

Ha! "Chili is all about relationship. All the ingredients work together, they have a role to play, but they remain distinct. That's what this whole experience is about. I look around, and I see all these people, many of whom I know, and I think about how we are all connected to each other, we support each other. That's what happens when people come here to Trinita. It's our mission...."

And so on. Today is Trinity Sunday. Across the world, good Church-going Catholics are being actively encouraged by their priests to avoid thinking about the most foundational mystery of Christianity. It is the only mystery, of all the great mysteries of our faith, which is treated like an incomprehensible intellectual puzzle instead of like spiritual food to nourish our souls. The worst homilies of the entire year are given on this Sunday: it's quite a distinctive mark of this great solemnity.

Why? Why can't we savor a delicious mouthful of really good chili and think about the Trinity? Three persons in perfect relationship. No one dominates the other. No hierarchy. No bland homogeneous generic broth. No, the Trinity is spicy and exciting, a food adventure for the soul.

THAT is the image and likeness we are made in! We are made to be in relationship, and we hunger for it when we aren't. If we can own the mystery, we can fill that hunger.

I was not allowed to eat the chili yesterday until after two o'clock. I smelled it, I watched others eating it and listened to the chefs discuss secret ingredients. Finally, I joined with four other judges and, almost ritualistically, we began sampling each of the twelve entries. I savored every mouthful. And I can safely say, I have not had that much fun reflecting on the Trinity in a long time.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Drains to Ocean

I am in California. And in a way, so is Trinita. I packed up lesson plans and supplies and skit props for a family retreat based on our 2008 summer program, "The Lord is our Shepherd." So here I am, enjoying the hospitality of Josie Morales in not-so-sunny California. (I never heard of "June Gloom" before. Apparently it's the West Coast's pathway to seasonal affect disorder.)

It is always a privilege for me to spend time with MCA in other geographic areas. I am fascinated by the way the Missionary Cenacle charism is expressed differently in different places. I was especially moved when I saw the two huge canvas banners unfurled at the parish hall where we were gathered this weekend. On one side, our three founders smiling down at us. On the other side, a painting of what was clearly the mission cross at Holy Trinity, Alabama. Almost life-size! Perhaps only half a dozen of the 150 attendees have actually been there, but they all know Holy Trinity and want to go there one day.

I went for a walk in Josie's neighborhood, a quiet suburb in the midst of Los Angeles urban sprawl. The trees and ornamental plants are all so different! And the ethnic diversity of the neighborhood is change of pace from the rather homogenous environment around Trinita. Then a street draincover caught my attention. "No dumping. Drains to Ocean." Cool! I never saw that before! I have seen "Drains to River" before. But Drains to Ocean? I guess that's the ultimate!

And suddenly, I felt like a little water drop, circulating around on my long and convoluted journey to the Ocean. So much life has flowed through Trinita, brought by so many folks for so many years. And I packed up a suitcase with some of that Trinita-stuff and carried it here and let it out. At the MCA Pentecost retreat, everyone got a little training in how to run a family-based program Trinita-style. Trinita's style, however, is just one expression of Cenacle Family "style" of carrying out the Church's mission. And whatever I let out of the suitcase has now got mixed in with the California MCA style.

I don't know what will flow from my work here this weekend. The various little drops of water get mixed together, but ultimately we are all flowing to one destination. Drains to Ocean.