Obligatory outfit picture. With Bea and Elle for My Sunday Best!
This weekend was our first set of Masses with our new priest.
David and I love the idea of fostering vocations in our family. Of helping our children figure out just how God is calling them to love in the world, perhaps through marriage, perhaps through consecrated life, perhaps through the priesthood. We’ve decided that one of the ways we can do that is to welcome people of wide range of vocations into our home.
We love the *idea* of this.
But the reality? Hard to carry out. It’s truth bomb time.
Our pastor two priests ago was with our parish for twelve years. Twelve. And although we occasionally brought him meals, we never invited him over. As a newly minted wife and hostess, I didn’t feel confident in knowing how to set a table, much less entertain a priest.
During that time we did have a missionary priest over for dinner once. I knew that whatever weird things my kids said or however awful my cooking was, he’d be on a plane to Tanzania in a month. There was comfort in that. And although the dessert I made had an almost impenetrable crust and the kids got antsy while we visited, it went fairly smoothly. The kids still talk about the time Father Flavian came to visit (and now he’s a bishop in Tanzania. For real!!!)
Four years ago when our last priest arrived, David and I vowed it would be different, emboldened by the fond memories of our meal with Father Flavian. We pledged to invite the new guy over regularly. With David’s (then new) job which involved lots of night hours and Cee’s health roller-coaster, it never happened. Not once. I am embarrassed to admit that not once did we invite over the pastor who gave our daughter her first Eucharist and heard our confessions.
That’s right. We felt comfortable telling this man (in persona christi!) our deepest, darkest sins. But it was too intimidating to invite him over for a hamburger. It was too much effort to figure out a night where the stars would align where David was home, the kids were healthy, and I had time to clean the bathroom. We were encouraged by this wonderful priest’s homilies and literally blessed by him every week for four years. And we never got around to having him over for a beer and a steak.
So. This weekend was our first set of Masses with a new priest. And we invited him over for supper tonight. Beer and steak.
I thought about organizing this post as a series of tips for entertaining your pastor. Yes. Let’s do that.
1. Make your go-to recipes; don’t try anything new.
Well. I didn’t follow that advice. We were looking for a side to go with the steak/green beans combo and settled on rice. (I don’t know why. We never eat rice. Elle had begged to do some studying on China, and I picked up rice randomly at the grocery store to appease her.) So for the first time in years(?) I attempted to make rice.
Instead of having a bunch of single cooked grains, I ended up with a giant lump of rice mush.
As we waited for Father to arrive, I kept muttering to myself, “I have a college degree…and I can’t cook rice properly.” But I did have the internet, so I looked up how to fix sticky-lump rice. The advice? “If you have time, start over. There’s no fixing it.”
Perfect. The advice did go on to recommend turning it into “rice pudding.” Which I had never ever made. So we went with that! Our side became our dessert. (The recipe called for milk and sugar. I had neither. So I went with honey and cream. It worked-ish!)
2. Practice appropriate behavior with your children ahead of time.
So we tried to brief the kids with the admonition to answer questions when asked, but not to offer movie recaps or dream play-by-plays. It mostly worked. Elle educated Father on the differences between lions and jaguars. (PS– he is from an area in Africa that actually has lions. So. That was maybe unnecessary.) Moe talked much too loudly, and Bea kept refusing to eat her green beans. Furthermore, I realized that my kids have exactly zero skills as far as being a human being goes. As I watched Moe lick out his rice pudding bowl and Cee eat her steak off her fork in the way one would gnaw a turkey leg, I was keenly aware of this fact.
I have to stop right there with the tips. I have no street cred. It’s like me giving tips on having a successful space launch. Or how to play a cricket match (I have equal experience in such matters.).
It all comes down to just one tip. (Speaking of sports and balls and other athletic things I don’t know about…)
Just do it.
As Father was visiting, he mentioned how much he enjoys being part of the community. About how much he likes interacting with parishioners. He lamented that at his last parish, he was surprised at how little anyone invited him to anything.
In response I tried to explain my own humility in not being confident in my cooking. How culturally we are self-conscious about our lack of entertaining skills. How we are afraid we are not good enough.
He laughed a little. “I’ll eat anything!” he said.
And as I looked at him across the table, having eaten experimental rice pudding, I believed him. He wasn’t just being polite. Across the table I saw a regular man who embraced a vocation that could be a little lonely at times. If I’m understanding him correctly, Father doesn’t desire to be a sacramental Pez dispenser, he desires to be a part of our community. And he will eat anything (!) to make that happen.
I am embarrassed about my splotchy history of taking care of our priests. We’ve only done it twice now. Both times have gone well. Both times I had cooking oopsies. Both times no one got food poisoning. I’d call that a win. Now that we know our new priest doesn’t see such invitations as obligations, hopefully we’re more likely to make it happen again. I’m ready to turn over a new leaf and do a better job of incorporating our priest into our community and into our family. I’ve got a big bowl of leftover rice pudding to prove it.
Have you ever invited your pastor over? What tips do you have?