Monday, December 31, 2012

Grandma's Spaghetti - It's How I Share the Faith

It is a snowy New Year's Eve Day, so the kids and I are staying home and enjoying Grandma Virginia's spaghetti as we watch the flakes fall.  I have loved her spaghetti since I was a little guy, and have never found its equal.  She passed on the recipe a few months before her death.  

Photo by Alessio Sbarbaro
My dad and I both make it now.  And, I don't mean to brag, but my mom and siblings say that mine is best.  (To be fair, it is the only that I do better than my dad.  He's da man.)  So what is my secret?  Why does mine consistently turn out better than his?  Because FOLLOW  THE  RECIPE.  My dad always tries to "jazz it up" by adding this or that.  But it doesn't need it; it's already perfect.  His changes inevitably change the flavor, and we're disappointed because we all came to the table expecting Grandma's culinary masterpiece.

I was thinking about all of this yesterday as I ran to the store to grab a forgotten ingredient.  I was tempted to substitute with something else I had at home, but decided it wasn't worth taking the chance.  And then it struck me that I am a "Catholic cook."  What I share with others about Jesus and his teachings - I really strive to pass it along in its purity.  The Lord Jesus is the Word of the Father, and the body of Truth that He entrusted to the Apostles contains everything that God wants to say to humanity.  I know that I cannot improve upon it.  If I try to add to it or subtract from it, I am doing those with whom I share a monumental disservice.  I share the Faith in the same manner I prepare Grandma's spaghetti - I follow the recipe.  It's not that I'm a slave to it; I want to enjoy, and I want others to enjoy, the delicious feast that results from following the recipe!

In the presidential debates this past October, one of the participants chided the other that the United States cannot return to the "social policies of the 1950's."  If you consult that participant's website to see which social policies he was referring to in the debate, he spells it out:  any move to stop abortion on demand, prevent employers from being forced to pay for contraception and abortifacients, or to stop American tax dollars from going to Planned Parenthood (which aborts over 300,000 of our children a year.)  This same gentleman expressed his belief that our culture should change its definition of marriage.  And you will meet many people who identify themselves as "Christian" who agree with him.  The problem is, when they do so they are presenting a truncated version of the Faith.  I hear statements such as, "I'm Catholic," or "I'm a Christian, but I don't believe ..."  They're messing with the recipe, leaving out ingredients ... and the end result is moral heresy.

In the face of this kind of cultural shift the Catholic Church, and Catholic individuals such as myself, can do nothing but stand up and continue to articulate as clearly as we can what Jesus and His Church have always said.  It's not my Truth, or the Church's Truth; it is Jesus'.  So many elements are being presented as if they shackle and restrict our freedoms.  But my nearly three decades as a committed Christian confirm the observation made by G.K. Chesterton, "The more I considered Christianity, the more I found that while it had established a rule and order, the chief aim of that order was to give room for good things to run wild" (Orthodoxy, 1908).  The "rules," the ingredients, that many people seem intent on discarding from the Faith aren't so much a fence meant to keep the kids from branching out and enjoying themselves as it is a fence meant to keep dangers from intruding into the children's play area.  (Although a fence that keeps the kids' play from spilling over from the yard onto a busy highway is a wonderful tool as well!)

None of this is to say that I am against sharing the Faith in new and exciting ways.  (People tell me that I get pretty animated when I share; and you are, after all, reading this on a blog with links to websites, videos, etc.)  But the methods or terminology we use in sharing the Faith do not modify the content, the ingredients.  They are like an interesting serving bowl or a super effective spoon for getting the spaghetti out of the bowl and onto people's plates faster.

Spaghetti and the delicious, filling New Evangelization.  "Taste and see the goodness of the Lord" (Psalm 34:8).  Happy New Year everyone!

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