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How growing up in the Depression taught my mom to look to the Church for food

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The Church has always been there for her and I thank God for that.

The Catholic Church has fed my mother spiritually for her entire life.  She’s always attended weekly Mass on Sundays and on every Holy Day of Obligation. At certain times in her life, she had the habit of attending daily Mass.

When her children were born, the Church baptized them. When there was death in the family, particularly when my father died, the Church was there for her. The Catholic Church even provided her with a weekly paycheck, as she was a teacher at a Catholic school.

She used her gifts as a singer, dancer and writer, and produced junior high school plays at this school. God blessed her with talent, and she put it to good use.

She also put her faith into action by taking care of elderly members of the family — first her grandmother, who lived to be 102; then, her mother, who died of throat cancer; and now her aunt, who’s well into her 90s.

But what is truly ironic is that when my mother was a very small child, the Church provided real, edible food for her and her family.

The family lived next door to a Catholic church. This provided constant entertainment for my 4-year-old future mother. She’d sit on the basement window sills of the school and try to answer the questions the teacher was asking of the first-grade students.

“Now, Patsy,” the teacher would call out to her. “Let some of the other students answer the questions.”

“Yes, Sister,” my mother would respond.

And when there was a wedding, my tiny mother grabbed her hat and sat in the front row of the church, marveling over the beautiful brides. No one ever kicked the little girl out. They treated her like an honored guest.

It was at weddings, during the Great Depression, that my mother found real food.

Rice was thrown after every wedding. My, it was just sitting there, white, on the pavement. It was good rice. Edible rice. Her grandmother would tell her to collect it, to pick it up piece by piece, and put it in her hankie. Then, when my mother had collected enough, a small serving, she’d take it home for her grandmother to cook. Granddaughter and grandmother would nibble on a nice snack after every wedding. At that time, of course, nothing went to waste.

My mother was born in 1931. She’s seen many things, survived many things. The Great Depression spawned great creativity. People had to eat.

The Catholic Church has indeed nourished my mother. I thank God for the Church.

Our sustenance, our life, our food.

During this season of Lent, have a bowl of rice for dinner. Don’t adorn it with butter or spices. Simply consume the pure white grains.

Offer up the lack of meat to Jesus. Pray this prayer:

Oh Lord, people all over the world eat rice. For some, this is all they have. In eating rice, allow me to bond with the poor. Allow me to always remember to keep my eyes focused on the next world. You, Lord, are my strength. When there doesn’t seem to be a way, when I’m hungry, you will provide food.

May God touch you during Lent. May your sacrifices lead to great spiritual gifts.

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