Posted by: fvbcdm | June 12, 2012

Feast of Saint Christian (12 June 2012)

Today I’d like to talk to you about doughnuts.  Rather a stretch from the spiritual life, you say? Maybe so, but we mustn’t be too narrow in our definition of spirituality.  Our Lord said that the great King Solomon in all his glory was not as elegantly arrayed as the  wildflowers that grow in Galilee in the springtime.  In my home town of New Orleans, there are two establishments that have endeared themselves to the city over many years of operation.  One of them is called the Cafe du Monde and is, as it has always been, in the French Market within easy sight and walking distance of the Cathedral and Jackson Square, the heart of the French Quarter and the original city of New Orleans, laid out there in the year 1718.  The other one is called Morning Call; for many years it, too, was located in the French Market, but traffic and parking became a major problem, so Morning Call moved out to Metairie in Jefferson Parish, several miles from its previous location.  But its devoted patrons followed it there, and for many of us, no visit to New Orleans and vicinity would be complete without a visit to the Morning Call.  Why?  Because it makes coffee and what we call doughnuts, and they are WONDERFUL!    

The day that I received my first Holy Communion—it was Holy Thursday about the year 1937 or so—my uncle offered to take my immediate family and his to have breakfast anywhere I chose. The choice was not a problem for me: it was to be the Morning Call coffee and doughnut stand in the Quarter.  So there we went to celebrate my first reception of the unleavened Eucharistic bread with the very leavened delicious beignets, which is the more proper term for the doughtnuts at Morning Call and Cafe du Monde. Actually, they are fritters, so hot that you can hardly hold them, and indescribably good. The Morning Call stand still has the same furnishings it had back in those days, and whenever I go there, that ancient arch with the electric light bulbs over long white marble tables where people sit on stools facing one another brings back my first Communion day.

I have a young priest friend in New Orleans who, when he was still in college and I was stationed in Nashville, came to visit me.  We went to celebrate Mass at the convent of our Dominican Sisters there as was my duty, and then on the way home, we stopped at a doughnut shop to buy our breakfast.  It was not New Orleans, but it was good.  On the counter near the cash register was a bowl of little round balls of doughnut material which were called “doughnut holes.”  My friend Alan asked the price of those things.  The young woman told him; let’s say 30 cents a dozen (we’re talking about the year 1985). Alan has always been a very devout young man and usually comes up with expressions that have to do with biblical events, quotations, or numbers.  He thought about the clerk’s information for a moment, and then said to her, “Give me seven of them.” Not a dozen; not a half-dozen.  Seven.  She looked at him, trying to decide whether he was serious or not, while I tried not to laugh too loudly.   So she gave him seven and had to figure how much to charge him for the VERY odd number!  Again, a memory that comes back to me often. So, what do these little vignettes have to do with the spiritual life?  They are happy memories; they make one laugh and form a little bit of our history, our life, what the French call our “joie de vivre”—the joy of living. Alan’s seven doughnut holes are much more enjoyable than most people’s three or four ordinary doughnuts at home or in a doughtnut stand somewhere else.  King Solomon’s greater beauty than Palestinian wildflowers; Alan’s seven doughnut holes, and the coffee and doughtnuts in the Morning Call coffee stand give us reason to rejoice over this life that our God gives to us.  Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.


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