In Holy Cross we talk often about the importance of our common prayer, common purse, and common table. These are essential dimensions of our common life together. They are part of what makes us more than simply a group of men working together.
Prayer in common is, of course, absolutely necessary to our life as priests and brothers. As our Constitutions say: “Without prayer we drift” (3:25). Our living of the life of poverty comes from the idea of the “common purse.” We make an effort to submit our desires, whether they be for new clothing or a new phone, to the will and needs of the community.
The common table (i.e., eating meals together) may seem from the outside to be of less importance to our common life than the others. But anyone in Holy Cross will tell you that it is indispensable. This is no different at the Holy Cross Novitiate. Though our life here doesn’t change dramatically from day to day, our common meals give us the opportunity to talk about our reading, prayer, recent ministry experiences, or simply the news of the day or a funny thought that has come to mind. As with any family, when we eat together we have a chance to get to know each other in new and sometimes surprising ways.
At the novitiate, unlike much of the rest of the time formation, we also cook for each other. Some novices have never cooked before (much less for a crowd). Others have a lot of experience in the kitchen. With the five novices here now, along with three staff members, each novice is up to cook about once a week. Our breakfasts consist mostly of cereal and bagels and our lunches are mostly leftovers. Dinner is when the novices have the chance to flex their culinary muscles.
Novices have a lot of freedom when it comes to planning their meals (within reason, of course!). They can try a new recipe from one of the many cookbooks we have in the kitchen or go back to a family favorite. This year we have eaten Italian, Mexican, and Belizean specialties. We have had hearty soups and stews. Many of the novices have learned to bake bread to go along with their meals. On Sundays we have our “community night,” which means that the novices are able to make something extra special.
As you might imagine, not everything works out perfectly. Sometimes the pasta comes out a bit mushy or the chicken a little dry. Part of our common table, though, is that we try our best to eat and be appreciative of everything that we’re given. We know that cooking for each other, even if not done perfectly, can be an expression of love and care.
As I write this, the novices are studying Constitution 4 from the Constitutions of the Congregation of Holy Cross — on brotherhood. It says there: “We grow close to one another as brothers by living together in community. If we do not love the brothers whom we see, then we cannot love the God whom we have not seen. In our common life we give an immediate and tangible expression to what we profess through our vows: in the local community we share the companionship, the goods and the united efforts of our celibacy, poverty and obedience” (4:34). Cooking meals for each other is no small thing. It is one expression of the companionship that we in Holy Cross pledge to each other when we enter into this life. Here at the novitiate, that companionship is made tangible each day in the kitchen.
Published on January 12, 2024