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On the pastoral use of pasta

March 18, 2013

Tonight there was a formal reception organized by the Government of Canada at the Canadian Pontifical College in the presence of the Governor General and his wife. The Canadian Who's Who in Rome, as well as the Canadian delegation, were there. Handshakes, hugs, pats on the back and pictures galore, such were the evening's menu, together with a most appetizing buffet. The atmosphere was festive and the weather, agreeable. 

Surely these niceties must have some importance, but the Cardinal was determined not to linger. We had convened to slip away at 8 p.m., and did just that, since he meant to save his strength for the following day's solemn mass on St. Peter's Square.  

For my part, I am glad to be back home, as I was hoping to slip away discreetly to dine out with fellow colleagues from the Montreal cathedral. Chance has it that we are unsuccessful at meeting up as planned, and so it is all by myself that I sit down at a small restaurant near the Casa Del Clero.  

The atmosphere is pleasant and always lively, as it generally is in Rome's restaurants. I arrive at the perfect time. The young waitress who greets me seems to run from one table to another; I pause to wonder what can be the secret of her agility that allows her to serve all those hungry customers.  

A young couple sits next to me. They are obviously British, judging by their speech. They scan me quickly from the corner of an eye and just as quickly lose interest in me. The young waitress takes our respective orders and disappears immediately. They set out to discover a local wine; I settle for water. At the moment when my pasta dish (or should I say "pâtes" out of respect for the Office de la langue française) arrives, the young lady leaves the table for a moment. My new neighbor gives me a quick glance again and asks me if I am from the area. (Do I happen to look Roman?) We briefly introduce ourselves, shake hands and thus begin discussing the arrival of the new pope. His companion, who has returned to the table, joins in with us, and our discussion lasts nearly two hours. We exchange on Pope Francis and the conclave, the Church, faith, marriage, faithfulness--all that around a tasty pasta dish. Victoria is Anglican. Frank, her companion, instead professes his faith in soccer...  

This is a couple like many others. This one, however, has a hunger that pasta probably cannot satisfy. They heard the Pope's speeches and they felt called upon, each at their own level. They will come tomorrow to Saint Peter's Square to attend mass. They are part of these "people of good will" that the Pope greeted after his election, when he gave the traditional Urbi et Orbi blessing. I would have liked to continue our conversation, but we had to part there to go our separate ways.  

As I was slowly returning home with my friend Sciatica who had suddenly decided to show up, it occurred to me that the One I try to serve often invited himself just like that, quite informally, without fuss, to share a meal and talk about his Father. I will probably never see this young couple again, yet they have been for me a beautiful nod and a wink from the Good Lord. 


Richard Saint-Louis, d.p. 


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