Thursday, 7 June 2012

Giving gratefully

Someone once told me, and I can't really remember who but the faces of both Mr. Singleton and Mr. Quinn come to mind (two of my Secondary school teachers), that you cannot really give unless it costs. What they meant by this, I seem to recall, is that too often people give what is spare. Someone asks for a donation to charity or the weekly Church collection plate passes by and the 'spare change' we might not notice is passed on freely. Real giving, this someone told me, was when you gave what you might have needed, but did not count the cost of it. This real giving, it was argued, is what we do when we truly love someone. 

Think about it. When we really want to give something to someone we love, time and energy goes into the planning of it. We save up, use money that we have set aside for some other purpose, resolve to buy that new frock next month, make sacrifices...and none of it matters because the aim, all along, was to give.  The same is true for the time we give, we make sacrifices to spend time with loved ones, friends and family. We put other concerns aside. 

There is a morally argumentative side to me which says that that which we have spare is not ours to give, it already belongs to the person who needs it. It's a view that has precedent - I think St. Thomas Aquinas may have spoken a little like that (Summa Theologica, II-II, Q 66 Art. 7, if you must know). St. Francis probably did too. 

It has been a long time since I have written here. I have missed the Feast days for many of those I hold dear, not least St. Dominic, St. Madeleine Sophie and St. Phillip Neri. Ascension and Pentecost have also come and gone, the days seem to fly by. I have, to be honest, been struggling for time.  As part of my teaching job I am asked to help students with their Duke of Edinburgh Award. Last week a team of teachers, including myself, went to complete some training to begin the process of becoming Mountain Leaders. We walked in the hills, practised our rope work and navigation skills, hiked up mountains, wild camped and cooked in the great outdoors. All the while saints I have been missing in the blogosphere have been alive and well in the ruminations of my mind. Not least because, when the rain turned horizontal and the wind brutal, I was imploring every angel and saint to keep me alive and attached to the side of the mountain! Still, when I returned I was asked by a good friend why I bother with all this extra effort in my teaching job: could I not just settle for teaching the lessons and coming home? The simple answer is, no, I couldn't. I love the students I teach, and sometimes that means sacrificing evenings, weekends and little comforts in life to ensure that they get everything they deserve. The same is true, of course, of my loved ones, my friends and family. And, as in recent days, that can make things hectic. My one resolution for all of this is to give my whole attention to the present moment and devote my complete attention to whomsoever I am with. As for spare moments, they are already owed to the One who makes all things possible. I take that quiet time and give it in prayer, sometimes sneaking into empty churches to just 'be'. Quite frequently I am humbled, honoured and truly grateful for the wonderful company love provides.

The next few days, as Corpus Christi approaches and then, on the following Friday and Saturday, the Feasts of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary arrive, I reckon I will be thinking about how hearts have an infinite capacity to give, and an infinite capacity to love without ever counting the cost. For what it is worth, I will be returning to a prayer I learnt in Secondary School and seeing if I can find anything new in it that will expand my heart.

Teach us, good Lord,
to serve you as you deserve,
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labour and not to ask for any reward
save knowing that we do your will.


St. Ignatius of Loyola

Tonight I am cooking up a curry for a friend and we will be catching up on all things new. I delight in good company and love to listen to the stories of others and tell my own. Cooking a good curry, with all the sides and some chilled wine, seems an excellent way to get started.

Chicken Curry

500g boned chicken thighs, cut into big chunks
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp ground black peppercorns and coriander seeds
1/4 tsp garam masala
1 tsp paprika
1 1/2 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp red chilli flakes
2 fresh tomatoes
a handful of fresh coriander
3 bay leaves

Tarka Masala Sauce
3tsp olive oil
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 medium onions, peeled and chopped
1 head of garlic, cloves peeled and chopped
a tin of chopped tomatoes
5cm fresh ginger, grated
2 green chillies

Start by making the Tarka Masala sauce. Heat the oil in a large pan until fairly hot, add the cumin seeds and fry for 10 seconds. Add the inions and fry until golden brown, then add the garlic and fry until slightly golden. Drain the tin of tomatoes (keep the juice), and add them to the pan, the add the chillies and ginger and fry.

Put the chicken, salt, spices and chilli flakes into the pan and cook over a fairly high heat. Keep turning the chicken and continue to cook until the meat is sealed and browned and the liquid has evaporated. Add the juice from the can of tomatoes and about 450ml of water, bring the the boil and simmer over a medium heat for 15 minutes or until the chicken is tender. Add the fresh tomatoes about three minutes before the end of the cooking time.

Sprinkle with fresh coriander and bay leaves to serve

Sweet Lentil Daal

250g green lentils
2 bay leaves
1.2 litres of water
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp garam masala
salt, to taste
2 - 3 tsp sugar
2 tsp butter
5 cardamon pods
1 tsp cumin seeds
5 cloves
1 stick of cinnamon
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1 - 2 dried red chillies
3 heaped tsp flaked coconut

In a large pan place the lentils, tumeric and bay leaves in a pan with the water, measured. Bring to the boil and simmer for almost an hour, or until soft. Add extra water if necessary. Stir in the coriander and garam masala, salt and sugar to taste. Cook until the lentils are completely soft and beginning to break up a little.

Heat the butter in a small pan. Fry the cardamon pods, cumin, cloves, cinnamon, mustard seeds and chillies for 30 seconds. Add the coconut and cook until it turns golden, then pour the mixture over the lentils. Stir in or leave to stir at the table.

Serve both dishes with chapatis, naan and / or rice. Little E if you read this, guest post me a recipe for naan? I'd love to learn how to make it. :-)

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