Monday, 30 July 2012

Loving with all the pieces

There is a secret about this blog. Well, it is not that secret. If you were an observant reader, you might already know it. 

The beginning of this blog does not appear at the last point of the timeline. I have back posted old reflections from Lourdes, and topic indexes into that space. No, the beginning of this blog begins with a prayer by St. Alphonsus Liguori. 

I titled the post 'Prepare', and then made a subtitle, 'Beginning a journey into the unknown'. Then there is that prayer, that prayer that haunts me, the one I do not understand, the one I said could only be 'Practiced. Walked. Done. Felt. Definately not understood.'  

For over a year all I wrote about was the stations of the cross, led by St. Alphonsus Ligouri and lit by the shell of St. James. This blog started out as a journey to find out about and understand the road to calvary and beyond. What was it that fascinated the saints, drew them close? 

I couldn't walk, physically, on pilgrimage anymore - I had to work and do other things - but, I could walk in my mind and see events around me as part of a pilgrimage. I could try to see with the eyes of the saints. Everything here is a kind of an homage to the 1st reading of the Feast of St. James, 2 Corinthians 4: 7 - 15.
We are only the earthenware jars that hold this treasure.... power comes from God and not from us. We are in difficulties on all sides, but never cornered; we see no answer to our problems, but never despair; we have been persecuted, but never deserted; knocked down, but never killed; always, wherever we may be, we carry with us in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus.... may be openly shown. 

After 11 months of exploring, looking and listening I wrotethe stations of the cross have a capacity to show people what it means to love with a wounded heart. I stand by that. Christ loved people at their cruellest and most unthinking. People are called to do the same. We may well be responsible for  our actions, but sometimes we cannot and do not see what it is we do. Often we are looking at some other goal and forget to see those closest to us. Everyone seems to suffer this blinkered vision. It gives rise, of course, to those conversations: 'I didn't know you felt that way'; 'I didn't mean to hurt you'; 'It wasn't meant to happen like this'. Heroism, it has been pointed out by someone much wiser than me, is living forgiveness. 'Let's journey on, together...' 

We often hear people declare that they love 'with their whole heart', and indeed, that is the command of the Shema: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind', 'love your neighbour as yourself' (Matt 22: 37 - 40). But, to me at least, hearts that have really loved  have risked enough to be broken - the trick is to love with all the pieces.

August 1st is the feast of St. Alphonsus Ligouri, Doctor of the Church, and an opportunity to raise a glass to him for his challenging, impossible to understand, provocative words. I love him, and his writing because I so often find what he says perplexing and worth mulling over, visiting and revisiting. He holds my attention, not because he is easy, but because he is hard, and I suspect he says things which are true.

As it happens, Alphonsus is also the patron for the year of one of my very good friends, although I am sure he may not even recall his name appearing on a screen at the turn of 2012. Today, I will remember him, his journey and his intentions, and thank him for being my friend. As a scholastic philosopher, theologian and patron of confessors and moralists, he and my friend make good company.

Now, a some food fit for a life long journey, what should it be?

Smoky Pimento Goulash for 8 
(Alphonsus, forgive the fact this is not Italian, but it is good)

1.1kg (2 1/2lb) braising steak
3tbsp olive oil
16 shallots
225g (8oz) chorizo, roughly chopped
1 red chilli, seeded and finely chopped
3 bay leaves
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp plain flour
2 tbsp smoked paprika
700g tomato passata
100ml hot beef stock
salt and ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 170C. Cut the braising steak into large cubes, slightly larger than bite size. Heat the olive oil in heavy casserole pan until very hot. Brown the beef a few cubes at a time until it is deep brown all over. Remove and set aside.

Reduce the heat under the casserole, add the onions, chorizo, chilli, bay leaves and garlic. Fry for 7 - 10 minutes until the onions soften and turn golden brown. Return the meat to the casserole and stir in the flour and paprika. Cook for 1 - 2 minutes, stirring. Add the passata, season, cover and cook in the oven for 2 1/2 hours, or until the beef is meltingly tender. Check halfway through cooking - if the beef looks dry, add hot beef stock.

Serve with minted sour cream: 1 tbsp chopped mint mixed with a small pot of sour cream, and drizzled with olive oil to serve.

Hunky fresh bread is essential and deep red wine. Enjoy the journey.

No comments: