Growing up in a catholic family we spent a lot of time in church around Easter. Stations of the Cross, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and of course, Easter Sunday. But there was one church event that I particularly enjoyed because I would go with my grandma. It was ‘blessing of the food’ and it was all fine and dandy, until it wasn’t.
Preparing your food basket for blessing is an art. You must select the correct basket, fancy doily, and of course, the right foods. You arrange everything in the basket and head off to church. The ‘head off to church’ part was a problem one year when I shut grandma’s fingers in the car door. Guess I was just anxious to get there. Plus, I still was pretty spry because I had not yet fallen and torn up my knees as I did every year around Easter.
We used to take the baskets into the church basement until one of the Sisters had a mishap on the steps-then it got moved to the chapel side of the main church. The smell of food from 50 or so baskets permeated the large room and it was glorious. It was one of the main reasons why I liked this church event so much!
After opening your basket on a pew, you knelt down, said a few prayers, and waited for the priest to come and bless the food. After he read the prayers from his prayer book and sprinkled holy water on everything, you retrieved your basket, went home, and ate blessed food for the next week-being careful to properly dispose of any uneaten pieces by burning or burying them.
So, now that you have an idea of what happens during this catholic ritual I can get to the real story of why, after 50 years of enjoying this event, I am scarred by it. It goes like this-I did all of the preliminary work-I prepared the basket with all the right things and I headed off to the church. Grandma is no longer with us so my husband stood in. We were one of only three families there to get our food basket blessed. Hmmm, times sure have changed. And where is that smell? That glorious smell of all the food permeating the church? Guess that doesn’t happen with 3 baskets and the store-bought bread that was in mine. Back in the day, everything was homemade.
The priest came out holding his priestly book and began to say a prayer. He then reached over and handed me the book from which only priests should read and said, “Read, right here” as he pointed at the page. I looked back at him like a deer in the headlights and said to myself, “What? I am not a church reader. I can’t be a church reader. I vowed I would never be a church reader because of that one word. What if that word is in here? Should I pull the old, ‘I decline to read at this time’ just like I did in college chemistry class when asked to read one hungover Monday morning?” My deer-eyes darted back and forth between the book and the priest. “What do I do? This is supposed to be my special Easter event-the one I remember so fondly, the one I did with grandma. Why are your ruining it with reading?” As everyone stood staring I me I decided I had no choice-It’s church, he’s a priest, obey and read. And I did. The next year the priest at that catholic church stopped blessing baskets and no, it wasn’t because I said genitals instead of Gentiles-at least I don’t think.