The St. Cloud Community meets Him in preparing and serving a meal to strangers
“I remember, it was a day like any other.” These are the opening words of the song I Pastori (A.Mascagni-G. Clericetti), a song that has been resounding in the frigid air of St. Cloud during the days leading to and following the great celebration of Christmas. This song recounts what happened to some shepherds, who were going about their daily routine when something happened to them. They heard a voice that instructed them to go to Bethlehem, where something extraordinary had happened.
This story continues and stretches all the way to December 26, 2021, when our community, urged on by one person’s desire to do charitable work, prepared and served the “Community Meal” at St. Mary’s Cathedral in St. Cloud, Minnesota.
Churches of various denominations take turns hosting for those in need of a hot meal every Sunday. We extended the invitation to the whole CL community, inviting everyone to come share the meal with those in need and to sing Christmas carols following dinner. Much thought and consideration went into deciding to organize such a gathering, especially due to the concern for the high numbers of Covid cases in the state of Minnesota. The decision was made to host this event while adhering to all infection prevention rules. A few people gathered beforehand in the kitchen at St. Mary’s to cook and prepare the meal. Some of the older children from our families expressed a desire to lend a hand and took part in the preparation by setting the tables with care, with a special attention to beauty, as though it was a meal in one of our own homes.
During the afternoon, several friends from the CL Community came in to help get everything ready, continually paying attention to every little detail. When the time came to begin serving the meal, there was only one man who was eagerly waiting to eat. As we stood by the serving station, nervously hoping that some more people would show up, our hearts were filled with expectation and joy. Even if only one person ended up coming to the meal, all this effort would have been for him, and it would have been worth it. Our initiative wasn’t born from a search for a positive outcome that would make us feel good. It was the direct result of the overflowing love, joy and gratitude we have felt and continue to experience in our lives from having met God in the flesh.
Roughly 40 people came to eat the meal that we had so lovingly and joyfully prepared. It was sweet to greet each person by saying “Merry Christmas!” Everyone enjoyed the meal and expressed gratitude to the servers. We invited all the participants to stay and sing with our community. One middle aged woman and her three teenage kids joined us, and it was moving to see them singing their hearts out while sitting right next to many friends from the St. Cloud CL Community.
The words of our songs and the passion of our voices expressed joy for the great news that God is with us. The announcement first proclaimed by the angels reverberated through the ages and reached this small group. It was echoed in the meal we prepared and served, as well as in the songs we sang. This moment of charity was the direct result of the event of Christmas, which we had celebrated the day before. All those who worked to make the meal and evening possible left filled with gratitude for the fact that God came to find us in order to let us know that He loves us and, therefore, that life is beautiful.
December 26th was a day like any other, but just like the day when the shepherds followed the star and found Jesus, we also saw Him in the smiling faces of those hungry strangers and in the voices of our friends.
Veronica, St. Cloud, MN