Sunday, November 21, 2010

Baking Bread as Spiritual Metaphor...Successfully

Once, years ago, I wrong a blog post about about how I envied Michele Obama because she has a nice big staff to tend her organic garden.  I, too, enjoy healthy, fresh organic food, but I am not much of a gardener, and I so wish I could enjoy it and succeed at it.   What drives me crazy about gardens is that it's a never-ending process.  There's always more to do, and often does not look like one has accomplished anything (unlike, say, mowing the lawn, a much more satisfying outdoor task).  

I wrote, "I'm sure there are a lot of metaphors for this. I'm sure there are books for gardeners about how it's like the spiritual life or relationships--if you don't keep up with them every day and root out the weeds every single day, you'll run into problems, blah, blah, blah. But fortunately our good Catholic faith has lots of spiritual charisms and I finally realize that one does not speak to me, or inspires in me more guilt than growth."

So it was with a wee bit of trepidation that I picked up Father Dominic's book, Bake and Be Blessed: Baking Bread As A Metaphor for the Spiritual Life.   I don't have quite the same "issues" with  baking bread as gardening.  But I have never been consistently successful at baking bread or pizza.  As someone who enjoys baking and cooking, I was concerned about reading a book that might equate baking good bread with having a good spiritual life.  Because, just like with gardening, I would be in big trouble with this particular spiritual comparison.  Right now, I need encouragement in my spiritual life, not to be reminded of what I'm doing wrong.

 (I must add here that I have not forgotten the promise this month to try food blogging again, as I plan to make some of the recipes from Father Dominic's excellent new book, Thursday Night Pizza.  The month has been extra hectic in our family, so this will be a late post in the month. )

Bake and Be Blessed has far exceeded my expectations.  It was a very enjoyable read about how we ourselves are like bread, and need to be "blessed, broken and shared" in the world.  Chapters range from "mise en place," about planning our spiritual life like we plan in the kitchen; to "Letting it rise" about the importance of rest and time apart for spiritual growth; and my  favorite, "gather up the crusts" about old age.  In that chapter, Father Dominic's description of a woman's lifelong recipe collection and how it reflected (positively) on her spiritual life brought me to tears.

Bake and Be Blessed  is a great read for this time of year when we are heading into family reunions, and the family cooking and baking traditions of the holidays.  Its connection of bread to the spiritual life are just right.

What spiritual metaphors do you find helpful?  Or not so helpful?   Do you have any books to recommend along these lines?

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