HEARERS OF THE WORD: Rituals of food, water and family offer comfort

Weekends on the lake were wonderful. We rose late and ate fruit from the cooler. The fruit was cold and firm and sweet and we drank cold juice and mother and dad drank instant coffee. We prayed together, then we walked about, stretching our legs and yawning in the hours before the sun grew oppressive and the water was still and smooth.
Mother drove to the store for fresh ice to put in the cooler over the milk and the cold cuts and the few other groceries that would get us through the long weekend.
Before pushing the boat back out of the soft mud we prepared the smoker. Dad poured in as much charcoal as the bottom pan would hold then put water and hickory chips in the top pan and finally the roast on the grill then he lit the charcoal and fastened on the lid and we were off.
We passed hours swimming, fishing, dragging each other behind the boat on skis. We tied off on a sand bar. We lay in the sand and let the murky waters lap over us like we were driftwood. We harassed crawfish with slimy, waterlogged sticks and examined the charred remains of other people’s campfires.
At midday we returned to camp and ate cold sandwiches and potato chips and replenished the charcoal in the smoker. Dad smoked his pipe and mother read and my brother and I walked barefoot over the hot pavement to the vending machine for Hershey’s Bars. Then it was back to the water.
In the evening we returned with our skin feeling tight and radiant and feeling a bit feverish and very tired and with the slosh of the water still sounding in our ears.
Mother peeled and boiled potatoes and mashed them with milk and mayonnaise and butter from the cooler and a bit of garlic. The pork that had cooked all day was beautiful and succulent with an oily, tanned skin and it smelled sweet and hearty like the midway of a county fair.
Mother carved the roast in thick, juicy slices and we ate it on paper plates with the mashed potatoes and cold slices of tomato with salt and drank soda and milk and there never was a finer meal served on earth.
Our hunger was ravenous and we ate like working men then we lounged in folding chairs and listened to the radio.
Sunday morning we showered in the unpleasant campground showers and put on jeans and sought out the local Catholic Church.
Mass among strangers always seemed strange before I learned that Mass is Mass whether you’re in Tupelo or Tel Aviv. As the years passed we hit every Catholic Church anywhere near a lake in Northeast Mississippi and the strangeness and the universality grew in my mind in direct proportion.
Today, no matter where I am, in a strange town or my home church, the rituals of water, and nature, and food and family, comfort me.

Contact Daily Journal religion editor Galen Holley at 678-1510 or galen.holley@djournal.com.

Galen Holley/NEMS Daily Journal

Click video to hear audio