Starting Point
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Issue Date:  March 10, 2006

Starting Point


In the tiny and financially strapped parish where I worked, my office was the southwest corner of the pastor’s dining room. There, wedged between a bookcase and the wall, was the little desk where I made my phone calls and compiled my reports to send to the archdiocese, past which parishioners streamed all day for their appointments with Father. Several afternoons a week retired women took over the dining room table to assemble the coming Sunday’s bulletin or to sort through donations.

Whenever I needed a bit of a break, I would make myself a cup of coffee and take it over to the church, passing easily from rectory to the sanctuary via the little breezeway connecting the two. There, sitting toward the back in a musty old pew, nursing my warm drink, I drank in both coffee and silence thick and sweet with the spiritual residue of years of prayers offered within those walls.

Since then, coffee for me has become a sort of sacramental for the holy. One sip -- anytime, anywhere -- and I am transported into a state of inner peace reminiscent of my days huddled over a hot cup in the back pew of All Saint’s.

The warm liquid is balm for both body and spirit, and the time set aside to focus on drinking it is a reminder to stop frequently throughout the day, and simply enjoy and ponder the wonder of God and of being alive. A cup of coffee can be a call to prayer -- a call to focus on and remember the higher purpose of this life, those things that go beyond phone calls and the paper shuffle.

Karen O’Brien writes from Chicago.

National Catholic Reporter, March 10, 2006

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