Friday, March 27, 2009

A Feast for Br. Admire

On Wednesday March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation, we welcomed a young man, Admire, as a novice. We had a beautiful Mass in the morning, then during the course of the morning decided that we wanted to fix a feast for him. We told the paid cook to take the day off and be our guest along with the other 15 workers and residents who live with the Brothers at Angler's Rest. Br. Bhekimpilo is a terrific cook, and I have aspirations in that way too, so we planned a menu and I set off to the stores with two helpers to carry the provisions while the rest stayed behind to set tables and clean the kitchen. Of course we had to change the menu after we got to the market since our fantasies and reality did not correlate.

I made beef soup with peas, pasta and tomatoes for the first course, Br. Bheki made roast chicken and a cake. Others fried potaoes, cooked rice, sliced tomatoes and African cucumbers (seedy, tangy things with huge spikey knobs in their flesh), and greens for stewing. It was holy chaos, dear to my heart. Working on a huge wood burning stove, under a dim flickering light and without running water, I felt it was an heroic effort.

When we finally sat down, brothers, workers, and other residents of the friary--18 of us--a marvelous transformation began to happen. At first we were quiet and ate our soup. But they LIKED the soup and began to talk. When we got to the chicken and rice and potatoes (Zimbabwe is the land of 2 starches minumum if you have them) everyone was talking at once. After the miraculous cake and a shot of cane liquor people were high fiving each other and laughing uproariously.

It remined me of Babette's Feast, a terrific film from the 1980's. The brothers have been struggling, and during my visit we have worked very hard on many issues affecting their life. In addition there has been the struggle to simply live. The message of the angel to Mary called us all to say "YES" to our life, yes to each other. Since the party we have all noticed a remarkable lightness and hope among us. There is still much to do, but we are working in a new way.

In many ways, I think of Angler's Rest friary as a bit of Fawlty Towers in Zimbabwe. There are so many people around, trying to be involved. It is a real balancing act for the brothers. Yet there are manic moments of sheer hilarity.

In addition to the feast, we spent a day this past week harvesting beans. I got burned to a crisp in the sun. We picked 150 kilos of dried beans! They hope it will keep them alive if the markets dry up again. We hiked to the top of a nearby mountain, forded rivers, and visited neighbors.

The only remindeer that we are in a very distressed society was the reaction when I pulled out as book about Robert Mugabe I brought with me from South Africa. Everyone wanted to read it immediately. But first it was covered in brown paper, and I was told to get rid of it if a policeman came around...


Jen said...

Hello Brother Clark
It's jen from the JNB ZRH flight... googled you and shall follow your blog!
Hope things are good in Assisi.

Brother Clark said...

Hi Jen

Good to hear from you!I enjoyed talking with you

Happy Easter