By Kelly Wahlquist
On Monday, at the Archbishop Harry J. Flynn Catechetical Institute, we had a pre-party in honor of St. Teresa of Avila, the patron saint of the newest catechetical class. The Church celebrates St. Teresa ‘s feast day on Thursday, Oct. 15, but since class meets on Mondays, we celebrated early. Thinking of the class coordinator picking up trays of decorated cookies at Sam’s Club for St. Teresa’s soirée brought back a memory that made me smile.
A few years ago, I was scheduled to speak at a parish on September 8. Knowing that this is the day we honor the Blessed Mother’s birthday, I half-jokingly said to my friends, “Hey, should we have a birthday party for Our Lady?” My friend Rita ran with the idea.
Rita planned a little birthday party in honor of the Mother of God for 4,500 families—not a small undertaking. For the record, when you talk about charisms, Rita oozes the gift of hospitality. So much so, she invited everyone to be part of the party! She met with the Liturgy Committee, choir, Knights of Columbus, Spanish Liturgy Committee, Our Lady of Perpetual ministries, and of course, her priest. Not sure if that was her gift of hospitality shining or the way Catholics rope in people to volunteer! Either way, it worked, and many gifts came together to create a marvelous celebration for the Queen of Heaven.
All of this was impressive enough, but when the Lord saw Rita joyfully working in her gifts, guess what? He took her humble gift and multiplied it! Through Rita’s effort to do something special for Our Lady and her parish community, God used her as a vessel to invite those who may not know Christ—much less His mother—into a relationship with Jesus.
Though she may not have seen the tedious job of picking up cupcakes at Sam’s Club as an opportunity to evangelize, the Holy Spirit did. Three times on the cupcake pick-up excursion Rita was asked if the 500 cupcakes were for a wedding, and she joyfully responded, “No, they are for the Blessed Mother’s Birthday.” You can imagine the looks exchanged and the great conversations started at the sound of those words … And with each explanation came an invitation to the best feast of all—the wedding feast of the Lamb. Rita invited the Sam’s Club employees to Mass (and to a birthday party afterward)!
God also used this birthday celebration to teach the littlest among us how to live the Gospel. As the children left the church to hear the Gospel read to them at the children’s Gospel time, they had to walk past a table of beautifully-decorated, scrumptious-looking cupcakes … and not touch one! The Gospel on Sunday was about carrying your cross. You’d be hard pressed to find a bigger cross for a wide-eyed, hungry 5-year-old than a tower of untouchable cupcakes with mountains of frosting!
After all was said and done, crosses endured became blessings, as chocolate crumbs littered the floor and blue frosting stained little teeth. Various committees got to be of service to their parish family, and workers at Sam’s Club found themselves pondering the birth of the Mother of God, a thought that no doubt did what our perfect Mother always does—pointed them to contemplate a relationship with her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Pope Francis tells us, “We evangelize not with grand words, or complicated concepts, but with the joy of the Gospel, which fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus.” Turns out, sometimes cupcakes and cookies are a good starting point for bringing people to Jesus, and filling hearts, and lives … and tummies.