Cheese sandwiches and Father Martin Schratz
How do I say goodbye to the priest who has touched my soul? While every priest I have encountered on my journey has taught me something about my faith, two priests in particular have left an indelible mark on my spirit. Capuchin Franciscan Father Martin Schratz is one of those priests. Let me share how Father Martin has touched my life by recounting a homily, not too long ago, that Father Martin gave at Our Lady of Consolation Church. I call it "Cheese Sandwiches."
A family in Europe could not find work. The parents decided to come to the U.S., for they had heard there were many jobs available here. Though the decision was difficult, they sold everything and purchased the tickets for the entire family to come to America. The mother packed the few clothes they owned, then made cheese sandwiches to carry them through their journey across the ocean. Cheese and bread were the only thing they could afford, and she wanted to make sure her family would not go hungry. Day in and day out, the family sat down in their cabin to thank God for their voyage to American and for their cheese sandwiches. After a while, the youngest son, 6 or 7 years old, became tired of eating cheese sandwiches. He asked his father to give him 10 cents to buy an ice cream cone. The son had seen other children eating ice cream on deck and he wanted some, too. The father had a limited amount of money to spare, but he gave his son 10 cents to buy the ice cream cone. A few minutes later, the son came running, out of breath, shouting to his parents. When he had calmed down and was able to breathe, he explained that the ice cream cone was free and there was a huge banquet table on the ship filled with everything imaginable to eat. The best part was, it was free – all free! The food was included in the price of their voyage to the U.S. In his homily, Father Martin explained this is how some of us live our Catholic faith – eating cheese sandwiches, not realizing that Jesus paid the price of the voyage and all the "food" we want is free.
This homily touched me. Jesus paid a very hefty price for every morsel of food on the Banquet table. And because I love Him, I want it all: Baptism, reconciliation, penance, first Communion, confirmation, prayers, anointing of the sick, daily Mass, daily Communion, Eucharistic Adoration, stewardship, talents, tithing, time, Cursillo, charismatic prayer groups, Bible study, RCIA, renewal, Franciscan, Jesuit and Marianist spirituality ... I could go on and on and on. I, for one, will never be able to eat another cheese sandwich again, not when I have the Banquet, the Ceremonial Meal paid and waiting for me each and every day in my Catholic faith.
Thanks to Father Martin, I have not been able to look at a cheese sandwich the same way ever again! I love you, Father Martin. May Our Blessed Lord Jesus keep you safe and fill you with many blessings. Thank you for all you have shared and taught me. I pray I have been a good student, and may I pay it forward by being Jesus to all who I encounter on this voyage, until we meet again.
Carmen Pantoja-Perez is a member of Our Lady of Consolation Church in Charlotte.
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