Magazine article U.S. Catholic

The Common Cup

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

The Common Cup

Article excerpt

Wake up and smell the miraculous cups of church coffee.

OUR WEEKLY MASS HERE IN OREGON CONCLUDES, as many do in America, with personal remarks from the pastor and then a last blessing and a cheerful final song and procession down the aisle and then a melting of the congregation from the pews into the bright capacious lobby, where we gather anew around another table--this one graced not by the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, but by the dough nuts and coffee from the local supermarket, courtesy of (I kid you not) the parish's Doughnut and Coffee Committee.

To the sugar-encrusted crullers and bear-claws and maple bars my children fly like arrows, and soon they, too, are sugar-encrusted, and reaching for seconds and accidentally eating parts of their napkins and chasing other children through the thicket of their parents' legs.

Meanwhile, their parents have gone to the common well and from it drawn a most interesting elixir, the liquid that more than any other is the common (burned) tongue of American Catholicism: coffee. Ubiquitous but generally unremarkable, absorbed by many but the absorption of very few, church coffee is, I believe, both the ground--or grounds--on which so many congregations stand together and the energizing lifeblood of parish life.

Consider: Coffee is what we drink together after Mass. It is served after Baptisms, First Communions, weddings, Confirmations. It is served at wakes and after funerals. It is served at parish-council meetings, at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in the church basement, at parish school board meetings, at bingo games, at the annual dance, the annual raffle, the annual welcoming-new-parishioners potluck.

It is served and spilled so often that there are hundreds if not thousands of church basements and lobbies and rectory and auditorium kitchens, in which the aroma of decades of coffee infuses the very walls. Even sacristies can develop the smell of the boisterous bean; I think of the sacristy in which I spent my altar-boy years, a room that smelled wonderfully of cigars, coffee, incense, candles, red wine, book dust, and starched linen--a particular combination of flavors that no other faith can offer. …

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