Corpus Christi Blog

How Can a Pizzeria Be Like a Parish?

10-06-2019Weekly ReflectionFr. Chad King

A few weeks ago I had a dream. Usually I don’t remember my dreams, but this one I think God had me remember for a reason. I was somewhere other than Phoenix, as I recall it being cold.

I was going into a pizza and pasta restaurant with a couple of friends late at night. I was a priest, but I was wearing my casual clothes. We were the only ones in the restaurant as it was getting ready to close, but I knew the owner and he was OK with us coming in so late to eat. After we had been served, a homeless man came in asking the owner if he had any scraps of food he could give him. I overheard the conversation and saw that the owner was a little annoyed at the request and was about ready to turn him away. I motioned to the owner that I would buy him a meal. The homeless man barely looked up and nodded as to thank me. I smiled and nodded back then rejoined my friends and our conversation. A little bit later, I got up for some reason and noticed that the owner hadn't closed yet. I saw several other homeless people eating dinner too, and I realized that the owner decided to feed the other homeless people as well. I went over to him and shook his hand saying that he was doing a good thing and, knowing that when I went to pay our bill, I would give more to cover the cost of the first homeless man I said I'd pay for, I would also add a little more to help pay for the others who came in afterwards. One of my friends had noticed the other homeless people come in and the owner say something to each one of them. I looked around and there were about eight people sitting at various tables of the restaurant happily scarfing their food. My friend suggested that they were probably all sleeping in the abandoned building next door. We started discussing how sad that the guy or company who had bought the abandoned building to develop it didn't even know that he would be putting some homeless people out to try and find some other place for shelter from the cold wind.

Suddenly, a family of six came in and went to sit down at a table. The owner, again annoyed, came over and said "Sorry, we are closed." The dad stood up, looked around, saw the open sign and the people eating. He thought about asking why, but realized it was late at night and not worth the confrontation. He motioned for his family to get up and follow him out. The owner went back behind the counter into the kitchen. Recognizing what had happened, I went back and talked to the owner and helped him to realize that they were just a family who had come in for a late bite to eat but who would pay. I told him that he was probably the only restaurant still open and the family happened to see it. My friends and I went out to find the family. The mother and the two younger children were waiting by their car and said that her husband and older boys had gone in to the gas station for some snacks. At that time, the husband and two teenage boys came out. They recognized we were from the restaurant. They said that they were a family on vacation, just driving through, and were hungry.

I apologized for the owner pushing them out of the restaurant. We had explained to him the whole misunderstanding and he said he would let them eat if they came back. As we walked back into the restaurant with the family behind us, the owner came up to meet them, apologized, and shook hands with the father. I explained to the family that the restaurant was about to close when my friends and I came in, but then a homeless man came in asking for scraps, and I told the owner I would buy him a meal. Moved with compassion, the owner then told the homeless man to invite the other homeless people who were staying in the abandoned building next door. “When your family came in he thought you were just taking advantage of him and were expecting a free meal,” I told the father. Upon hearing the explanation, the father noticeably became at ease and smiled. The owner said that he would be glad to take their order. As the owner turned to get the menus, I added to the father, "if you are able to add a little extra on top of what you pay for your bill to help him cover some of the meals of the homeless people, I know he would greatly appreciate it as he's barely getting by right now." I put enough money down on the table for our bill, along with an extra $20 and on the way out, I told the family to enjoy their dinner and vacation. Then I woke up.

During my morning prayer, I remembered the dream which, as I mentioned, is unusual for me. So I asked God if there is a reason. I reflected on if I would offer to buy the homeless man a meal, hoping I would if put in that situation. Then I also realized, that this is what tithing is.

So I ask you to imagine that you were the family in that situation — you are on vacation — would you give a little extra money to help cover the restaurant’s expenses for the homeless people’s meals? The Church, and every parish, is like that restaurant. It gives out of our own resources to serve the poor and most in need. Do you help the Church to do what we are called to do by your tithing?