In our Blackapino home – we are often mixing our flavors and our foods to match our family’s bi-racial background. I grew up on a steady diet of Filipino food such as Pancit, chicken adobo, and my dad’s Pinakbet. My husband on the other hand grew up eating collard greens, red beans and rice and his mama’s seafood gumbo. In Filipino cooking – we’re about the onions, garlic, and ginger for fragrance. There are things I’m coming to learn about soul food that are very new to me. I’m learning the necessary combination is what’s called the Holy Trinity – bell peppers, onions, and celery. Certain dishes don’t work unless all three ingredients are popping, right?
Now our Lenten journey is a different kind of feast where I propose our Holy Trinity – are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. And I know some folks really relate to food and cooking and others are happy to just receive what’s made.
These next several weeks we are asked to turn back to the Lord. There’s the great song “Hosea" with the lyrics – “Come back to me with all your heart. Don’t let fear keep us apart.” That fear is real when it comes to our relationship to God, isn’t it? I know I’m always asking myself ‘Am I doing enough? Do I need to step it up?’ – that line echos throughout almost everything I do.
And often times when Lent rolls around - I’m a list maker with so many ideas and plans. I know parishes really work hard to invite people back into their spaces. And sometimes I find ‘all the things’ over whelming because it’s just too much to keep up with. But we hear in Joel that "For gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness"…Slow to anger. What’s there to fear with someone who is slow to anger and rich in kindness? I imagine nothing. There’s nothing to fear.
These ingredients of prayer, almsgiving and fasting are set in a such a way to help prepare our hearts and minds on this Lenten journey. Our almsgiving needs to be done in a way that our left hand can’t know what our right hand is doing. Our prayer is to be done in a way where we go to our inner room, close the door and pray to God in secret. Our fasting means we anoint our head and wash our face, so that you may not appear to be fasting.
Maybe these actions combined are the secret sauce to a transformative Lent. Now, I’m going to take this just a step further and encourage you to think about what it would mean for you to help others find their secret sauce for Lent? Where could you give of yourself so others may experience a deeply moving Lenten journey? Is it getting up earlier during the week to do household things to help your partner or spouse ease into the day while they take a moment for private prayer? Is it helping someone in your community get to a service or Mass once during these 40 days? Is it taking some of your lunch money and putting it toward a fund that is donated to a local food bank?
I’m going to go back to that image of a kitchen and food – because we’re talking about Ash Wednesday and maybe talking about fasting and food just makes sense. Often times when I’m in the kitchen making a complex dish it’s very messy. My husband teases me because often times every pot and dish are used when I’m cooking. And it’s in that messiness that these beautiful meals of Seafood Gumbo and Pinakbet are created. Both dishes have complex flavors and textures of okra, shrimp, and tomatoes. Both have different aromatics for their base – and both are beautiful and dare I say messy. How do you believe God is inviting you into a Lenten journey that is uniquely beautiful and uniquely yours? What is God calling you back to?
How will your heart make its way home?
Come back to me with all your heart
Don’t let fear keep us apart
Trees do bend though straight and tall
So must we to others call
Long have I waited for
Your coming home to me
And living deeply our new life
Clarissa V. Aljentera
Clarissa V. Aljentera
Clarissa V. Aljentera (she/her) is a second-generation Filipina American born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is passionate about engaging Catholic Social Teaching in various aspects of her life. She is interested in the intersections of Anti-Asian Hate alongside systemic racism and, in particular, the role that solidarity plays among Black and Asian communities.
Clarissa is the Director of Education for Justice with the Ignatian Solidarity Network. She has worked in various ministries, including faith formation, marriage and family, racial justice, college campus ministry, and young adult. She teaches an occasional virtual summer class at Boston College School of Theology and Ministry on Anti-Racist Ministry in a Catholic Context.
Clarissa is the author of ‘The Parish Guide to Social Media’ (2013) and ‘Wonderfully Made’ (2019), published by Twenty-Third Media. She is a freelance writer with material appearing in National Catholic Reporter, U.S. Catholic, The Grotto Network, Busted Halo, Columbia Journalism Review, and America magazine.
She finished her MA in pastoral ministry from Boston College School of Theology and Ministry and her B.S. in journalism from San Jose State University.
Before working in ministry, Clarissa spent ten years as a newspaper reporter covering sports, education, and crime. Home for Clarissa is Chicago, Illinois, where she lives with her husband and son. Clarissa has enjoyed performing improv comedy in Chicago for more than a decade.
You can connect with her on https://clarissaaljentera.com/ or find her on Instagram - @nanaydiggs
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