My husband Tim has a knack for creating magnificent meals. In the early years of our marriage, we spent equal time in the kitchen. Even though we had access to the same utensils, appliances, ingredients, and cookbooks, Tim’s cooking skills quickly surpassed mine.
What really distinguishes his skills from mine is his flair for regional cuisines. He can prepare authentic-tasting dishes from regions around the world. He once prepared a smorgasbord that included home-made gravlax (a carefully cured salmon with dill overtones). The meal brought tears to the eyes of a young Swedish friend, because it reminded her of home and family. A few months later, Tim prepared bulgogi (a dish of marinated beef and vegetables) and a variety of banchan (side dishes) for some guests from Korea. The meal was so good that they asked Tim if his mother was Korean. (She was German.)
If being a great cook was just a matter of assembling ingredients and following a recipe, we’d all be masters in the kitchen, right? But I believe Tim’s savoir faire comes from his commitment to making authentic meals that are consistent with traditional methods of preparation. Even before he lifts a knife or lights a burner, he studies the region’s culinary history and recipes so as to understand the essential ingredients. He is careful not to deviate too far from tradition lest his substitutions render the dish unrecognizable.
He reflects upon the people he serves in order to authentically communicate his respect for their culture. He combines knowledge, thoughtful discernment, and skill to make a meal that is more than just authentic—it is celebratory and transformative. It builds trust among those gathered at table, promotes conversation, and strengthens our sense of community.
As catechists, writing and following a good lesson plan (our recipes) and assembling resources (the ingredients) are indeed necessary. But the Guide for Catechists challenges us to be coherent and authentic in our preparation:
The work of catechists involves their whole being. Before they preach the word, they must make it their own and live by it . . . What catechists teach should not be a purely human science nor the sum of their personal opinions but the Church’s faith, which is the same throughout the world, which they themselves live and whose witnesses they are. (8)
Just as a master cook is committed to making a coherent and authentic meal, our lives must be coherent. We should live our lives in a way that is consistent with Sacred Scripture, Tradition, and the teachings of the Magisterium. We must discipline our prayer life so as to “grow interiorly in the peace and joy of Christ . . . [and] be examples of hope and courage.” (Guide for Catechists 8) We must be authentic by practicing what we preach and respecting the people we serve, aware and appreciative of cultural contexts. By this, we become “bearers of paschal joy and hope, in the name of the Church” (8); we will build trust, create pathways to conversion, and strengthen the Christian community.
It’s a recipe for success.
This reflection was inspired by our retreat theme this week: A Coherence and Authenticity of Life. Read Joe Paprocki’s post introducing the theme and reflect with questions and spiritual exercises.