Dear Good People of Saint Mary,
Do you remember what it felt like when we were kids and summer was ending? There was always a kind of sadness as the days got darker but also an abiding warmth about gathering closer to family and other people as the weather turned cooler and we left behind that summer independence as we returned to home and community, and school.
One of the things we looked forward to, as children, was the fall carnival. It is one of the strongest memories of community that I recall in my life. We would go out into the early evening and there would be lights strung across the parking lot at St. Francis Xavier Church in Kansas City, MO, twinkling welcome. There would be a lot of people who braved the first chill in the air of autumn, who came out for bingo under the tent, or to try out the various booths of games where you could win that prize that you never wanted so much as you did at that moment. Ice cream was always served.
And there was the cakewalk.
Someone (I always figured it was Monsignor, himself) had literally painted a numbered path on the parking lot and people lined up to take their chance on winning a cake.
You see, you follow this magical path and when the big band music stopped, if your
number was called, you won a cake. It was better than the lottery. You looked at the array of beautiful cakes and got to choose. This was, as far as I was concerned, the foretaste of heaven.
Of course, our family brought a cake too—everyone did—because that was the price of
admission. Mom’s cake was always one of the first to be picked, even though they just looked like the ones we often had at home. She made this kind of chocolatey-licious cake with sour milk that is still my favorite today.
As I think back on these memories I’m sure I’ve idealized the whole thing, as a child will do. But it is so great that regardless of what that church carnival actually was, the feeling of it has stayed with me to this day as one of my favorite memories. It is that feeling that you can’t replace when you begin to feel like you don’t belong, or are drifting a little. It is comfort to know that somewhere, the church lights are still on.
So now you know, if you were wondering, “Why a cakewalk?” I’m always amazed at how many people have never been to one.
Of course, the fact that cake goes so well with ice cream gives us another clue. The ice cream social finds its fulfilment in the cakewalk, and it leads us to share our prizes. It is funny how often people win their cake and run for the door, taking it home. (Here is a secret, maybe it will catch on this year: once a cake is won, it is meant to be something you can share with others.) Suddenly there is ice cream and cake for everybody, which help us to see how well we are suited for one another, too. You can use cake and ice cream as a model for how community can form and people can complement each other.
So don’t miss our parish cakewalk, and dance, and ice cream social next weekend. Come in your dancing shoes. There are a few events each year that can bring all of us together and this is a good one. Yes, it happens out at Holy Cross in the afternoon on Sunday (I guess people don’t like to go out in the evening anymore) and it is still late summer so the sun is still high and it is plenty hot. But all the ingredients for good memories are still present, and I hope it can serve as a moment when you realize that the community of the Church is still at the heart of who we are.
Now that I think about it, maybe we should add Bingo out on the soccer field. Maybe next year.
There is no charge, this is a present to all of you in our parish family. No charge, of course, unless you’d like to bake an amazing cake and bring it for some kid to win and, hopefully, share.
God bless you.