During Advent we often read the story of the loaves and the fishes from the Gospel of Matthew (15:29-37). In the story, Jesus is healing the sick, and huge crowds have gathered. Jesus says, “My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, for they have been with me for three days now and have nothing to eat.”
She ran in the cold from local business to local business asking them if they might have any food to share.
The disciples have only seven loaves of bread and a few fish, but when they break and share them, a miracle happens: There is more than enough food to eat and seven baskets are left over.
When we were in college, my friend Cassie used to cook soup one night a week at The Catholic Worker in downtown South Bend, where poor and homeless people in need of a warm meal or a place to stay, lived in community with Christians committed to the doing the works of mercy.
There was a point that winter when the house was so strapped for cash and food that they were considering closing their doors.
We both agreed that the situation was terrible, but I just assumed there wasn’t anything we could do. We didn’t have any money, at least not enough to make a real difference, but Cassie didn’t see it that way. She decided that we should have a party to raise money for The Catholic Worker. She took it upon herself to ask local restaurants and businesses to donate food and money to the cause.
She didn’t have a car or a way to get off campus, but she was a long distance runner, so she ran in the cold from business to business, asking them if they might have any food to share.
When the day of the party came we charged people to get in the door and there were buckets for donations all over the house, and because this was a Catholic Worker fundraiser, we asked a priest to say Mass. As the Mass was going on more and more cars kept pulling up in front of the house dropping off food and people: 10 extra large pizzas, a bag of day old bagels bigger than any we’d ever seen, 16 large salads, a dozen trays of hot breadsticks, tray after tray of sodas and bottled water, and on and on until every available surface in the house was covered with piles of food and cash. And when it came time to read the Gospel at Mass, it was the story of the loaves and the fishes. We almost started laughing at the serendipity of it, as here we were experiencing a similar miracle. A miracle that had occurred because Cassie had never given up hope.
Everyone ate and drank, talked and danced, late into the night. The house was overflowing with people. Carload after carload of food and donations were driven over to The Catholic Worker. It was a great time and we raised thousands of dollars – enough to make a difference and help keep the doors open – all because Cassie had put on her running shoes and put out her hand. She didn’t just sit around and succumb to a feeling of helplessness; there was too much work to do. She put her nets out into deep water and prepared for a catch.