All the talk about cafeteria Catholics has made me push the metaphor to its limits - and perhaps beyond.
We, of course, are restaurant Catholics. That’s not a statement of snobbishness (though I am perhaps something of a snob) but a reflection of a philosophy.
First and foremost, we accept the Table d’hote. Isn’t Host a happy word in that context? One thinks of the Eucharistic Host, of course, and of the Hosts of Heaven, and our Heavenly Host, the Lamb himself.
And the good things the Host offers us at His table are not necessarily those which we would choose, but those which He knows, in His infinite love, are going to be best for us. Remember this is a restaurant and the word restaurant is very rich in this context: restaurer in French means both to take refreshment and to restore.
And then the wine: the cup of charity which we are offered to drink, which both warms and consoles, but also may contain our death: Can you drink of the cup?... Not that it is a poisoned chalice, but because Greater love has no man...
The bishops, then, are head waiters, and the parish priests (pastors if you are American) are waiters, each with a table to serve. Their job is to distribute the goods which the Host has determined are best for the people. The Holy Father, of course, is a sort of kitchen boy - servus servorum Dei - passing on the instructions from the Host to the waiters.
But sometimes we forget this. Too often, we don’t like the wholesome fare offered us, and want to pick other things from a menu to which we have no right. We look across at our neighbours and imagine their food is nicer than ours, not realising that their needs are different. We behave like spoiled children.
Then, there are priests who think their job is to entertain those at their table, not to nourish and restore them. Or they indulge people’s taste for sweets and neglect to point out how they rot their teeth. Or they set up their own skunk kitchens and offer a gloopy mess instead of nourishment.
And the bishops, God bless them!... Some are fantastic, supporting priests and people in their part of the restaurant: translating the menu, helping us to understand the nutritional value of the goods placed before us; encouraging and exhorting, educating and leading by example. But others have fallen for various fads. ‘Have some more justice and peace with your tofu. Don’t worry about those boring vegetables, those strong spices, those unpalatable strong meats....’ Not that there’s anything wrong with justice and peace, or tofu, come to that, but an unremitting diet?...