In the latest issue of The National Catholic Reporter, Bill Frogameni reviews Sara Miles’ book Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion.
I found this review both very refreshing and timely. Why? Well, here in the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis it’s become standard policy to deny communion to Catholics who are considered “the wrong people,” with regards their experiences and views on certain matters related to sexuality.
In particular, I’m thinking of the denial of communion to wearers of the Rainbow Sash, and the denial of communion to attendees of the recent New Ways Ministry Sixth National Symposium on Catholicism and Homosexuality.
Following are excerpts from Frogameni’s review of Take This Bread.
Progressive journalist Sara Miles [pictured below] is in a same-sex marriage. She attends an Episcopalian church where ministers don tie-dyed robes and offer Communion to the unbaptized. But don’t tell the author of Take this Bread: A Radical Conversion she’s not in the mainstream of Christianity, that she’s conjured a theology tailored for her liberal San Francisco sensibilities.
“I don’t feel like I’m making up something convenient. I feel quite rooted in the Christian tradition,” she says in a phone interview.
And that’s a great theme throughout this tightly crafted, joyful memoir of coming to believe that God doesn’t discriminate and grace is for all. “As I interpreted it,” Ms. Miles writes, “Jesus invited notorious wrongdoers to his table, airily discarded all the religious rules of the day, and fed whoever showed up, by the thousands. In the end, he was murdered for eating with the wrong people.”
[Miles] isn’t interested in defining her Christianity in terms of what she’s against. Being Christian is an act of inclusion for her: She’s invited, but so is everyone else -- even other Christians who may despise her on general principle. The bottom line, she says, is that you can’t be Christian by yourself. And so Take this Bread advocates big-tent Christianity in the truest sense of the phrase.
With that in mind, Ms. Miles keeps returning to the idea that being truly Christian has little to do with identity politics, posturing on issues, or “liberal” versus “conservative.” It’s more about hunger and feeding, body and blood -- those things that are most elemental in the human experience. Ms. Miles went to church one day because she was spiritually hungry and found a piece of bread that gave her powerful sustenance. . . .
[W]hile she’s passionately engaged in the debate over the expression of faith, she thinks Christians still have more in common than not. “What sustains us in unity is ultimately not temporal politics or our being able to agree on wording of a resolution as if we’re engaged in a zoning battle,” she says. “We’re sustained by a mystery that notably, as we say, passes human understanding.”
Such poetic reflections are welcome, but Take This Bread really resonates based on the results of the author’s conversion. A year into her new life, the author became inspired to start a food pantry. However, she envisioned a pantry that “wasn’t a social service program but a service, modeled on the liturgy of the Eucharist.” So the pantry was eventually set up in the church itself, groceries placed on the altar, and all manner of persons invited to the table. There was no indoctrination of the needy and little of the structure typically found in a food pantry. The point was not to arbitrate who could come or how many could come, but only to open the doors and trust God would provide. . . .
At its heart, Take this Bread is a story of finding sustenance and passing it on. It’s about what can happen when people ignore the petty trappings of religion and find the central Christian ethos. For the author, it comes down to how one responds to hunger. “The impulse to share food is basic and ancient,” she notes. “It’s no wonder the old stories teach that what you give to a stranger, you give to God.”
To read Bill Frogameni’s review of Sara Miles’ Take This Bread in its entirety, click here.
Image 1: Amazon.com
Image 2: St. Gregory’s Church
See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Trusting God’s Generous Invitation
An Energizing and Spirited Weekend
“Receive What You Are, the Body of Christ” – Reflections on the Eucharist
My Rainbow Sash Experience
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