Bread baking has always been one of my favorite hobbies. It all started way back in elementary school when I belonged to our local 4H club in Brandon. At about ten years of age, I was scheduled to give a demonstration on bread baking in Alexandria as part of my 4H program. One day when my parents were scheduled to be gone for a few hours, I thought that this was my chance to do some practicing and independent bread baking. As soon as the dust settled on the road and my parent’s car was out of sight, I gathered my ingredients, my bowls and spoons and went to work. Strangely, my bread was not turning out like my mothers. I was very upset and disappointed. I decided I had best find a place to get rid of the mountain of stubborn dough before they returned home. I went out to the pasture with my huge bowl and a wooden spoon. I carefully scraped all the dough into a small dip in the pasture, hoping I would never see it again. I covered it with a bit of grass to camouflage it. Later that night I was feeling so guilty I needed to go out into the pasture. To my surprise three chickens were stuck in my dough.
Since those early years, I have learned a lot about bread baking. I have had many successes, a few failures and a lot of satisfied guests. Bread baking has great advantages. When one bakes, one stays at home for at least a four to five hour stretch. Of course, I like this. The Franciscan Welcoming House has a big kitchen and lots of elbow room to bake. I get a lot of thinking and praying time when I bake bread. And yes, sometimes reconciliation work takes place when I am kneading the dough and getting out some life frustrations. The temperature of the room, the age of the yeast and flour all make a difference to a baker. And when it comes to the actual end product, there is no fragrance like freshly baked bread. It can fill the house. During this holiday season, bread takes on every kind of twist, look and texture. It is used in gift giving, fine dining and in casual settings.
During this beautiful season of Advent, we remember the coming and birth of Jesus in history. This feast was very dear to Francis of Assisi so much so that he re-created the crib scene in Grecchio. During this Advent time, we remember also how Jesus said he would stay with us always in the breaking of the bread. May the gift of earthly and Heavenly Bread fill our hearts and souls this Advent.