From Chicken Soup for the Latino Soul

Feeding the Soul

My parents are not educated. On my mother’s side of the family, we are third-generation Texans. My father’s parents were from Spain, and he was born in Mexico. Both my parents were very religious and active in the Catholic Church. We couldn’t afford to go to Catholic school, but we went to daily Mass in the same way we brushed our teeth. In the evening, we would pray the rosary together as a family, and if our friends came around, Catholic or not, they too were included in our family rituals.

I recall one morning I overslept and was the only one in the family who missed Mass. It was a weekday, so I didn’t think much of it. However, I knew my father would be waiting in his pickup that evening (as he was known to do for those of us who overslept in the morning). Since I knew I was the only one who hadn’t gone, I didn’t think my father would “bother;” but a few minutes before the evening Mass at our local church, I heard my father’s knock on my door.

“Chela, didn’t you oversleep this morning?” he asked.

“Yes,” I replied, “but, Dad, I have a lot of homework, and I don’t think I’ll be going to Mass today.”

I thought the issue was resolved (and way too easily) when my father responded compassionately, “Oh, I see. You have homework. Okay.”

He started to walk away, and I thought, Wow! That was easy. I actually didn’t think his response was too out-of-place. Since none of my siblings had ever challenged going to Mass on a daily basis, we really didn’t know how he would react. Hey, I thought, we really don’t have to go. I felt somewhat of a heroine, one who had rescued my other siblings from having to attend daily Mass.

But my father hadn’t really left.

“So, you have a lot of homework?” he continued to ask.

“Yes,” I justified, as I showed him my assignments.

“Okay,” he replied, maintaining his interest. “I know now what you studied in school today, so I know you learned something, thus you’ve fed your mind. What did you have for lunch?”

I replied, telling him as much of the school menu as I recalled.

“That’s wonderful!” he said. “I know you fed your mind because you have told me what you learned today at school. I know you fed your body, for you have given me the day’s menu. Have you fed your soul today?”

That’s all he had to say. I followed him to his pickup and attended Mass. But even more than that, I began to take seriously my father’s lesson that I should spend as much time feeding my soul as the rest of me.

My father’s lesson that day made me who I am. I went on to combine feeding my mind, body and soul by pursuing graduate degrees in theology, and to this day, I have always worked in ministry positions.

Thanks to my father, when I wake up in the morning, the first question I ask myself is: “How will you feed your soul today?”

Chela González

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