Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Religion: Husk and Kernel

"When the husk gets separated from the kernel, almost all men run after the husk and pay their respects to that. It is only the husk of Christianity that is so bruited and wide spread in this world; the kernel is still the very least and rarest of all things. There is not a single church founded on it." Henry David Thoreau

This quote is taken from Thoreau's essay, Wild Fruits. We might not like the sound of it, or perhaps we feel the sadness of the charge. But years ago when I went on my How To Be A Pastor workshop, Josephite Sister Kitty Hanley, reflecting upon Church and Eucharist, shared this autobiographical story. A little kernel which carries hope.

Kitty was traveling by bus from Missouri to Arizona (over 1300 miles), on her way to visit two other members of her religious community. These were sisters who were active politically, as advocates for the poor and the marginalized. On the last leg of the journey she arrived at night with a long lay over before catching a mid-morning bus the next day. At five in the morning, when the only other people people in the terminal were the drifters and the homeless, as she sat and waited, she heard the morning TV news that the two nuns she was going to visit had been killed in a car accident. 

Dissolving into tears and sobbing over the news, she suddenly found herself surrounded by the people in the terminal who asked about her sadness. They also knew the two sisters who had championed and loved them. Someone started praying the rosary while others told stories about what they knew of the sisters. A man went off and got Kitty coffee and something to eat.

She said, "These people pulled up power out of their own brokenness and gave it to me." They even refused to let her take the bus for the last part of the trip but got her a ride and accompanied her as a group. "The terminal became a church." she said. "The Word was the sharing of the stories; the food they shared was the Breaking of the Bread." She remembered St. Thomas Aquinas  said that the grace of the sacrament is not limited to the ritual. Here was the Church and the grace of the Eucharist showing itself in a bus terminal among strangers. 


  1. People tend to pull together in times of need. The instinct to nurture and comfort comes out in the face of tragedy.

  2. Yes. Pray religion nourishes that and/or points us in the right direction when our shadowy side threatens to take over.

  3. These kindnesses happened after 9/11. In our brokenness we came together. Our own sadness put aside to help our neighbor. Why do we wait for a tragedy for this to happen?

  4. Blessed are those who comforted Sister Kitty Hanley in her despair. I think of those who cry alone and have no one to help them through their loss and sadness.

  5. We usually define our Catholic-Christianity in terms of the specifically religious things we do and believe in - the creedal things we profess. But maybe in the future, in this weeping world, we'll be known as the people who dry tears.