At many Catholic parishes, Soup Supper is a Friday night tradition during Lent, immediately before or after Stations of the Cross. At my parish, a different group provides the meal each week. Along with rolls and water, the soup makes a simple Friday meal.
People start to trickle into the cafeteria a few minutes before 6:00, shaking off the damp and cold. Children run and shriek, dodging adults who stand in clumps, chatting and waiting for Father Harris to give the blessing. Finally it is time, and there is a stampede toward the three long tables dotted with crock-pots. Meatless soups all, but hardly austere: clam chowder, broccoli cheese, potato, vegetable, even a crock-pot of Spaghettios for the kids.
Families line the long cafeteria tables, children in rows like ducklings. Clusters of old folks smile over their soup bowls. Singles wedge themselves in here and there, wherever they can find a spot.
These soup suppers bring us back to the center of our Lenten practices of fasting and almsgiving. The extras are stripped away, and we are reminded of the satisfaction of just enough. A hot bowl of soup and the pleasure of gathering as a community fill us. After the simple meal, donations for local charities are tossed into buckets at each table. Then the exodus begins. Coats are gathered and children are rounded up. Volunteers clear the tables. Many hands make light work, and soon the lights are turned off. Warmed and fed, the last few people head out into the night.