Lent is a season of fasting, repentance, moderation, self-denial and spiritual discipline. The six-week period that leads to Easter traditionally is spent sacrificing pleasure and becoming more spiritually inclined.
Not eating meat on Fridays during Lent commemorates Jesus' crucifixion on Good Friday. Fish Frys have become a common replacement of beef and chicken for those days. Some local parishes have used soup as a simple meal to offer during the modest time of Lent. Being served from the same soup pot bears a resemblance to drinking from a shared chalice during Eucharist.
"There's something about the flavoring. You add certain vegetables. You add certain meats. You add certain spices. When it all comes together, that's how it makes such a fine dish," said Father John Stanton, administrator of St. John XXIII Parish in West Seneca. "That's what the body of Christ should represent. We all bring different pieces to the pie. When we are all together that finished product is very beautiful and very nourishing."
St. John's will hold its second annual Souper Tuesdays during March, offering two kinds of soups, rolls, drinks and desserts at 5:30 p.m., followed by a guest speaker. On March 7, Father Andrew R. Lauricella will speak on "Growing in Humility." On March 14, Deacon John P. Gaulin will speak on "Heaven Starts Now." On March 28, Sister M. Jean Sliwinski, CSSF, will talk about "Caring for Creation through Pope Francis' 'Laudato Si.'"
There will be no soup the week of March 19-25, instead the parish will host a St. Joseph Table with a speaker on Monday, March 20.
The entire parish gets involved in the dinners. The Altar & Rosary Society prepares desserts. One parishioner who has a connection with Costanzo's Bakery secured a donation of bread.
"They're good community builders," Father Stanton said of the gatherings. "At my place, it was really wildly successful last year, to the point where parishioners who are long-timers thought that it was like the way the parish was 30 years ago, the vibrancy. It was that type of feeling."
St. Gabriel Parish in Elma holds a Soup Supper every Wednesday during Lent, offering tomato and cream soups, along with rolls, drinks and a banana for dessert. Unlike the parish's big fish fry dinners, the soup is meant to a simple meal.
"There's nothing glamorous about it. There's no tablecloths or placemats. We try to eat like the poor would eat," explained Sister Joseph Marie Marczak, CSSF, pastoral associate at the parish, who has organized these suppers for 18 years at the parish.
As with St. John's, guest speakers will address Lenten themes. The whole meal takes only an hour.
"It's really nice fellowship for one thing, and it's nice because it's a simple meal. Sister always has a choice of soups. She has helpers in the kitchen. She has helpers serving the soup," said Paul Bloom, director of religious education for St. Gabriel's.
Both suppers are open to the public, with free will offerings being accepted.