Imagine trying to impress the father of your intended, a man who's hard to please and has definite opinions of what kind of man his daughter should be dating. Now imagine that Dad also is not fond of Catholics.
Guess what you are.
“Fasting.” Rebecca sounded breathless as the word erupted from her lips. “Chris fasts on Fridays, Dad.”
That caught her dad’s attention, and he stopped and studied Chris with a look almost of admiration. “Really? Well, while I find that commendable, I think you can dispense with that this evening.”
Chris’s instinct was to say that he didn’t have the authority to do that, but he reminded himself that it wasn’t Lent, therefore it wasn’t an obligation. He could and should dispense with it tonight for the sake of harmony. He opened his mouth to say that he’d love a steak when Rebecca, looking anxious and wary blurted out, “Chris is Roman Catholic.”
Geez, did she have to add the “Roman?” It made him sound un-American.
In this "Friday night dinner" scene from Stay With Me, debut romance from Catholic author Carolyn Astfalk, we encounter an interaction so many of us have faced but never really see reflected in the books or movies we can share with others, do we? It's that moment when we want to connect with people we love, or at least those people who love the same people we love, and then the disconnect happens. The Catholic practices we try to live look like walls we put up in front of others, when really they're just lines we draw--not to keep others out but to connect more closely our will to that of God's.
As the above scene goes on, Rebecca's father says with a glare, "Rebecca said you were Christian." When Chris replies that, yes, he's a Catholic Christian, Rebecca's father continues the conversation by responding to all conversation "with a panoply of disgusted noises."
So many of us have experienced this kind of hostility towards our Catholic faith. Seeing it portrayed in a novel was a sort of validation I didn't know I needed. In the love story between Rebecca and Chris, Carolyn Astfalk gives us a real example of the day-to-day struggles that a couple of young adults might encounter in trying to live out their faith, discovering the truth, and discovering God's will for them as a couple in the process.
How do Rebecca and Chris fare in the face of her father's disapproval? You'll have to buy the book to find out, but take it from me: it'll be money well spent.
What might this scene in a clean-but-spicy Catholic romance have to do with a meatless Friday recipe? As a bit of pre-scene background, you should know that Rebecca's dad had originally planned to grill up some salmon. Then at the actual dinner...
[Chris] and Rebecca had talked about whether he should tell her father he was Catholic or save that particular detail for later. They had decided that unless it came up they would avoid the topic. For now. But here they were about thirty seconds into the meal, and it had come up.
Had Rebecca's dad been a more welcoming sort, he might have made something more like this:
Lemon Tarragon Salmon
For each portion of salmon, you'll need:
Salt & pepper to taste
1 t dried tarragon leaves or (2 t fresh)
1 t butter
2 slices of lemon
Preheat oven to 425F. Meanwhile, heat a cast iron skillet (or other oven-safe pan) on your stovetop over medium-high heat. Rub bottom of pan liberally with vegetable oil (I do NOT recommend olive oil for this task, as the smoke point is simply too low).
Place salmon portion(s) skin-side up on heated skillet. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until juices start to push out the sides of the salmon and a firm crust has formed on the heated side of the fish. Using a sturdy spatula, flip the salmon: the pan-seared crust should keep it from falling apart.
Season each portion (still in the pan) with salt, pepper and tarragon, then top with butter and lemon slices. Finish in the oven at 425F for 7-9 minutes or until fish flakes easily with fork. Let stand five minutes before serving.
Our faith will come up when we practice it in front of others, whether it's through meatless Fridays, blessing ourselves before a restaurant meal, or when we excuse our kids from Sunday morning's basketball game. However, when we practice our faith, we are called to do so with hospitality, which gives others a reason for our hope (1 Peter 3:15)--even in the face of misunderstanding.
In Stay With Me, Carolyn Astfalk gives us just that in addition to a delightful, page-turning love story. Lighten your heart and feed your spirit with this story of desire and determination, pain and longing, healing and hope.
Was there a time that you experienced conflict because of your practice of the faith? How did you handle it? Do you wish you had done differently? What are some kinds of experiences you wish were reflected more often in Catholic books and media?
Copyright 2015 Erin McCole Cupp.
About the Author
Erin McCole Cupp is a wife, mother, and lay Dominican who lives with her family of vertebrates somewhere out in the middle of Nowhere, Pennsylvania. Look for her All Things New: Breaking the Cycle and Raising a Joyful Family from Our Sunday Visitor in June 2021. Get to know her at ErinMcColeCupp.com.