by Ken Rolheiser
The best soup for Lent

Once upon a time there was a great famine and people jealously hoarded food, hiding it even from their friends.

Three soldiers trudged down a road in this strange country, on their way home from the wars. Besides being tired, they were hungry. They had not eaten for days.

“How I would like a good dinner tonight,” said the first. “And a bed to sleep in,” added the second. “But that is impossible,” said the third. Suddenly, ahead of them they saw the lights of a village.

Now the peasants of this place feared strangers, especially soldiers. “Here come three soldiers,” they said; “but we have so little for ourselves.” So they hid their food - the barley in haylofts, carrots under quilts, and buckets of milk down the wells. They hid all they had to eat.

The soldiers stopped at the first house. “Good evening to you,” they said. “Could you spare a bit of food for three hungry soldiers?” “We have no food for ourselves,” the residents lied. “It has been a poor harvest.”

The soldiers went to the next house.“Do you have a corner where we could sleep for the night?” “Our beds are full,” lied the woman.

At each house the response was the same — no one had food or a bed for the soldiers. The peasants had very good reasons, like feeding the sick and children. The villagers stood in the street sighing and looking as hungry as they could.

The first soldier called out, “Good people! We are hungry and  in a strange land. We have asked for food and you have none. We will have to make stone soup.”

The soldiers asked for a big iron pot, water to fill it, and a fire to heat it. “And now, if you please, three round smooth stones.” The soldiers dropped the stones into the pot.

“Any soup needs salt and pepper,” the first soldier said, so children ran to fetch salt and pepper. “Stones make good soup, but carrots would make it so much better,” the second soldier added. One woman said, “Why, I think I have a carrot or two!” She ran to get the carrots.

“A good stone soup should have some cabbage,” said the third soldier. Another woman said, “I think I can probably find some cabbage.”

In the same manner beef, potatoes, barley and milk found there way into the pot. “The soup is ready,” said the cooks, “and all will taste it. First we need to set the tables.”

Tables and torches were set up in the square. Bread and cider generously appeared. They ate and drank and danced well into the night.

The soldiers were offered the best beds in the village; one in the priest’s house, one in the baker’s house, and one in the mayor’s house.

In the morning the villagers gathered to say goodbye. “Many thanks to you,” the people said. “ We shall never go hungry again, now that you have taught us how to make soup from stones.” (story by Brother Burrito)

Jesus taught us how to make stone soup; we will never go hungry again. We all have more than we need, but sometimes not the heart to share it.

Our final judgement will depend on how we share all the goods and talents we have. “I was hungry and you gave me to eat.” Matthew 25:35.

(570 words)