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Listening “with the heart of Christ” Carol’s soup feeds body and soul

Michelle DiFranco is a designer and the busy mom of three children.

Isn’t it nice  to have a close friend you can count on to be there to listen, especially during difficult times? If we are lucky enough to have such a person in our life, we cherish it. But not everyone is so lucky. We know from Scripture that Christ would take time for adulterers, lepers and many other ostracized people.

We feel it a blessing to know two people who, as Christ instructed, listen to and counsel the lonely and the doubtful. Bill and Carol are a married couple who have used their spiritual gifts in many areas to help build the Church. Carol recalls their time working at a lay Catholic organization which focuses on spiritual and corporal works of mercy. She especially felt called to work in the center’s kitchen.

The days there would begin with the rosary, followed by Mass, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, a brief talk, prayer ministry and a simple lunch in the cafeteria. Not only did Carol serve lunch, she prepared it as well, and her Pasta Fagioli soup was always a favorite. “I would cook a pot of soup for about 50 people. After I finished serving, I would sit down with a new person and talk. To me, the most profound part of the work was the privilege of listening to someone’s story… and to listen with the heart of Christ and be present to one of his beloved. This simple work of mercy is so pleasing to Our Lord. But truly, I was the one who benefitted because many days, I was blessed to eat my bowl of soup with Christ himself,” she says.

She recalls a man who attended one of the classes that she and Bill taught. “We invited him to come to Holy Mass on Wednesday at the Center. As we sat with him after, he shared with us that he had recently lost his job and was ostracized by his parish prayer ministry group. He said he was feeling totally abandoned,” Carol says. “But by the end of the afternoon prayer time, he thanked God that he came to Mass and learned about God’s unbelievable mercy for each one of us!”

So why did these people come? Clearly it was to be fed. With Carol’s soup?  Perhaps in part, but the true nourishment they needed was compassion and camaraderie. Christ himself did this for others. The irony in Carol and Bill’s recounting is that they don’t see themselves in the role of Christ. They perceive Christ in the lonely people whom they serve. Perhaps Christ is there in both roles for, as he said, “Wherever two or more are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20)

I thank God for Carol and Bill and their witness. And I imagine just how much more present Christ would be if I, if we all, made him more present more often by counseling the doubtful and lonely in this way.

Carol’s Pasta Fagioli Soup

  • 3 pounds ground beef
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8-10 carrots, chopped
  • 8-10 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 16-ounce cans kidney beans, drained
  • 3 16-ounce cans northern beans, drained
  • 3 14-ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • 2 32-ounce cartons beef stock
  • 1 46-ounce can of vegetable juice
  • 1 pound small elbow macaroni, cooked al dente
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley
  • Dried oregano, to taste
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Hot sauce, to taste
  • Grated ParmesanSauté beef, onion and garlic. Drain fat and transfer beef to a large stockpot. Add the carrots and celery. Sauté in the stockpot on medium to high heat, constantly stirring for about 3-4 minutes. Add all beans, tomatoes, beef stock, vegetable juice and cook on a lower heat for at least 35-40 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Season with parsley, oregano, salt, pepper and hot sauce (to taste). Before serving, add cooked pasta. Top with grated Parmesan cheese.
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