Brother Eldridge’s Mississippi Corn Bread

One batch (serves 8)

4 tbsp bacon grease or butter

1 c. flour

1 c. course cornmeal

4 tsp baking powder

¼ tsp soda

1 ½ c. butter milk

2 lg or 3 sm eggs

¬ preheat oven to 425

¬ melt butter or grease in pan (skillet)

¬ mix dry ingredients and sift

¬ add buttermilk, eggs stir briskly

¬ pour hot grease into batter, stir and immediately pour into skillet (pans)

¬ bake 20 – 25 minutes


A sacrament is defined by many, and in many ways. But I wonder at the definition of a sacrament. Might it not simply be an act of sacred proportions in which a physical thing is used to point to a spiritual reality?


Later today a friend will arrive on Little Bird Farm from far away.  He is coming for the sunlight, some pampering and some rest.  The house is clean, some food is bought and the cornbread is made.  Could not my cornbread and some tea be a sacrament?


My Rule of Life has a chapter about friendship and another about hospitality.  I always turn to both (out of the daily order) when a friend arrives.  Like the chapters of any Rule of Life, they remind me of how I hope to live my life on about 30 topics (30 “chapters”.)  My friend and I will drink deep of our conversation.  We will sit together in the hot New Mexico sunshine, drinking tea until the sun begins to set, at which time scotch will be in order. We will tell our story to each other and in so doing offer each other a second sacrament – the story of human life.  This will be my 15th weekend friend-visitor to the farm in eight months.


With technology like cell phones and iPads, boredom is facing extinction. We rarely sit in silence with a friend (or with our friend-selves) without grabbing the phone.  Has someone texted me?  Has someone liked me on Facebook?  Has someone written an article (like this one…)  Am I needed for work?


The greatest sacrament (a close second to my cornbread and some good tea) is friendship-silence. This is facing extinction since even with our friends, children and spouses, we will sheepishly, tentatively, surreptitiously ease our cell phone into our lap, glance down and check for affirmation.  What message does that action send to your loved ones?  It is too ugly even to write here.   Friendship-silence is when two people who love each other sit, comfortably together simply listening to the silence between them.  Peaceful.  Gentle. Trusting.


When I was a monk, my favorite time in the week was the communal prayer time in which we brothers gathered in a dark chapel next to the nave.  We entered in silence like flamingos walking on stick-legs and our habits ballooned as we sat on the carpet – 20 men praying together for an hour.  It was magical to sit together and not speak.  I always tried to sit next to Brother Eldridge – a soft, man with a gentle smile and a cocked head in his own flavor of mischievousness.  He was the real thing.  A real monk.  He was my inspiration and it was he who first asked if I could live a (not “the”) monastic life ex-claustrated, as I do now.


My friend will soon arrive.  We will turn off our cell phones.  We will sit together early in the morning with a candle and coffee.  We will sit in the bright sunlight of New Mexico with tea.  We will sit in the evening twilight with scotch. And there will be laughter and tears, hopes and fears.  Friendship’s fires will be stoked and cornbread (Brother Eldridge’s recipe)  will be served up hot with butter and honey.


What is a sacrament?  Baptism, I guess. Absolution perhaps. Breaking (corn)bread together and telling our story. That’s four I can think of.  Oh.  And a walk in woodlands with Kai-the-dog.  A foot or hand massage. And spooning Kai-the-dog. sacraments.  One wonders how many Jesus would name.  I am aware of how many the Church would name, but I wonder how many Jesus would name.  These seven I think.  Or at least two or three of them…

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