Another place to meet

Another place to meet

The café is a place where I not only find a drink and a croissant but also the convenience of somewhere to write.

In so many ways, it has replaced the pub as a meeting place, a stop-off point for anyone and everyone to pause a while over a hot coffee, to read or have a chat.

Across the world, café names have become an integral part of the High Street, an international brand that is immediately recognized.

The café has become commonplace, each with its own character, furnishings and specialities.

Even though they are not quiet places, maybe, in fact, because of it, they do provide a comfort zone where words arrive and stories develop.

Often an overheard phrase finds its way into something I am writing, sparks a movement, and stimulates an idea, only to re-emerge in a poem or article phrase sometime later.

I always carry with me a book to read and a notebook for writing, for they are part of what I do when I find a comfortable seat and order a cappuccino.

I have met a good many and varied people in the café, a passing nod of ten minutes conversation, unlikely to be repeated again, but informative and enjoyable while it lasted, some help on the way.

The staff who serve become familiar faces and, with frequent visits, have remembered names.

Does community arise from Eucharistic sharing or does our Eucharist spring from the gathering we often call parish?

The history of the café goes back hundreds of years.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, the café was a well-established, cosmopolitan meeting place, not only for social exchange but as a place where business might be conducted.

The world-renowned London Stock Exchange started trading in Jonathan’s Coffee House in 1698 in the City. Other well-known establishments, such as Christies and Sotheby’s, developed from the café gathering of interested merchants and businessmen.

It is not uncommon nowadays for laptops to be set open on tables, with a tapping of keys heard between sips of coffee and the person using it to be illuminated by the screen.

Apart from the convivial meeting place after the school run or an alcohol-free zone for a relaxing chat, they can also be places for serious exchange, for stories to be told and a time of careful listening.

“Meet me for a coffee sometime soon” can be another way of saying, “I have something to say, will you listen with me?”


Nourished by the Eucharist

Those churches that have a parish hall where groups can gather after sharing the Eucharist are indeed fortunate.

It raises the question as to whether or not community arises from Eucharistic sharing or does our Eucharist spring from the gathering we often call parish.

Either way, humans are gathering creatures, anxious to share in so many ways.

It is natural for us to share with each other and, along with company, to eat and drink together. It’s what we do.

So our journey goes on day by day, nourished by the Eucharist, our presence helps others with their problems and difficulties.

Look around at the other tables the next time you are in a café; watch the expressions on the faces of those who sit and drink and talk, who stretch out a gentle hand in comfort to a friend.

Friendship is about both laughing and crying together, sharing the load.

I have just received a new collection of poems by the young Irish poet, Kerrie O’Brien. One of them, entitled “Hemingway” concludes with these lines:

How could he be so close
And I not know it
The worst time to search
Whiteout, blizzard sleet
I hadn’t eaten
The hunger raw and persisting
But he led me
And right where he lived
A café
Rose star
In the wilderness
Warm jewel
Run by an American woman
Big hearted
Who took me in
And gave me a muffin
Flooded with raspberry
Bloodsweet, glittering, hot.
It then came
A thudding chant
Be still, still
In the howling
Have faith
Just a little longer

Maybe her last two lines — Have faith, Just a little longer — form the core of the Epiphany we live when sharing the Eucharist, nattering in the parish hall or being with strangers in the café.

It is the daily expression of our being Christian.

  • Chris McDonnell is from England and is a regular contributor to La Croix International.
  • First published in La-Croix International. Republished with permission.
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