Tradition and ritual can help us to create new roots in a new place. One of the great joys of being Catholic is the ability to walk into a parish in almost any place in the world, and even if the liturgy is not quite what one would like, it matters not, for there is the Body and Blood of Christ.

Every Easter, it is a Polish tradition to bless the food for the first meal of Easter on Holy Saturday. While growing up in the Chicago area, the largest speaking Polish population outside of Warsaw, it was not difficult to find a number of times and churches that would offer this special blessing.

Out here on the west coast, things are a bit more complicated. My wife and I have found the one Polish Deli in San Francisco (Seakor’s), and last weekend we went there to buy all the necessities: kielbasa, pierogi, chrzan (horseradish), and rye bread.

On Good Friday, we prepared additional foods like kolachy and made our own horseradish for the first time. My mother gave us this recipe, which is very simple, but includes the warning: “Please Note: When grinding horseradish the aroma is very strong and takes your breath away so you might have to run in another room for awhile.” I couldn’t help but thinking during these preparations about the women preparing Jesus’ body for the tomb.

And today, we trotted off early this morning to St. Dominic’s for a Tenebrae service, with our basket in hand. We had not gone two blocks, when a car pulled over by us. The young woman in the car jumped out, hurried to us and said “This is going to sound crazy, but are you taking that basket to be blessed? What parish are you going to?”

She went on to explain that she was from back East and this was the first time she had spent Easter in San Francisco. Her parents were in town and her father kept asking where they were going to go to bless their food, but she couldn’t find any parishes that were doing it.

We told her we were headed to St. Dominic’s. They didn’t have a special celebration for the blessing of baskets, but we had asked a priest the week before if we could bring a basket and have it blessed. The kind Dominican had suggested we come to the Tenebrae service on Holy Saturday, and that many priests would be around and it would be no problem.

She was thankful and excited that she had found a church, and St. Dominic’s actually happened to be her parish. We didn’t see her or her family at the service, but I hope that they came and were able to get their food blessed.

We did, and are now awaiting the dawn of our Redemption to take part in the Easter banquet. We are far from family, friends, and fellow Poles, but God touches us in these small things, and helps us to grow these new roots in a faraway place.

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