Madonna House

The Multiplication of the Pizzas

by Ross Shingledecker

Of all the Cana Colony host families* I know, the Shingledeckers are not the most heroic (that’s the Youngs) or the most frequent, (that’s the Blaines) but we were definitely the most dense.

No other host father needed as much time to get the hang of what was really going on at Cana. Take, for example, the multiplication of the pizzas.

It was early on in our host family career, and the families were larger than they are today. The camp was full: Besides the seven cabins, which are always full, all the tenting sites were occupied.

It was early in the week, but the fresh air and water and sand play had already decimated the food stores of the families. Some of them had already eaten their entire week’s worth of meals. There was a supermarket in a town not too far away, but nobody had gotten around to leaving the campground and going on a shopping expedition.

One particularly energetic mother of five or six announced that we should all pool our resources and have a pizza party for the entire camp. Before I could regain “control” of the situation, this five-star general had mustered the whole troop and set up shop in the front cook shack. What could I do but help out and do what I do best—worry.

First of all, there was not enough flour, yeast, tomato sauce, or fresh toppings, not to mention pepperoni or Italian sausage. But everyone chipped in some food, some with abandon and some with relief that at least they didn’t have to worry about what to feed the kids tonight.

Then there was the abundance of teenagers—hungry teenagers. I’m not kidding; there was not enough food for that many people. But the wheel of fortune was spinning, and all I could do was hang on and watch the disaster unfold.

The dough was made, sauce and cheese spread, and toppings added, and pizzas were baked in all the ovens. As they came out, they were devoured, one after the other. Even I had a piece or two.

Later on that evening, I walked through the camp. All the faces looked content and satisfied. I looked for the telltale evidence that some additional food had been brought out but could find none.

The flour sacks were empty as were the yeast and sauce containers—the same number as we had had at the outset. Yet the whole camp had been fed!

That night I related the story to the MH staff that came to spend the evening with the families. All I got was a smile and a shrug of the shoulders. I had witnessed a miracle, and all I got was a ho-hum!

Then it dawned on me. I wasn’t in control of Cana, nor were the staff or the priest. My worrying hadn’t added a slice of pizza to the table. It was Jesus and his Mother who had been there to make sure everybody was fed.

To be sure, many people were praying for us, and we were doing our part, but the control and the power at Cana were divine. My part was to get out of the way.

Now if I could only keep remembering that now.

* The team responsible for a week at Cana Colony consists of a host family and three Madonna House staff (one layman, one woman, and one priest).