The table for lunch at the First Friday Club of Cleveland was set for approximately 150 guests at The City Club on June 27. Leading the conversation were Fathers Michael, David and Thomas Woost with their presentation of Kitchen Table Faith: Family, Vocation and Pope Francis’ Holiness Challenge.
The Woost brothers, including their brother Jon, a medical sales executive who introduced his three siblings, informally invited First Friday guests around the table of their childhood home as they told stories about growing up in a Catholic household.
Jon began by referencing the scripture reading when Elijah stands on Mt. Horeb and experiences extreme wind, an earthquake and fire while waiting to hear the Lord speak (1 Kings 19). He likened these forces of nature to the chaos of all seven Woost brothers racing towards their kitchen table for dinner. “Faith and food always go hand and hand. At the Woost house this happened at 6 pm sharp. And you never wanted to be the last one to the table,” shared Jon. “Similar to Elijah, when the storm settled we centered ourselves in family prayer at the table.”
Coming together as a family for prayer happened each evening at the Woost household. As Fathers Dave, Tom and Mike shook their heads in agreement, Jon reflected, “It was where faith was formed, discipleship established and vocations began.”
Father Mike Woost was the next to speak. Ordained in 1984, he is a faculty member of Saint Mary Seminary where he teaches courses on sacramental and liturgical theology. He began by sharing a short video that connects Pope Francis’ On the Call to Holiness in Today’s World with storytelling images of everyday life. As the video concluded, Fr. Mike broke down the five signs of holiness seen in the video that correlated to Pope Francis’ apostolic application. These are: perseverance, joy, bold, community and constant prayer. “Consider what it means to be holy,” Father Mike challenged those gathered. After a brief pause, he went on to explain how growing up in a faith filled family did not mean that each sibling lived their life to perfection. Each experience from childhood through adulthood developed their faith.
Father Dave continued the conversation explaining that the process his brother was reflecting on is an example of perseverance. Father Dave, ordained in 1991 and the pastor of Divine Word in Kirtland, shared how their family moved seven to eight times between four different states. The last move resulted in him living in North Carolina to finish his senior year of high school while the remainder of the family settled back in Cleveland. He acknowledged that as a teenager at times he may not have always made the best decisions. One day while alone at church he sat in the pew and questioned himself, “What is going on?” and asked God, “What are you trying to tell me?” In that quiet reflection Father Dave realized it was holiness that he wanted to chase. “God recognizes us in the chaos,” he said.
Father Tom, the youngest of the brothers, took the crowd back to the kitchen table during dessert time as he expanded on the aspect of joy. “We experience joy when we serve others and have a good sense of humor,” he said. “At our kitchen table we would play games at the start of dessert. The challenge was to see how many bites it would take to consume the dessert on our plate. You never wanted to be the seventh sibling to take a turn,” he laughed as he described how it was almost impossible to eat chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and chocolate syrup in just one bite. Father Tom went on to describe how fun and laughter instills a sense of comfort within the home. The feeling of joy can provide support. “This joyful holiness was with my parents at the end of their lives,” he said reflecting on the support each sibling gave one another as he told the story of their mother’s passing.
The brothers collaborated speaking on the three remaining signs of holiness drawing from different periods in their life. Father Mike opened up about his reluctance at times to be bold, the third sign of holiness. He gave the example of an opportunity to travel to Kolkata, India. When consulting his mother about the trip she asked him, “Have you prayed about it?” Father Mike explained that the process of discernment expands our faith relationship through prayer and expands the soul.
Father Dave spoke on the fourth sign, community. Using the kitchen table as a communal symbol, he explained how there is merit in being face-to-face with one another around the table. In person, you have the opportunity to reconcile with one another, pray together, be supportive of each other and ultimately love.
Father Tom, ordained in 1997 and the pastor of Saint Brendan Parish in North Olmsted, shared how constant prayer, the fifth sign of holiness, connects all the signs together. The Woost kitchen table and the act of seeing their parents pray, especially in pivotal points in their life, was the foundation for turning to Christ. “It was the kitchen table feeding the altar table and the altar table feeding the kitchen table.”
The First Friday Club of Cleveland provides opportunities for nourishment of mind and spirit through monthly speaker series, fellowship and ministry events. To view the full schedule of First Friday Club speakers visit FirstFridayClubCleveland.org.