X is for Xavier Suppe

X was a challenge for me the last time I was blogging my way through the alphabet and this time was no exception. I had originally thought xanthum gum, which is normally thought of as a gluten free additive which can be used as a thickener. However, it was not resonating with my spirit and since that is what this blog is all about, it was just not going to happen. Then, in my research on X foods, I stumbled upon Xavier Suppe, which is Italian for Xavier Soup. It is a traditional Italian recipe, normally made in December for the Feast of Saint Xavier. It is a classic chicken and vegetable soup with flour and baked Parmesan cheese dumplings served garnished with parsley and chervil. Perhaps that is why it resonated with my spirit; it looks like and reminds me of my mother’s chicken soup with matzo balls, Italian style.

Learning about this soup, made me want to know something about the person it was named after Frances Xavier was a Roman Catholic missionary and one of the founding members of the Society of Jesus, more commonly referred to as Jesuits. He was canonized in 1622 and Pope Pius IX proclaimed him the “Patron of Catholic Missions.”[1]  He is celebrated for his

 missionary work, both as organizer and as pioneer, reputed to have converted more people than anyone else has done since Saint Paul. Pope Benedict XVI said of both Ignatius of Loyola and Francis Xavier: "not only their history which was interwoven for many years from Paris and Rome, but a unique desire — a unique passion, it could be said — moved and sustained them through different human events: the passion to give to God-Trinity a glory always greater and to work for the proclamation of the Gospel of Christ to the peoples who had been ignored."[2]

Understanding the purity of his faith has helped me to understand the construction of his soup. Unlike the chicken soup I grew up making with my mother where all the chicken and vegetables were added back into the soup, the broth in this soup is clear. While it is prepared with the chicken, vegetables, and herbs, all of it is removed from the broth and it is strained until it is clear. It is not until this process is over that the dumplings, which are made with parmesan cheese, are added and then given a crowning touch of parsley. It is almost as if there is a baptism of the dumplings in this purified broth and then use of herbs, which are often underappreciated as a reminder of his work with those who had been ignored. This soup is traditionally served on the Feast of Saint Xavier on December 3.

I have found a few different recipes for this soup, which I will have to make long before December 3 of this year. While there are some differences in the soup preparation (some use a whole chicken and others use the skin and carcass of a cooked chicken), the preparation of the dumplings appears to be the same.

Learning about this soup has reminded me that each of us has our own journey and way of living spiritually in the world and creating our own broth. Like the dumplings, each of us has those aspects of our spiritual journeys that remind us of the unique flavor and gifts we bring to the universe. We have all had those moments in our life, when we have felt like the parsley relegated to be the garnish on the plate. Yet, this soup reminds us that when we have an opportunity to shine, we do and we too can have a transformative power in the world.



[1] http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2006/april/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20060422_gesuiti_en.html

[2] Ibid.

Note: one of many recipes I found for this soup is at http://thelassintheapron.com/tag/traditional-feast-day-meals/