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Food, Tradition, Nutrition and Prayer: Looking at Food Today by Dot Hathway, CSJ Associate
Everyone's talking about food! The National Geographic is publishing an eight-month series on food in both print and online. The Huffington Post recently reprinted an online article on the theology of agriculture. The Ad hoc group on Communion within the Earth Community* published an excellent, six-page process on food, tradition, nutrition and prayer in the May 7 Updates. Nationwide publicity flashes notices about our need for a healthier diet, and even the fast-food industry is beginning to respond to consumer demands for an improved menu.
We know that these problems are not simple ones. The need for ongoing education, resolution of environmental concerns, advocacy for social justice and peace, and other aspects of mission intersect as we address the many challenges to be faced both now and in the future. They compel us to be ever mindful as we work to respect and repair Mother Earth and still meet the needs of our nearby and global neighbors. And we know that short-term interventions are important, although they cannot be viewed as long-term solutions.
As Gandhi said, “There are people in the world so hungry that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” And there's a saying, “People cannot hear what you say until they see how much you care.” We know that refugees as well as children orphaned by war go to bed hungry. They are also deprived of medical care, employment and educational opportunities. Filling their many needs while offering our sincere love, respect and hope for both humanity and the earth that sustains us all remains essential.
In a recent article in the Huffington Post, Kent Hayden stated, “The solution to the discontent of a fast-food culture and a fast-food religion is not just a rejection of the fruit of these societal trends. It is a total metanoia; a mind-turning towards a theological and culinary aesthetic that includes both difficulty and satisfaction as parts of the good. We have harmed the earth, and we have harmed ourselves.”
The Earth is a living organism, yet many still look at her with an exploitative and utilitarian gaze. We take her gifts of food for granted, and in our haste to get to our next task, even neglect important rituals surrounding mealtime. We hastily count calories, take our vitamins, and too often miss the joy found in dining together. Eating is a sacred act, a communion, replete with opportunities for expressing our gratitude to God for Mother Earth, and for the community of which we are a part. We can change this.
It’s a job for women! We shop for and select our food; we pay for it; we cook, bake and barbeque. We can come together to dine. We don’t need permission to select healthy food. Healthy recipes are easily accessed in print or on the internet. We can support organizations that feed hungry people in this country or abroad, and know that our efforts will help restore their health and prepare them for a productive life. We can advocate for systemic changes that will be our legacy to the children yet unborn. We can learn to see with new eyes, and continue to serve with ever-expanding love.
It’s a mission. We can do it!
A Prayer to Grace a Meal
*If you haven’t had a chance to discuss this Food module with others, summer is a great time to gather a group, share a meal and discuss it!