when eating bites

Bad news: people are starving to death; 16,000 children die every day from hunger-related causes.

Good news: God has mercy and God is helping us!  We are being preserved in spite of famine, scripture says.

Upright is the word of the LORD,
and all his works are trustworthy.
He loves justice and right;
of the kindness of the LORD the earth is full.
See, the eyes of the LORD are upon those who fear him,
upon those who hope for his kindness,
To deliver them from death
and preserve them in spite of famine.
Our soul waits for the LORD,
who is our help and our shield.
May your kindness, O LORD, be upon us
who have put our hope in you.
(Ps 33:4-5, 18-19, 20, 22)

I am a great lover of food.  Much of my life has been centered around it.  I grew up in a farming community and family.   I knew how to pull weeds before I knew how to read.  I knew how to bake and cook before I knew how to drive.  I understood how to milk animals before I knew how to type.

Today my younger sister and her husband are organic farmers.   My parents and my brother now own and run a world famous restaurant, in the middle of nowhere. But I live in the city, away from the family food business.  I tend to go grocery shopping, read cookbooks and then invent and share new culinary creations for fun.  Plus, I love gardening; when work is really difficult at the high school I fantasize about giving it all up and becoming a gardener or a baker.

Food is such a big deal to me that I entered a Eucharistic-centered community, the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, before I was 25.  We’ve been adoring Jesus as Eucharist for over 133 years and it is very rad.

Obviously I am not unique because my life is centered around food. It is for all of us.  God designed it that way on purpose. It’s sacramental. It’s unifying. It’s life-giving. It’s essential.  I’m grateful.

Food is also oppressive.  The systems that control our consumption cause people to starve while others throw food away.  In the United States, we keep getting fatter while the rest of the world riots and dies because of food costs.  I wrote a bit about this for a Mexican food blog last week. The reasons why our food problems are so severe are complicated, economical and political.

As we gain awareness of the truth, we tend to be converted.  The freedom paradoxically requires us to be mindful and responsible.  It’s an act of solidarity and community.  Since food unites us, when any person in the body of Christ- in humanity- is suffering, we all are suffering.  For Lent this year I am working hard to simplify my diet, trying to fast, praying for those that are hungry and advocating for systemic justice.

This week at the high school I am leading two big events. Please pray for me and my students!  On Wednesday my seniors are hosting a Peace and Justice Fair. They’ve analyzed complex social problems and will now try to inform the community and inspire others to meaningful social action.   On Friday, we are hosting a Food Fast. The students will not eat for 24 hours, but still be very busy, as an act of solidarity and prayer for people who frequently go 24 hours without eating but keep working hard. I have games and activities planned to teach about global hunger and the students will engage in acts of service.

It’s really not that hard to make a difference.  Like my students, you can play games at FreeRice.com and donate rice to the UN WFP. You can click (and shop for Fair Trade goods) at The Hunger Site and donate 1.1 cups of food.  You can learn about the challenges of farming and survival in the developing countries by playing a game here. And, you can learn about living in poverty in the United States by playing a game here.

There are several other meaningful social actions that really make a difference.  You can literally buy an animal for a community in poverty through the Heifer Project. And, of course, you can pray, fast, give, advocate, and try out simple recipes through the Catholic Relief Services rice bowl campaign.

Together, we fast with hope and trust that our merciful God is leading us through the messy famines and injustices.  As I eat, I believe that the nourishment shall wake us all up to the heavy truth that we already have enough, we just need to learn how to share.  This sharing is the simple way that Jesus taught us, it is the way of freedom.


Photo courtesy of Catholic Relief Services.

ashen renewal

I am excited to celebrate life; Lent is here and it’s such a good time.  I am totally pumped to grow and learn.  A little while ago, while working in our “Loving God” unit, my students and I discussed how sacrifice is an essential element of Christian living. Personally, I am ready to give up and give the filth of my sin over to God.  Like suffering, sacrifice is sacred, and unites me with God’s mystery. I love it, and I want to live it.

Today, I’m rolling around in the filth of my sin and hoping for a great ashen renewal.  It could be disgusting, but it’s exciting.  The excitement of today, Ash Wednesday, is sort of like a pep rally that gets a team ready for victory.  It’s kind of like a surprise birthday party, or a rock festival. It’s all of those things, and more. Our prayer and our repentance shall magnify the meaning of the metaphors in our living.

I have been looking forward to this season and the promise of ashes smeared on our faces.  Perhaps I needed an excuse to refocus.  Maybe I needed a reason to recover.  Certainly, I need to turn away from my broken, ugly ways that distract me from relating to God and God’s children.  This gospel living stuff is so messy. I so often feel like I am flailing around, hitting myself and others. Now I pause, allow the bruises to heal, and regain my coordination.

Plus, this time is very exciting because it’s time to get reconnected with my brothers and sisters who are also broken.  We are all broken and it’s in a holy sort of way. Because of our brokenness we desperately need each other.  As we relate, we unite.  I try to remain aware about the part I play in the suffering – and healing – of others all the time, but it seems to me that others are more open to hearing about all the injustice of poverty when they are facing their own brokenness.  So, I am glad that Lent provides the opportunity for us all to deepen our global awareness.

If we’re going to spend 40 days in a desert, we won’t survive with nothing!  Fortunately, as we journey through the sacred season, we have all sorts of tools to assist us. Catholic Relief Services offers great opportunities for daily prayer, fasting and alms-giving that help us live in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in economically impoverished countries.  Busted Halo amuses me with a daily Lenten calendar that could win you a free Ipad.  The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops offers a variety of background information, plus opportunities for prayer and service.  Obviously my tools are very Catholic. That’s part of being a nun.

As you enter into the season, I invite you consider the same questions that my students were asked to respond to in class today:

What are you giving up for Lent?

What are you doing to grow closer to God this Lent?

Lent is a season of prayer, fasting, and alms-giving.  How do these actions create good Christian moral living?

God bless you, and all your Lenten renewing!! Peace!