I fasted on only bread and juice for Lent. This is what I learned.

My stomach felt like an empty pit. There could not possibly have been anything left in the tank. I had already been on the toilet for 10 minutes, but I had not built up enough confidence to walk away. Diarrhea for reasons beyond our control is bad enough. This time it was, I admit, completely self-inflicted.

A few days earlier, I had started a bread-and-juice fast for the season of Lent. Three times a day, at normal meal times, I had a simple piece of bread (preferably multigrain, as my body begged for nutrients) and a glass of fruit juice. I was also drinking lots of water, and it was going straight through me. Fasting always sounds like a brilliant idea before… [This is the beginning of an essay recently published by America. Continue reading here.]

Photo credit: Kamil Szumotalski on Unsplash

ABOUT THE RABBLE ROUSER

Luke Hansen, SJ

Luke-Hansen-SJOriginally from Kaukauna, Wisconsin, Luke Hansen, SJ, has been a friend of Sister Julia’s since 2004 when they met at an airport on their way to serve in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in California. Passionate about justice and peacemaking, much of his experience in ministry has been centered on serving adults and adolescents who are incarcerated. He now is studying in Rome at the Pontifical Gregorian University. (Photo credit: www.jesuits.org)

the time of children

Guest Blogger: Sarah Hennessey

When Herod realized he had been deceived by the magi, he became furious. He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi. Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet:  A loud voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children and she would not be consoled since they were no more.  Matt 2:15 -18

Our Christmas feast is a time of children. For a few short days, the laws of logic are suspended and the whole world conspires to make the innocent dreams of children come true. This year in her Santa letter, my niece asked for real fairy wings that fly and fairy dust that she could use whenever she wanted. Our faces become softer by candlelight and love is tangible.

Today we celebrate the feast of children – but of the holy innocents, the martyrs caught by a tyrant’s rage. I almost feel we should remember this feast daily because in our world the holy innocents are countless and the carnage staggering.

AIDS, malaria, war, hunger, child slavery, child labor, abuse, neglect. The very fabric of our global reality often leaves the most innocent the most vulnerable. 

Disappearing Daughters: Women Pregnant With Girls Pressured Into Abortions
Click to play video (will automatically start)

The Christmas season is the feast of the child:  the miracle of God made flesh at the point of utter and total despair on human love.  This Feast of the Holy Innocents reminds us not only of the love and the protection of the children we hold most dear; but we must also weave the fabric of justice in the world to protect the dignity of every child.  To forget this is to deny the holy spirit of Christmas.

 

cooking up the goodness of abundance

Did you know there is enough food in the world to feed everyone?  Yup, it’s true.

Yet, we’re in a major global food crisis and people are dying of starvation while others waste food and have health problems from obesity.  Certainly, a lot of what is wrong with the picture has to do with infrastructure, power, distribution, processing and policies.  Plus, we are not farming very well.  And our love for the game Farmville isn’t helping!

Unfortunately, if we don’t change our sinful ways, we won’t have enough food for everyone in just about 40 years.  This past week I learned from NPR what vices are causing us to run short on food.

The main problems, apparently, are due to the way we farm more than the way we distribute the food.  We need to remember, though, that our consumer culture influences the way things are farmed.  What we buy, cook and eat impacts what farmers grow and how they grow it.

No one wants anyone to starve to death.  Christians understand that Jesus is the Bread of Life and the Eucharist is a Blessed Sacrament that unites us together as a body of Christ.  Farming, cooking and eating are very sacred, holy acts.  These basic, ordinary, life-giving acts are powerful and rooted in the Gospel.

We the people, have some good, God-given power. We don’t have to despair that things will only get worse for humanity just because some scientists have predicted that they will. The Gospel gives us great solutions (feed the hungry, share the loaves and fishes, pray, trust, listen, include everyone and invite others to our tables) and we are graced to be real instruments of peace while we live the Good News.

Plus, as stated in the NPR story, the scientists have suggestions too:

“First, stop cutting down forests to grow crops. Second, instead of that, focus on land that’s already being used to grow food but isn’t very productive… Third, use water more efficiently, also fertilizer. Fourth, in rich countries, don’t throw away so much food. In poor countries, keep it from spoiling before it gets to the people who need it. Fifth, and this may be the most controversial thing in this paper, eat less meat.”

I know I have written about all this food stuff many times before.  Food justice is something that is very important to me, however.  I even make it part of the curriculum in my teaching and work to connect my urban students with rural farmers.  My Eucharistic community works to educate and advocate for food justice.  And, today is a global Blog Action Day and bloggers all over the world are writing about food in order to encourage conversations and actions.  I am honored to participate.

http://blogactionday.org

Plus, it’s harvest season- the season of abundance- so we can be grateful for the great labor of farmers and how they bless us all.

I am excited to be spending some time on my younger sister’s farm this weekend.  She’s a great, young, organic farmer and food activist in Iowa who is modeling for all of us how we can work for change in these systems.  In celebration of her great witness, she has even been featured in the Oxfam World Food Day campaign.

When I return to the city from the farm on Sunday I hope to carry with me some good fruits and veggies.  I’ll be using my favorite cookbook, The More-with-Less Cookbook, to prepare meals for the next week and avoid buying any extra food.

I was thinking it might be nice, though, if we did a little recipe sharing right here on this blog.  What dishes are the rest of you planning to cook up using your fall  harvests?  What cooking tips do you have for me?  I’d really like a yummy, non-conventional way to cook up a big pie-pumpkin.

Sharing recipes is fun because it builds community.  For me, one of the great joys of eating is the experience of building relationships.  With every bite we can celebrate the relationships we have with other parts of God’s creation and with one another.  Together we get to work to create the world, the meals, and the unity that God intended.

While we do all this together, let’s remain mindful that we need to be able to live within all extremes and limitations.  We need to balance.  We need to love and help everyone- no matter how hungry they are- know the goodness of abundance.  As we eat, let’s be grateful and celebrate Life.

St. Paul did it quite well, and so can we:

Brothers and sisters:
I know how to live in humble circumstances;
I know also how to live with abundance.
In every circumstance and in all things
I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry,
of living in abundance and of being in need.
I can do all things in him who strengthens me.
Still, it was kind of you to share in my distress.

My God will fully supply whatever you need,
in accord with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
To our God and Father, glory forever and ever. Amen.  –Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20

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.

Sorry, I Didn’t Recognize You (part two)

Guest blogger, Amy Nee, part two of two (here’s part one)

I caught that train and took it to Cermak-Chinatown. The Congress on Urban Ministry had converged on the Hyatt at McCormick Place (a hotel and convention center the size of a neighborhood) and was hosting free “Words and Worship” services in the evenings. That night Shane Claiborne was scheduled to speak. He is an author and activist and part of “The Simple Way,” a community that calls for a way that is both simple and profound. The residents recognize people around them as neighbors—whether those people are gang members, prostitutes, school children, investment bankers or Iraqi citizens on the other side of the world. Shane is a representative of people who take seriously Jesus’ advocacy of neighbor-love, and enemy-love. He talked that night about grace as the backdrop for peace.  Grace, he said, is seeing the same things, the same people, with new eyes; it is seeing beyond surface and assumptions.

Closing his talk, Shane shared a video clip filmed during his time in India working with Mother Teresa and the Sisters of Charity. The camera holds closely the image of a child shaking with terror from an accident he has just survived. Malnourished, the boy’s skin is stretched tightly over his bones. His head appears too large for his birdlike body which convulses in the arms of a Catholic sister who is leaning over his railed bed. She firmly but gently rubs his fragile frame, over and over. Her hands transfer compassion and healing and gradually his tremors still. The boy’s body becomes loose and limp, his angular head tips toward the sister. His eyes, deep, dark pools, meet hers. The hospital is crowded with children no doubt in equal need, but she holds him.  Infinity in their gaze. A look of recognition.

My heart stirs, a desire rising. I want to go to India, to be her, to hold him. But there is something beyond this want. I desire that type of engagement—with the afflicted, with my Mom, with the woman behind the cash register, with the man asking me for change and the prisoner I can’t see—awareness, presence, compassion. I want to recognize people and to give people the opportunity to recognize each other. If not to see Christ in the poor, the oppressed, the stranger, the loved and the unlovely; to see ourselves.

How can we “satisfy the desire of the afflicted,” when we move through life like casually skipped stones, skimming the surface, making occasional, brief contact—splish, what they seem to want—splash, what we think they need—plunk, deep, drinking desire.  We are awestruck out of our element there.  It is a scary thing to sink into the unknown.  I can say that I am called to this as a Christian, and I am.  But I want to clarify that I think Jesus’ mission was not to make a Church but to teach us to be whole humans, to restore the earth and its residents to life.  Thus, whatever my religion, I am called to this as a living being.  Waking life requires it.