March 12, 2010

The Green View / Patricia and Conrad Cortellini

Food and faith connect us as community

Patricia and Conrad Cortellini“Bread of Life,” “Here at This Table” and “Let Us Break Bread Together” are titles of a few of the “food” hymns we Catholics sing in the practice of our faith. As we lift our voices, the verses evoke emotions that connect us in many profound ways.

The Eucharist, also known as holy Communion and Breaking of Bread, is the central ritual of our Catholic faith. “The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch” (#3, “The Sacrament of the Eucharist,” U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Web site). Food of our faith connects us to the Almighty.

In smaller ways, breaking bread connects us to our ancestors and all of past humanity for it seems certain that humans shared meals even before they became civilized. Some of our most fond memories and experiences revolve around holiday celebrations and sharing of food. How about community gatherings? What are they without food? Our notion of our personal health and well-being—is it not connected to the food we consume? And finally, food connects us to nature or at least it did so in the America of recent memory.

Many people still remember how things were before our overly busy lives began to make it difficult to spend the time necessary to prepare home-cooked meals with ingredients grown nearby or from your own garden, and prepared with all the time and attention that the recipe requires. It was work, yet fulfilling.

When entering the kitchen, putting other concerns aside—dropping everything and concentrating on doing your best—cooking transforms into something sacred. In the words of a 17th-century monk, Brother Lawrence: “The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer, and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great a tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the Blessed Sacrament.”

How is it then that we are letting this beautiful and sacred aspect of our daily life slip away from us? Is it not sad to contemplate that our children’s generation may become totally dependent on industrialized food and lose the capability to cook?

Last year, a few members of St. Joseph Parish in Indianapolis rediscovered the joys of gardening and the sacredness of preparing food for their children. As has happened in numerous parishes, they decided to start a “community garden”—a place where all the people in the neighborhood are welcome.

“The garden has been educational and fun for our whole family as we planted, watched our plants grow and harvested our vegetables,” said Karen Ferris, volunteer garden organizer. Those that gardened not only found the freshest produce around, but also found a greater treasure—a sense of community, a sense of belonging.

Gardening is not only good for faith and community, it is good for the economy and the planet. We Catholics own enough land to begin to establish a serious food growing effort. We can make a difference. All we need is the will to do so.

Toward this end, “The Green View” is organizing the Catholic Food and Faith Initiative. We urge all parishes in the archdiocese to establish a garden committee and select a representative to attend an April conference at a time and location to be determined.

If you are interested, please contact Patricia Cortellini at 317-259-1199 or e-mail her at Let us get started. Let us gather, share information, share stories, worship, cook and break bread together.

(Patricia and Conrad Cortellini are members of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis.)

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