Fr. Mark Sultana discusses the relationship between food and faith.
The need for food and the meaning it expresses
Food expresses relationships , biological and social, personal and festive. Food is both a need and a symbolic gesture. We can eat in so many ways , hurriedly or sedately, alone, in a crowd, or in an intimate setting; we can eat raw food or food produced by slow cooking. We can eat healthily or badly.
Food touches both the body and the soul
Food touches our body, our life and our spirit … it touches us personally. Incidentally, this is why fasting is undertaken as a spiritual exercise and this is also why eating disorders often have spiritual roots. What to eat is, in this sense, a moral and even a spiritual matter. One is of course not to eat too much , that would be unhealthy and a wasteful use of resources; it also coarsens the soul. With respect to fast food, one should consider questions like the wage and the working conditions of the workers, together with the sourcing of the ingredients. In Lent 2015, a fast from fast food was suggested in the US.
A concern for what goes on from farm to kitchen
The Church teaches that we can include meat in our diet. While we must care for animals and treat them humanely, this does not mean that animals cannot be eaten. What we must not do is cause animals needless suffering and death. This means that we must reflect on the means by which meat is obtained. Are animals raised for meat treated well or are they the victims of industrial use? Do the production methods of any given meat-provider reflect a “religious respect for the integrity of creation (CCC 2415-2418)? Is too much arable land which would yield grain and produce to feed people being used instead to grow cattle feed , or used to produce biofuel? Ultimately, we must apply the principles of good stewardship when making decisions about what to eat and how to live.
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