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Issue Date:  January 11, 2008

From the Editor's Desk

The eucharistic banquet

As I reflected on this week’s column, I could only smile as I reviewed our cover story concerning food. Eating (or rather too much of it) is probably the last thing on most people’s minds as we emerge from the holiday celebrations. If only we could control our appetites and avoid the spread in more ways than one.

Two issues ago, as part of our Christmas issue, we told the story of a group of young people in the Bronx who gather weekly for a meal and how they bump into God at a table crowded with friends. “A continuous meal among friends, a place where you are known. While not overtly religious, the ritual is infused with undeniable eucharistic meaning,” the author wrote.

They call it a community dinner. And though “food” is the main item on the menu, the dinner offers so much more in the form of nourishment. Unfortunately, we live in an age of fast food, big agribusiness and, for so many, a complete detachment from the communal dimensions of cooking and dining. Our understanding of Eucharist is being suffocated by this growing impersonalization of such a fundamental part of our Christian lives. Eucharist starts in the earthiness of a God made human, who knew the meaning of celebration, friends, the sharing of meals, good wine, and the significance of the banquet feast as the metaphor of the kingdom to come.

So this week we offer a second story about food, one that tells of the emergence of the Slow Food movement, which now claims 80,000 members worldwide. Its core principle is the notion that food should be “good, clean and fair” and reflect a diverse set of values touching on gastronomy, ecology and social justice.

Just as Catholics and Eucharist cannot be separated, Eucharist and needs of the human family cannot be divided. Slow Food is not a religious movement, but its concerns about people and the demands of justice are inspiring and challenging.

Also, this week (see story), we report on the regrettable consequences of bottled water: “The United Nations estimates that more than 1 billion people worldwide currently lack access to safe drinking water and that by 2025 two-thirds of the world’s population will not have access to drinking water. When water is privatized and corporatized, the problem grows worse, advocates say.”

It’s an unfortunate reality that whoever controls the flow of water also controls the quality of life. As Catholics, we once again find ourselves confronting the meaning of another strong symbol within our Gospel tradition — water — the water of life, the water of baptism, the water of cleansing. Whichever way we turn, our faith is an earthy encounter with the reality of our day-to-day lives.

The metaphors of food and water, so prevalent throughout the scriptures, are a constant reminder that the demands of justice are not peripheral to our faith. Both of these stories are about life and our call to respect, nourish and cultivate it. Which is why we are pleased to report (see story) that the Vatican and lay Catholic movements were prominent among the animators of the historic resolution adopted Dec. 18 by the General Assembly of the United Nations in favor of a global moratorium on the death penalty. Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, welcomed the outcome as an important step forward, although he described himself as only “half-satisfied.”

“I will be fully content only when the death penalty is abolished everywhere and by everyone,” Martino said.

We concur.

As we welcome a future in which our church is articulating a theology that speaks to a postmodern world, our hope lies in simple fundamentals — the transformation of all that threatens life, the celebration of all that encourages life, and the ongoing support of all that nourishes life.

Bon appetit!

-- Sr. Rita Larivee, SSA

National Catholic Reporter, January 11, 2008

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