Food a spiritual experience from planting to table

  • March 12, 2010
TORONTO - Food forms a relationship between people, the Earth and God and thus should be a spiritual experience from production to consumption.

Fr. Jim Profit, S.J., underscored this message during an evening of Lenten reflection hosted at the Newman Centre by the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace and Faith Connections March 8.

Profit said that lack of respect for the Earth comes from a disconnect with the spirituality of food.

“The lands, plants and animals became objects instead of subjects,” Profit said. “Our industrial, fast lifestyle severs our spiritual relationship with the Earth.”

Profit is executive director of the Ignatius Jesuit Centre in Guelph, Ont., a Retreat centre, organic farm and 240-hectare estate.

Originally from Prince Edward Island, Profit still remembers when family members plowed the fields using horses and were much more connected to the food they produced and the animals they farmed with. He wasn’t suggesting people should revert back to horses, but they should at least consider their relationship to the Earth, the way they grocery shop and the farming tools they use that may alienate them from creation and reduce the sacredness of food.

He suggests chickens ended up in production cages and cows became grain-fed machines because people stopped seeing God’s beauty in them. People should consider producing and consuming both vegetables and animals with a “Good Friday” mentality, producing their own ethical foods or buying from farmers who treat their livestock and harvest with care and in sustainable ways for future generations.

“Death is part of nature,” he said. “But there is hope in that regenerative power of the Earth. Right now, soils really are dead on most industrial farms. A priest I knew… he talked about all the different community of life that is beneath our feet. He said remember when you’re walking on the ground, you’re walking on the roof of a whole community of life. We need to remember the worms, the rain, the farmer, the baker — all of creation that was involved in producing our food.”

To avoid the “New Age” perspectives of ecology and environmentalism, Profit reminded people to make food a source of community.

He suggested food can be re-made into a spiritual experience by eating as a family, eating with the seasons, eating local, eating organic and gardening.

“When we eat with the seasons, we experience the fasting of winter, and when you’ve experienced the fasting of winter, when you have to pick the sprouts off the potatoes when they’re soft... then the joy of the first potatoes comes again at the end of July. The joy of the first strawberries comes when we haven’t had strawberries from California (throughout the winter),” Profit said.

“Then the fasting becomes feasting and it’s so great to cook in the summertime because everything is there.”

When choosing food, Profit said he tries to pick food that is local organic, then local, then imported organic only if nothing local is available. Justly, fair-traded food and drink are also an important consideration, he added.

“People often say well I can’t buy organic because it’s too expensive. Well we also have choices, you know. And granted I think some people can’t buy organic because it is expensive. But we have choices, so sometimes it means giving up something else so we can eat justly.”

Julie Prior, the Ontario youth representative for D&P, said Profit’s presentation fit perfectly with D&P’s theme of food sovereignty, which D&P hopes Canadians will petition the government to focus on at upcoming G8 and G20 summits.

“We need to bring it to the forefront and have our government consider what’s happening with food distribution — not just in Canada but other places — and how food sovereignty can be a solution to a lot of problems we’re seeing. It’s putting the land back into the hands of the people as the Earth is for all and not just the few who possess it,” Prior said.

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