Thursday, June 25, 2009

Vegan Fridays: An account of creation

“And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” Gen 1:30 (NRSV)

Creator. What does that word inspire? An artist, bringing a scene to life on a dry wooden door, thus making a cathedral? A poet, making the words come alive with only paper or ink? A chef, turning the most basic of food and spice into an elaborate feast? Or is it something greater?

The act of Creation, as mentioned above, involves breathing life into something with none, whether that’s an artist creating a scene or God creating the earth. In fact, the Hebrew word for breath is “ruah,” which also means spirit. Thus, it means the spirit of God resides in every living creature, as we all have been brought to life by the Creator’s breath. All living creatures, from humans to fish to birds to cows to every other animal, are sustained by this breath, this spirit.

As we are linked by this kick-start of life, God has provided for us the plants of the earth to food. Every plant. Some may benefit some animals, while others benefit others, but it is all the same. As this God is Creator, it means there is always enough, enough for all who are in need.

The lies of the earth are that there is scarcity, that there is enough for some but not for all. In fact, we comfort ourselves with these lies, using them as an excuse to feed all our grain to livestock, turning against fellow members of created beings for less efficient food. We use it to justify destroying Creation with pesticide and with misusing lifesaving drugs to produce as much as possible. We use it to turn against those who would be our partners, not allowing them to trade with us and turning them to waste, drugs and violence for refusing to treat their part of Creation as equal to ours.

For today’s Vegan Friday devotion, I recommend a salad for lunch. Use the freshest vegetables you can find, with a light dressing for flavor. Say grace beforehand, thanking the Creator for the food provided. And take some time today to learn about how we treat the animals we expect to eat. Is this what our Creator, our Spirit, our Breath had in mind for us?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

May all the souls of the faithful departed..........

It's been a weird couple of weeks...first with Oscar, second with the Metro crash and now this...


Friday, June 19, 2009

Vegan Friday-An Old School Custom With a Modern Twist

At BFW, we are always focusing on stewardship. As God created the earth and every creature within it, it is our duty as humans, as those made in His (Her) image, to care for the earth and share with each other. Thus, if we do not take care of our planet, many will go hungry. So environmentalism is actually a Christian duty and moral obligation, to ensure that the poor will be fed.

One way of saving the environment is to become a vegan. Not raising animals for food allows more grain to go into the stomachs of hungry human beings. Also, it reduces the amount of topsoil erosion and water contamination (from animal wastes). However, as an Italian American girl who loves her Mediterranean cuisine (as well as steak fajitas, thanks to a job at a Mexican restaurant), the idea of going vegan frightens me a bit. Yet, two Lutheran ladies from Long Island inspired me to think of something......

I met these two at BFW’s National Gathering. They are both truly awesome, socially active and encouraging others around them to do likewise. They are very active in environmental issues and have been recycling long before their community even instituted the practice. We were having a conversation over breakfast, when I made reference to my “Italian appetite” (I had put together a very full plate and managed to pack away everything). One of them laughed and mentioned that her husband is Italian-American as well. We both laughed over the veracity of certain stereotypes (yes, most of us can quote The Godfather, A Bronx Tale, and Goodfellas). Later, she mentioned how her husband, though now Lutheran, had been raised as a Catholic (like most Italians) and, while he no longer practices the faith of his birth, still cannot bring himself to eat meat on Fridays.

As a Catholic myself, though I have not practiced this tradition (I usually only abstain on Lenten Fridays), I carry a great deal of respect for the older customs. You see, Friday is a solemn day, as it is the day when Jesus died, so abstaining from meat was to honor the sacrifice of Jesus, the sacrifice that renewed the face of the earth. So Catholics all over, up until Vatican II, gave up meat every Friday and throughout all of Lent.

A sacrifice that renewed the earth and saved humankind from sin……..what about a sacrifice that also renews the earth and saves humanity, only this time, from hunger? If we collectively gave up animal products, at least for a day, how much of the planet could we save? How much grain could we save? Obviously, this would have to be a collective effort. Yet if it was, how much impact could we have?

So I hope you will all join me each Friday, as we meditate on Christ’s passion and death and make this sacrifice for Him and for our brothers and sisters. For each Friday, I shall write a meditation. And yes, we will have Vegan Lent as well. I hope you will join me as I practice an old school custom with a modern twist.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Letters From My Godchild

When I was fifteen, there was only one thing I truly wanted for my birthday. That thing was the opportunity to sponsor a child. Through my parish in my hometown, I was able to get in contact with Christian Foundation for Children and Aging and ended up sponsoring a bright Honduran boy, not much older than my brother. His name is Oscar and he comes from a close, loving family. He loves to play, to laugh, and to sing. His favorite subjects are math and Spanish.

Today, I just received heartbreaking news that Oscar has decided to quit school. He made it through primary school (a big feat for a Honduran child) but has to now work with his father to help his family. Thus, there will be no more school for this intelligent boy.

As you can imagine, even though he has decided this, it kills me. It kills me that education is not considered an automatic right of these children, but a privilege reserved for only the elite among our kind. It kills me that so many children are caught between helping their families eat and continuing their education. It kills me that, in this country, people care more about whether two men marry each other than whether a child can go to bed with a full tummy or learn how to read and write. Finally, it kills me that, regardless of what I did, the system is still the same at the end of the day. It kills me that this system failed my godchild.

This is why I encourage you all to write or call your Congressman (or woman and your Senators while you're at it) and tell them to co-sponsor the bill H.R.2139, the Initiating Foreign Assistance Reform Act. Our government spends less than one percent of all funds on foreign aid and the money that we do spend is managed badly. At the same time, when foreign aid is used correctly, it makes a world of difference. Because of aid, more people have access to anti-retroviral drugs to treat HIV than ever before. Because of foreign aid, 29 million more children in Africa have the opportunity to attend school. Even in places like Iraq, the areas with the least casualties are the ones being helped by U.S. AID, according to a couple of experts who have asked to remain nameless (and yes, I have heard them speak today, at our National Gathering for Bread for the World).

Our economy is tough. I am not suggesting that the U.S. forget its own poor and hungry people. Rather, I am pointing out the sad truth. As tough as our situation is over here, it is infinitely worse in places like Honduras, places like Ethiopia. Places where one sick day can cost a livelihood, where one natural disaster can set back any hope for development by several years. Places where children have to choose between school and food, where mothers are likely to lose at least two children before the tender age of five. Places where people die of AIDS because drug companies worry more about their so-called intellectual rights more than the people they have the power to save.

This is a question of our security, of our ability as a nation to truly promote liberty and justice for all, FOR ALL. We are obligated, as individuals and as a nation, to fight for those two values, those we claim to hold so dearly, and those that many of our brave ones give their lives for. We have the chance to make a true and lasting change. But it's not "the government" doing this, it's we the people because we live in a democracy, a government by the people for the people. We have the power of the vote, of the pen, and of the voice. We need to use every weapon in our arsenal and stand for our brothers and sisters. Otherwise, we cannot stand at all.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Dreams in Life

It's funny how these change each year, as my life gets more direction and focus. Nevertheless, enjoy:

1. Love God always and find ways to get closer to Him (that one hasn't changed).

2. Become either a foreign service officer (for USAID), public health official, midwife, or a mix of the three and help my nation and the world in my own fashion.

3. Play in a band and enjoy making music with some mad chill people, regardless of whether or not fame or fortune comes along (and I pray it does not).

4. Own a bar called Doubting Tom's and have it be more like a coffee shop with a liquor license. Drinks would be served after five and it would be a place of the arts and of intellectual discourse. Though we would serve alcohol, it's not a place to get rowdy and if you do, you will be asked to leave the premises. This is a place of class, culture, discussion, and only the very best of drinks.

5. Own a motorcycle. It's more fuel efficient anyway.

6. Get tattoos. These have changed. I want a red fleur-de-lis on the inside of my right wrist. Fleur-de-lys are the symbol of Joan of Arc (my Confirmation patron) and it's French for "flower of life" (for my vivacity). Red ones symbolize Florence and Scotland, two places I claim ancestry (thus a symbol of my "Gaelic and Garlic" ancestry). On my left wrist, I want a circlet of flames. For I believe it is Heaven, not Hell that is hot (and in Inferno, Satan was placed in ice, not fire), since love is hot. I want it on my left, because it was long believed that those veins were the ones that flowed directly into the heart. I never want to lose the fire I hold for the things I believe in and hold dearly, thus that symbolism and reminder.

7. Fall in love with someone amazing, marry them, and have a couple kids. This one, while seemingly ordinary, is truly extraordinary. I believe it's a priviledge to be able to take part in the amazing love and creative force of humanity's being. I hope it is one that I am priviledged to enjoy.

8. Live in Italy for a year or two and really learn the language and culture.

9. Read Dante's The Divine Comedy in the original Italian it was written in.

10. Train for a marathon in Kenya.

11. Become fluent in as many languages as possible.

12. Run a non-profit.

13.Really learn what Mother Teresa meant by "loving till it hurts."

14. Write a song and perform it in public.

15. Write a book.

16. Take a pilgrimage to Fátima, Jerusalem, and Assisi.

17. Go to Spain, to Valencia, and perfect my paella.

18. Live in a developing country.

19. Never stop fighting.

20. Never stop loving.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Life of Service

At my internship yesterday, I was asked to take on a huge project. Did this involve extensive research, a fully thought out marketing plan, a strategy that would end hunger now and for all time? No. A new intern is coming in to join us next week and I was asked to clean out a cubicle that had not seen organization since possibly 2006 (yes, I checked the dates).

What does this have to do with hunger? Absolutely nothing. Yet I found God had a few things to teach me.

You see, I find that the theme of my life is service. My school is called the School of International Service and my career goals include such aspirations as foreign service, public health, and midwifery (as well as owning my own bar when I retire from all that adventure). I work as a waitress to bring in cash (causing my colleagues to joke about how I really do feed the hungry wherever I go). I also am constantly volunteering, whether at the pregnancy center where I serve as a receptionist or through various activities with friends. I say this not to boast, but to share why this would be crucial.

I find that it's the same with people at my university. We have a high amount of volunteers and a good portion of idealists whose aim is to go to the developing world and save the children. It's a wonderful attitude and I'm proud of the fact we have so many who help out their own communities as well as our neighbors abroad. However, one thing that gets lost in the idea of service is the act that makes it service in the first place.

If you cannot get on the ground and sort through trash, do mind numbing work for someone who would not have time, willingly perform a task that offers no pleasure and no visible reward, or work past your fears, anxieties and prejudices to carry out a greater good, you are not truly serving. If you cannot walk humbly and do everything, including the banal, boring, and thankless, but with the understanding that it is worth your while, you are not serving.

Service is supposed to make you humble. Not in the sense that you think less of yourself, but in the sense that you think of yourself less, that you don't consider yourself "too good" for anyone or anything. It's not that you are not confident or secure but rather, quite the opposite. You are confident and secure enough in who you are and where you stand in the scheme of things, that you don't need to make that known. You know that those things don't matter, that you can at least do for others what you'd hope and pray they'd do for you, when that time comes.

I never thought I'd be cleaning out cubicles and doing kitchen duty (something each department has to do) in an office. At the same time, I'm grateful. For I have no right to say that I am serving if I cannot serve in the most basic of ways. Sometimes, they're the ways that actually matter.