Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Reflections on Lady Liberty and Mother Mary This Fourth of July



I came across this poster in Washington, D.C. at a rally in support of Muslims, back in January. Six months later, the irony and its significance hits us like a ton of bricks, as instead of the United States welcoming the immigrant, children are being stripped away from their parents’ arms and separated at the border. 

This week, a church in Indiana put a statue of the Holy Family inside a cage, representing an ICE detention center.  Much like Jesus crying out at the end of his life, “forgive them Lord, for they know not what they do” – it is a wake-up call to those who do not see the similarities between the life and family of Jesus Christ and those being turned away and treated as less than human today.  If Christianity does not show us how to act in the face of such injustice, surely we will continue to live in a land of separation and lack of community. As Michael Moore said on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, “if we started acting the way we were taught, in Catholic school, or in Bible school, wherever you went, we will have a different country, but not until then.” 

As with the image of Lady Liberty holding the immigrant child in her arms in a time of separation of children from families at the border, a caged Holy Family shows the stark contrast between the principles that the U.S. was founded upon, and the Biblical call to welcome the stranger and the immigrant, and the reality of what the U.S. government and immigration officials are currently doing.  Instead of such hypocrisy, I believe we need to take a deeper look at Mary, the mother of Jesus.  As a woman who brought Christ into the world who continues to show us how to love and how to live, we would do much better than to dismiss her importance as many Protestants do.  As a willing participant in the co-creation of life with God, Mary represents a generative capacity of love and abundance we desperately need to reestablish.  Most of the immigrants crossing borders are doing so because they feel their lives are in danger, and/or they cannot live off their native lands any longer.  Corrupt governments allow corporations to plunder land and threaten, destroy and contaminate food and water sources in the name of profit or the fighting over natural resources. But the life-giving image of Mary, and the generative capacity of Mother Earth, provide us with an alternative of abundance, nurturing and welcoming. 

This 4th of July, as we mourn the failure of U.S. to stand true to the words holding up Lady Liberty - “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” – may we reflect on how different the world would be if we took the example of Mary seriously, valuing the love and generative capacity of the feminine to give, nourish, and sustain life.  

We can all do something.  Seek out a group near you to support that is working in support of keeping families together. Cayuga Centers has an Amazon Wish List for the children in its care.  And the Franciscan Action Network is asking Franciscan churches around the country to send in their photos from local Keeping Families Together marches so we can start to build more unity and momentum.  As St. Francis of Assisi said, “Let us begin again, for up to now we have done little or nothing.”  

THIS IS MY SONG

This is my song, O God of all the nations,
A song of peace for lands afar and mine.
This is my home, the country where my heart is,
Here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine.
But other hearts in other lands are beating,
With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

My country's skies are bluer than the ocean,
And sunlight beams on clover leaf and pine.
But other lands have sunlight too, and clover,
And skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
O hear my song, thou God of all the nations,
A song of peace for their land and for mine.

Monday, April 9, 2018

NY Dialogues: Gun Violence, Race and Gender Issues


For years, I’ve willed and participated in efforts to make my house a space for meaningful dialogue.  Since the end of 2017, I’ve had the joy of having Bina as a housemate, who has significantly increased the level of commitment to dialogue within the house.  We recognize our unique opportunity in New York to bring people from different backgrounds together under one roof to share in meaningful dialogue, community and fellowship with one another.  

The New York Dialogues started on January 20, 2018 and the second one was held April 8, 2018. Each dialogue has a theme; April's was Gun Violence, Race & Gender Issues.    



About 10 people gathered together and shared thoughts we had prepared in advance. Sara opened with a candle-lighting; recognizing that prayer does still matter, despite the emptiness felt in many previous Black Lives Matter vigils. Our hope for today is for meaningful change to come out of our discussion.  

Other thoughts shared:
·       Poetry: Black Man in America: An Endangered Species?   
·       Corporate power within the gun industry and its thirst for wealth, going so far as to even resist safety features, including childproofing, because it fears it will make cost more expensive for a price sensitive market
·       The U.S. is a signatory on the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which means we can drag the U.S. to an international court of justice. Nations were called to create national programs of action.
·       The UN declared guns are killing people all the way back in 2001
·       How news agencies systematically choose photos that demonize migrants by showing them in large groups versus humanizing them by showing close-ups and eye contact of individual human beings
·       How the world spends $1.4 trillion on weapons industry and how 55 cents of every dollar we pay in taxes goes to U.S. military expenditure
·       A true story with a positive outcome of turning the other cheek to a mugger in the Bronx
·       Breaking down the concept of “good guys with guns”
·       How one participant’s parents pulled him out of public school in Georgia after the public schools started arming teachers after the Columbine shooting, because the parents realized that if there was a breakout of shots, Black boys might be most likely to be shot first
·       80% of victims of gun violence are women and children
·       Every minute 20 people are displaced in the world, so 28,000 people are displaced every day
·       There may be somewhere between 2-4 million Syrian refugees outside of Syria, but 8 million refugees inside Syria, who no one ever talks about  
·       Books shared included:
o   Uncommon Valor by Melvin Claxton and Mark Puls
o   The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
o   Lethal But Legal: Corporations, Consumption and Public Health by Nicholas Freudenberg
·       Reflections: While there is a systemic nature of corporate power, and cycles of violence, there are also reminders of goodness. And when we appeal to someone’s inherent sense of good, we can overcome violence.  
·       We can process our pain through creative means. Syrian artist Rashwan Abdelbaki from the Artistic Freedom Initiative shared his art. I was particularly moved by the Last Supper, First Wall painting.

©Rashwan Abdelbaki
Titled: Last Supper .. First Wall
العشاء الأخير .. الجدار الأول
200 x 330 cm
Acrylic On Canvas
NYC 2017
#RashwanAbdelbaki #Art #Painting #NewYork#Virginia #NY #VA #Damascus #Rome #Beirut#Dubai #London #Vermont #Italy #Syria #Lebanon#UK #USA

(At first I thought he said "First World"...but really the meaning isn't much different, as it is in a "First World" country like the US that our president wants to build a wall.) I am particularly moved by this piece, because of the striking irony of the prisoners sitting behind a wall, at the table of the Last Supper. My tradition of Christianity/Catholicism teaches that the Last Supper was one where Jesus shared with us how we can partake in His divinity through sharing in His Body and Blood - a carnal image for sure, but one of ultimate sacrifice, and one that reminds Catholics of the beauty of the incarnation every time we celebrate the Mass at church. If those of us who truly believe that Jesus was communicating about the divinity we can all share with Him in - that each human being has a spark of the divine and deserves all the dignity and respect in the world - then what does a painting like this tell us about how well those of us who are Christians are living out this message? What would Jesus say if he were alive today and saw this painting? Because the message the painting communicates seems to me to be pretty much on the mark. There are many practicing Christians and others who are oppressed, who are prisoners in their own lives, stuck behind walls or silos of ignorance and fast-paced society that separate them from human compassion. To me this painting represents the base communities such as those that liberation theology stands for: Christians and others who respect Jesus' message, crying out to be heard, to be seen, to not just be regarded as "other" and treated brutally and often even killed, but instead treated as unique and dignified human beings who deserve to be listened to. I pray we can use this and other meaningful art such as this to spark dialogue for true inclusivity, hope, and change. 

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Water and Health in the Bronx: Protecting the Sacred

It is hard to not be awed by the scale and tremendous care that goes into supporting the gigantic system bringing water to New York City and the surrounding counties. Flowing from the Catskill/Delaware Watersheds and the Croton Watershed, approximately one billion gallons of water are consumed in New York City every day, serving 8.5 million residents as well as millions of tourists each year. In all, the New York City Water Supply System provides nearly half the population of New York State with high-quality drinking water.
It is humbling to realize just how dependent all these millions of people are on the water supply functioning the way it is supposed to. Water constitutes about 50-70% of our bodies as human beings. Water from the reservoirs, aqueducts, and street-side sampling stations is quality tested by the Department of Environmental Protection’s scientists, with nearly 630,000 analyses performed on the samples in four state-of-the art laboratories (NYC DEP).

Photo © Kelly Moltzen, NYC Watershed Tour

In my own tradition of Franciscan Catholicism, we are called to protect water as a component of creation care, protecting the Earth and our bodies as temples of God. Saint Francis of Assisi heard a call from God to “repair my house, which…is falling utterly into ruin.” While initially he took this as a call to repair a physical church, he eventually came to understand it as a call to repair the institutional Church and the universal house of God, the common home that we all share here on Earth. His spirituality grew to such depths that he came to regard Earth as Mother Earth, and water as Sister Water. By protecting water, we are protecting our health and that of our fellow sisters and brothers with whom we share the Earth. Unfortunately, in many places in the United States and across the world, oil spills from pipelines, contamination from hydraulic fracturing, and runoff from nuclear power plants and industrial agriculture threaten water supplies. Thus, I see the call to watershed discipleship as extremely important for people of faith.

Photo © Kelly Moltzen, NYC Watershed Tour

Pope Francis explained the risks of water pollution in his 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si’, which many people of faith are using to make the case for why we should care for our common home. He dedicates a whole section of the encyclical to the issue of water – noting the importance of fresh water for healthcare, agriculture and industry; the prevalence of droughts and water poverty; the outbreak of water-related diseases among the poor; water pollution resulting from certain mining, farming and industrial activities; the phenomenon of water privatization by large multinational businesses; and the link between water scarcity and the cost of food and various products which depend on its use. He also notes, “access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right.”

Photo © Kelly Moltzen, NYC Watershed Tour

Yet, my concern about water quality and safety stems not just from the threats modern society and corporate greed pose to water safety. I am also concerned because water is the healthiest drink. I work at Bronx Health REACH, which partners with school districts and a number of faith-based and community organizations to promote water as the best alternative to beverages of poor nutritional quality. In this work, it is necessary to make sure we can point to sources of safe drinking water if we want people to switch away from unhealthy drinks like sodas and drinks high in sugar.
First, I’ll share a little bit about why we are advocating for people to drink more water, and then share about other environmental and health concerns related to our water system. Finally, I’ll mention the work of a number of faith-based and community organizations in and around New York City that work to ensure there is safe drinking water, and that people are accessing it in healthy amounts.

Photo © Kelly Moltzen, NYC Watershed Tour

Soda, sports drinks, fruit-flavored drinks, and other sugar-sweetened beverages may sound appealing and some drinks (such as sweetened teas) sometimes get marketed as “natural” and healthy. Society is swamped with marketing campaigns that make these consumer products sound appealing thanks to billion-dollar advertising budgets, but these products are contributing to high rates of diabetes, obesity, and other chronic diseases, with higher and higher rates of these diseases showing up in young children. In turn, this causes rising healthcare costs for dealing with these diseases.

Photo © Kelly Moltzen, NYC Watershed Tour

In the Bronx, a third of adults consume at least one sugar-sweetened beverage per day, and over half of children do. A third of Bronx children are overweight or obese, as are two thirds of adults (NYC DOHMH).
Not only do sugar-sweetened beverages contribute to the desecration of our own bodies, but often the industrial processes used to create unhealthy beverages also place undue harm on the environment and make public water sources less and less accessible to the people who need them most. None of this is healthy for people or the economy, but these practices line the pockets of corporate executives. By infusing a sense of value on drinking water, Bronx Health REACH is working to ensure the continued safety of our water supplies.

20170912_155310
Photo © Kelly Moltzen, NYC Watershed Tour

In addition to drinking water directly, water is also used to grow food for our local food system. Some of us in the watershed are teaching children about growing food and getting local food into schools, restaurants, and churches. There is even a farm run by Catholic sisters who sell the produce to local parishes for use in farm shares, food pantries and soup kitchens. Bronx Health REACH has been instrumental in developing a “Bronx Salad” that encourages consumption of culturally relevant foods while also encouraging community members to grow some of the produce locally, such as in community gardens. A feature of this salad is the dressing made from the Bronx Hot Sauce, which is made by a local chef with peppers grown in the Bronx. A version of this salad is becoming increasingly available in NYC school cafeterias, thanks to a partnership between school gardening and Farm to School efforts in NYC. As we seek to develop a regional food system and reduce the environmental impact of our food system, we must also seek to protect the water supplies that nourish the crops.

Photo © Kelly Moltzen, NYC Watershed Tour

While the water delivered to NYC is pristine and high quality, many New Yorkers remain skeptical of its safety. Therefore, I recently took a tour of the watershed that supplies water to NYC to learn just how safe the water is to drink. The watershed tour guide was immensely knowledgeable, and I became even more deeply aware of the tremendous gratitude and respect we owe to those who work around the clock to make sure that our water is safe. I gained an even greater understanding of the importance of ecology when learning about how the Department of Environmental Protection plants trees upstream from a river to help keep the water pure by filtering out toxins and impurities.
Despite the fact that high-quality water is delivered to NYC, I hear a lot of anecdotal concerns about water safety, at least in the Bronx. Legitimate concerns have been raised since water testing in NYC was examined more critically after the Flint water crisis. It turns out that the pipes bringing water into homes and schools are often old and made of lead, increasing the likelihood of lead leaching into our drinking water. Water samples from 2016-2017 found high levels of lead in some samples of NYC water delivered to schools, leading to outcries about the water’s safety. Even though the NYC Health Department affirms that no cases of lead poisoning have resulted from the high lead levels found in water, any level of lead that makes its way into our bodies is too much. We can reduce the likelihood of lead leaching into our water supply at the individual level by letting the water run before drinking it, only drinking water that comes out of the tap cold (since lead dissolves in hot water), or using special filters that remove lead.
Ideally, we could have well-funded public education campaigns about how to drink water safely, and to replace old pipes with non-lead pipes. But in order to get government and funders to prioritize water safety and public health, we need to tap into our internal spiritual wells, which drive us to improve the quality of life for all, and build increased momentum for the needed changes through advocacy and organizing.

Photo © Kelly Moltzen, NYC Watershed Tour

A loose coalition of organizations in the New York City area partner to ensure a safe water supply and to encourage water consumption. Food & Water Watch has policy campaigns to improve pipe infrastructure. The New York City Health Department and Bronx Health REACH have campaigns to encourage water consumption and educate people about the health risks of sugar-sweetened beverages. Water2Kids is a business started by twin children in the Bronx (with the support of their mother) who wanted to see water — instead of sugar-sweetened beverages — marketed to their age group. Groups like Religious Organizations Along the River (ROAR), the Metro New York Catholic Climate Movement (a chapter of the Global Catholic Climate Movement), and the Center for Earth Ethics of Union Theological Seminary work to protect the New York water supply from projects that could threaten the safety of our water. Churches, including Franciscan and other Catholic parishes in NYC, organize film screenings about water and other environmental issues.
As interdependent creatures, human beings must rely on one another and our ecosystems in order to access the most basic of necessities required to sustain life on Earth. Because of our reliance on our watershed and other natural resources, ensuring our water sources remain uncontaminated is vitally essential and part of the call for us to steward creation. As we are interdependent with the Earth to meet our physical human needs, so the parts of the body of Christ are also interdependent with one another. We all need one another in order to make the impacts we want to make.
It can often feel overwhelming to try and address all of the overlapping and interconnected issues related to ensuring safe and healthy water and food supplies. However, as Wendell Berry says in the documentary Look and See: A Portrait of Wendell Berry, we must work on putting the pieces together one at a time, rather than all at once — such as starting with our own watershed. By taking bite-sized steps to address our ecological crisis while continuing to recognize the interconnectedness of issues and our interdependence with the local ecosystem, we can put faith in action by creating a livable, sustainable future for current and future generations.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Some Thoughts on Accompaniment

Accompany.  This word struck me particularly as I finished reading “In the Company of the Poor: Conversations with Dr. Paul Farmer and Fr. Gustavo Gutierrez,” a book that makes connections between global health and liberation theology.  Dr. Farmer and Fr. Gustavo both share the importance of accompanying the poor in order to address a root cause of health disparities and the biggest scandal of theology: poverty.  When we accompany, we start from a bottom-up approach and acknowledgement that we are called to stand in solidarity with others because we are one. As Dr. Farmer reiterates again and again, we do not live in “First World” and “Third World” countries; we live in one world.  An example of this I learned when visiting San Diego recently is that there are pollution concerns in San Diego travelling up the coast by air and water from Tijuana; wouldn’t investment into the public health infrastructure in Tijuana lessen the burdens not only of the Mexicans but also the Californians? 

I am also struck by the world accompany for several other reasons.  First, its root is “con pan” – with bread.  When we break bread with others, we are standing – or eating – with one another in solidarity.  When we can ensure that no one is excluded from our table, but that there is bread for all, we are really living as if everyone on earth is our kin.  Next, this is a word used by immigration activists, as immigrants benefit from having people to accompany them to trials when they are facing deportation:  immigrants are often treated more humanely when accompanied by a U.S. citizen who recognizes their human dignity and knows something of the danger that often awaits those who are forced back to their home countries.  Also, I found out that there is a retreat within the Methodist/Protestant traditions that parallels the Day by Day Agape (DDA) retreat I went on as a teenager at Capuchin Youth & Family Ministries, that the Protestants call “A Walk with Emmaus.”  The Emmaus Walk as I have come to experience on my DDA and other retreats, is also one of accompaniment.  It’s accompanying a fellow human being on their walk with God – a shared experience that can be truly transformative for both parties.

Accompaniment in the search for global health, food justice, immigrant rights, spiritual discernment, or any other human journey has love for the other at its root in all cases.  It’s the same root as the motivation of St. Francis of Assisi when he decided to embrace the leper on the side of the road, and the same motivation that St. Francis spoke about when he told a fellow friar “charity, not food” is what was important in the breaking of bread with a hungry friar. Charity, that is, in the context of the original meaning of the word it is derived from (caritas) – love for one’s neighbor.  In this holistic understanding of the word charity, we come to accompany our brothers and sisters in a way that honors their dignity rather than sees them as recipients of handouts that does not allow them to have a role in their own liberation.  This type of accompaniment has allowed Dr. Paul Farmer to build up the organization of Partners in Health to have 13,000 employees, two thirds of them being local community health workers, many former patients who many have never had a job in their lives before.  It’s an accompaniment that sees people holistically, acknowledges the social determinants of health, creates jobs, and helps people lift themselves out of poverty. 

It’s this type of accompaniment we can use in building one to one relationships when organizing for a goal, for those who seek to do something to manifest hope as an alternative to the utter hopelessness we can feel in challenging situations where we see so much suffering around us.  Fr. Gustavo speaks a good deal about hope amidst suffering, as well – citing Jeremiah 32 and Job as influential Biblical texts to meditate upon.

Ultimately, it is especially up to those who have privilege to decide to accompany those who suffer at the hand of unjust policies and systems, recognizing that we can gain strength from the hope that lives in the wells of our own and others’ experiences.  And of course, the person being accompanied must choose to be accompanied. When we befriend those we accompany, the journey becomes a shared human experience from which both people can benefit. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Building a Catholic Food System

Mass is a celebration of the Eucharist – the body of Christ, the physical manifestation of the divine presence on Earth.  Millions of Catholics go to mass every weekend and celebrate the Eucharist, and Christians of other denominations similarly celebrate the meal Jesus had with his disciples through weekly services. But what could it mean to take the celebration Eucharist even more literally, to live out the spirituality to which our faith calls us?  
“Give us this day, our daily bread,” we pray.  How can we let Christ live through us in a way that better helps to ensure the world’s hungry receive their daily bread?  This question is one that necessitates seeing ourselves as interconnected with our brothers and sisters across the world, so we can maintain the spiritual stamina needed to create a more equitable food system.

Photo credit: Gerald Wen, member of Harmony Farm CSA & St. John the Baptist/Holy Cross Justice, Peace & Integrity of Creation (JPIC) Care for Creation committee. Used by permission.

In December 2016, I helped to facilitate a food justice breakout session within a Catholics of Color Climate Justice workshop, organized by the Franciscan Action Network in partnership with Climate Reality Project. One participant asked how we might build a food system based on Catholic principles.  I started brainstorming what this might entail.  
A food system based on Catholic principles would value the five components of the Good Food Purchasing Policy of the Center for Good Food Purchasing: local economies, environmental sustainability, valued workforce, animal welfare, and nutrition.  A Catholic food system would care for the hungriest among us, both on the other side of the world as well as the other side of the street, making sure everyone not only has access to food but gets fresh, quality, nutritious food, that doesn’t degrade environmental sustainability but promotes ecological well-being instead.
Picture this: going to church and picking up a farm share with food grown on an organic and biodynamic farm owned by a religious congregation, and having surplus food that is grown be donated to the church’s food pantry or soup kitchen, thanks to the support of other parishioners who can help to subsidize the additional food.  Having quotes from Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato Si” sent out in your weekly emails reminding you to pick up your vegetables from the farm. Coming together with parishioners to discuss integral ecology and spirituality – how our faith informs how we live out our engagement with the earth. And having the opportunity to visit the farm, meet the people who are growing your food, and even pick some of the produce yourself.
That is exactly what is happening through Blessed Sacrament Church on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in New York City. Blessed Sacrament has partnered with a lay Catholic community known as Benincasa (after St. Catherine Benincasa of Siena) that is supported by the Dominican Sisters of Blauvelt. Benincasa Community and the Social Action Committee at Blessed Sacrament host a “Community-Supported Agriculture” program and support the church soup kitchen in providing farm-fresh food to the community. Grown on Harmony Farm and offered alongside a discussion group and excerpts from Laudato Si in a weekly newsletter, the food provided by Harmony Farm is spiritual as well as physical nourishment.

Photo credit: Kelly Moltzen, taken at the Care for Creation retreat at Harmony Farm

2016 was the first year of the farm-to-church partnership. In 2017, Benincasa is starting to expand the program to other parishes.  The parish of Holy Cross/St. John the Baptist, run by the Capuchin Franciscans, has taken up the challenge, and parishioners have decided to donate funds for a bulk farm share that will be purchased for a new soup kitchen. The soup kitchen will be parishioner-led, too: several people have already taken the Food Protection Course and are now licensed to supervise the many volunteers who are ready to prepare food and service the soup line.
Biodynamic, organic farms such as Harmony Farm are practicing regenerative agriculture, which can trap carbon in the air into the ground, thereby helping to reduce carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. If regenerative agriculture was practiced globally, 100 percent of current, annual carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions would be sequestered (1). This is a refreshing alternative to food from a system that is a significant contributor to climate change and environmental degradation.
Because of our industrial growing practices and cultural habits, red meat and dairy contribute nearly half of the greenhouse gas emissions of all foods.  The beauty of eating a plant-based diet with foods grown locally, organically, and even biodynamically, is that we can build a new food system while simultaneously providing climate solutions.  Creating a system that feeds the hungry with nourishing food from the earth also puts the power and responsibility back into parishes and takes it away from the food industry, a harmful system that perpetuates food insecurity as Andrew Fisher recently made clear in his book Big Hunger: The Unholy Alliance Between Corporate America and Anti-Hunger Groups.
Ideally we can work towards the full meaning of the root of the word charity (caritas), or “expressing one’s love for God through love for one’s neighbor and oneself,” a love that includes dignity of the receiver, and also keep in mind the roots of charity in the Judaic tradition, where the highest level of charity is when receivers are able to become self-reliant.
To make more sustainably, ethically grown produce available at an affordable price for all, we would need a Farm Bill that is committed to biodiversity and incentivizes produce rather than subsidizes corn and soy as staple crops.  More affordable fruits and vegetables would also support equity for communities of color that are disproportionately affected by health disparities. We also need to make sure children are being taught from a young age about healthy and plant based eating, and provide them with opportunities to learn how food connects them to the earth and others.  There is a great model for this in WANDA, or Women Advancing Nutrition, Dietetics & Agriculture.  In ensuring that young girls are educated about the healing power of food, we can build a new generation of leaders who have the capacity to sustain themselves and one another.  
By focusing on growing more fruits and vegetables and promoting a plant-based diet, we can also reduce our reliance on the resource-intensive and often unethical practices involved in raising animals for meat.  The Saint Francis Alliance is a network of Catholics who advocate for vegetarianism because they recognize the inherent value and dignity of animals, and know that an ecosystem which treats animals well will also be one that is sustainable and healthy for humans.
Equipping ourselves to build a food system that honors the dignity of all of creation promotes improved food and water security for everyone, which can also help reduce violence and conflict especially in areas where resource scarcity is a threat to human livelihood.  Yet creating this new food system is not an easy feat: in order to accomplish the task, we must recognize the challenges that come with defending creation, ethical treatment of farmworkers, and the poor’s access to land. This became a lifelong struggle for Cesar Chavez, and Oscar Romero was assassinated standing up against corruption and in the name of Christ, and for the right of the poor to have access to land.
A food system based on Catholic principles is one based on the premise of integral ecology – recognizing our profound interdependence with the earth and one another.  It’s based on Catholic Social Teaching, including honoring the dignity of all, rights of workers, a for the poor and vulnerable, and the care of creation.  And it’s one that allows us to fully live out the three dimensions of eco-conversion: the spiritual dimension, lifestyle dimension, and advocacy dimension. It’s one based on grace, where the incarnate is not desecrated, but its sacredness is instead honored as we share meals through community.
(also posted at christianfoodmovement.org)  

(1)  Rodale Institute (2014). Regenerative Organic Agriculture and Climate Change: A Down-to-Earth Solution to Global Warming. This compelling statistic is backed up by Rodale’s Farming Systems Trial (FST), the longest-running test comparing organic and conventional cropping systems.