(Edit: This week’s Storytellers article comes from Sarah Antonio, who raises hogs on her small homestead. She recently had her parish priest come over to bless her animals. Catholic Rural Life’s Rural Life Prayer Book has a number of blessings for food and animals. You can purchase a copy here. CRL also publishes a Calendar of Blessings, with November being centered around a Blessing for Food. You can download free printables for this blessing here.)
Since the beginning of time, human social interaction, community, has centered around the shared table. Hospitality. We welcome friends to join around the table, toast to the joys and woes, break bread together. Food is not just for the sustenance of humans. It is community, connection, love.
Jesus ate with sinners and friends. He fed thousands. And the final gift He left us with was a command to share in His table together at Mass. Gathering together, with food at the center, is a crucial component in His life and His teachings.
Catholic tradition calls for a blessing before partaking of food. We pause, bow our heads, cross ourselves, thank God, and ask him to bless the food we are to enjoy. Food is a gift from Him, so we stop to give thanks and reflect.
Recently, we brought a small gathering of friends together to bless and enjoy the food that God has to graciously given to us. It is for our sustenance, but it is also for our enjoyment ad we thank God for that gift.
This gathering was a bit different in that this food we blessed was still walking happily in the forest. Our dear, bacon-loving pastor came out to our humble homestead to bless the hogs we are raising. It was a wonderful opportunity to pause and thank God for these creatures that will, eventually, feed us. Under a fiery red canopy of Maple, we all gathered around the hogs, as they happily munched and rooted, and Father blessed them. I hope that, in this gathering and blessing, we are able to bring a bit of joy and friendship to the kitchen table.
We are a new (and green!) operation, having only been homesteading for a few short years. Our “customers”, for the most part, are our friends; people with whom we break bread on a regular basis. A large part of our mission, as small time homesteaders, is to build this community of friends and food lovers. We strive to bring people together, to show people where their food lives and breathes before it comes home to grace their tables. God is in community. God is in the fields and the forest. God is in the blessing and breaking of bread. He is in our hearth and home. We try to take the time to pause, reflect, and thank Him for this gift. He gave us food for sustenance, but in giving us our humanity, he also gave us the gift of enjoying the means of the sustenance. It is a good God Who gives us bacon.
In this rat race of life, food has become nothing more than a means to fill the belly. Our food needs to be more than a drive thru window or an apple on the way out the door. When we devalue our food in this way, we strip both the food and the very act of eating of its enjoyment and brings it down to its base element of simply sustaining us. When we do this, we take the human element of enjoyment away and, essentially, take God away, too.
God made us human and with that comes certain faculties that elevate us above the other creatures of this good earth. Watching the animals on our homestead, I can see that they certainly enjoy their food, but not to the same degree that we do as humans. Our humanity is what brings food, family, and friends around the table to enjoy food in community. In coming together and enjoying the bounty, we honor our God in a way that an animal never can.
These small homesteaders are finding God in our food and bringing that, in our own small way, back to the people. Community is built in the slow food of life. Community is built around the food-laden table and in this community, we honor our God.