Since WWOOFing at Pay it Forward Farm in Andover, New Hampshire in the summer of 2014, I have been on an exciting, inspiring, and hard yet joyous journey with food. This journey is one that many of us have chose to undertake, given the current inequitable state of our food landscape today. Since my first experience farming, I have learned so much about self, soil, and the role of food in our lives. On a technical level, I’ve come to know how food is grown/produced, harvested, processes, transported, distributed, and accessed. On a communal level, I’ve experienced the camaraderie of farmers, the role of cooperative grocers and community groups, and the ways in which food truly brings people of different backgrounds together to create something greater than self. On an academic level, I’ve probed the ways different culture view and treat the ritual around food, and how it is regulated and controlled, and, more importantly, how it can be changed within the U.S. federal system of government. Now, I find myself at a crossroads of food, faith, and the law, wondering – what is my place in it all?
My faith life has helped to center and re-balance me in this regard. Within the space of prayer, reflection, and meditation, I’ve asked the question – “What needs me?” The process of vocational discernment is hard work, and can take a lifetime to even begin to understand the questions. But, I am finding comfort in realizing that there is much to be gleaned from living into the answers.
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will find them gradually, without noticing it, and live along some distant day into the answer.” – Rainer Maria Rilke
Currently, I am living out a rule of life. This rule of life is grounded in love of God, love of self, love of others, and love of creation. It encompasses time for prayer, meditation, and reflection; service and outreach; pursuit of experiences that bring joy to self and others; making and keeping time to care for body and soul; and caring for and furthering the health and prosperity of creation – the earth, its creatures, the food it produces, and the socioecological system of the whole, of which we are a part. This rule of life also connects me to a very special community – St. Mary’s Convent, which has been a guiding light of friendship, love, and support. It was in the Convent’s Organic Prayer Garden that I felt the call to learn more deeply matters of the soil and the life and food it produces.
This notion of ora et labora, prayer and work, is a tradition of the rule of St. Benedict, which St. Mary’s follows. Prayer and work, in this sense, are partners. Contemplation guided by action, action guided by contemplation. It is through our prayers, hopes, and beliefs, that the connections we make through our actions are deepened, strengthened, and made to be more powerful.
So, in going forward with these questions of purpose and vocation, food and faith, and my place in it all, prayer and work will be my guides. Prayers for open hearts and minds, for kindness and care, for others and all of creation. Work for self, others, and community.
Ora et Labora is the heading and guiding theme through which my journey in food and faith is explored. The posts focus on questions that arise from these matters, and the way in which the relationship between food and faith can help to create and support more just and sustainable food systems.