Food does more than nourish us — it shapes our identity and brings us closer to God and others

By:  OSV Newsweekly 

There is an intimate connection between food and faith. In the Garden of Eden, God provided food for Adam and Eve and commanded them not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; the Israelites ate manna in the desert; the most important feast for the Jewish people was the Passover, commemorated with a ritual meal; and of course, the quintessential “feast of faith” is the Eucharist, in which Jesus Christ is made present under the appearance of bread and wine.

Why is there such a connection between food and faith, between Catholics and cooking?

Traditions have developed over the years that have become part and parcel of Catholic life: fish fries on meatless Fridays; coffee and donuts after Sunday Mass; potlucks and Church picnics; meals of consolation for loved ones following funerals; and many more. The world of food blogs and podcasts and television shows also includes a significant Catholic presence.

Catholics bring a fascinating perspective to the world of food. Sometimes this is from ethnic or national cultures that are particularly Catholic, such as Poland, Italy, the Philippines or Mexico. Sometimes it is the result of profound theological reflection on the role that food has played throughout salvation history. Sometimes it is reflections on the importance of the family meal, of breaking bread together. A quick search on the web will yield a tremendous number of Catholics leading the charge.

The power of food

Father Leo Patalinghug has been promoting the link between food and faith for many years and in many media all over the world. Born in the Philippines but raised and currently based in the Baltimore area, Father Patalinghug is a priest member of a community of consecrated life called Voluntas Dei, a secular institute of pontifical right. According to their website, “The aim of the Institute is to be present in every milieu.” Father Patalinghug’s apostolate in the food world, where there is not much explicit priestly presence, certainly speaks to this mission.

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