Reading The Church of Mercy by Pope Francis as a Lenten project has been a bit of an adventure. While the book itself is a mere 150 pages including end notes, each short chapter calls the reader back to look deeper, look inward, question current paradigms and only then move forward. Our selections for Week Five of Lent are no exception to this rule.
In General Audience, 5 June 2013, Pope Francis states, “Let us remember well, however, that whenever food is thrown out, it is as if it were stolen from the table of the poor, from the hungry! I ask everyone to reflect on the problem of the loss and waste of food, to identify ways and approaches that, by seriously dealing with this problem, convey solidarity and sharing with the underprivileged.”
The Holy Father goes on to say, in Address to the Community of Varginha, 25 July 2013: “No amount of ‘peace-building’ will be able to last, nor will harmony and happiness be attained, in a society that ignores, pushes to the margins, or excludes a part of itself…We must never, never allow the throwaway culture to enter our hearts…No one is disposable! Let us always remember this: only when we are able to share do we become truly rich; everything that is shared is multiplied!”
Reading these words challenges this reader to remember a time when virtually everything at home was saved and re-used, including the bags from loaves of sandwich bread. After the last crust (or heel) from a loaf of bread was eaten, the bread bag was washed, rinsed and hung to dry on the clothesline in the yard or in the basement during winter months. Such bread bags were used for a variety of things, but the most vivid memory is wearing plastic bread bags inside our boots as liners. On very cold days, an old pair of Dad’s woolen hunting socks would be added for additional warmth.
Items were used and re-used because many of our parents had grown up during the Depression when waste was never an option. Leftovers were part of the weekly dinner rotation. If a beef roast was prepared for Sunday dinner, one could expect to see the metal meat grinder attached to the kitchen table Monday afternoon and Mom dicing potatoes and onions to go into a beef hash for supper. (This would most likely be after carrying a roast beef sandwich to school, if one were that lucky!) Chili night was followed by chili dog night, my best friend’s favorite time to come to supper at our house.
So where does this trip down memory lane leave us? We need to be much more than sentimental. Lessons we learned from our parents and grandparents about the value of our resources and the scarcity of food must be passed along to this next generation. We involve the young people with food drives and Sandwich Ministry but we are called on to do more in our own households, schools, neighborhoods. Lessons in only buying what we need, sharing what we have with others, gardening, composting, recycling—all of these are lessons that MUST be learned and become the norm. There’s a wealth of information and multiple organizations available to help us cultivate true solidarity, and move that much closer to peace.