Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Fast food... Fast faith - Episode 13

Welcome to The Catholic Foodie, where food meets faith. We have quite a selection on the menu today: youth ministry, vocation, & fast food. Wow. What do youth ministry and vocation have to do with fast food? You'll find out in episode 13. As you may recall, I mentioned in episode 12 that I was to attend Abbey Youth Fest this past Saturday. As the Confirmation Director for St. Peter Parish in Covington, I had the pleasure of bringing 124 teens & chaperones to this exciting event. I also had the opportunity to interview a number of people. In this episode you are going to hear a priest, a seminarian, and a full-time youth minister weigh in on youth ministry and vocation.

So, what is Abbey Youth Fest like? I like to describe it as a "Catholic Woodstock." 2500 to 3000 teens in a huge open field on the grounds of a Benedictine monastery. A huge stage, towers of speakers, a giant flat-screen TV, dynamic presenters, fun and energetic bands, tons of priests and religious, teenagers who are excited about Jesus and the Church, confession offered all day long, a beautiful liturgy celebrated by Archbishop Hughes, vespers in the evening, candle-light adoration with benediction, and lots of volunteers preparing food... fast food. Goodness! All of this and more is on the menu today at The Catholic Foodie, where food meets faith.

So where does fast food come into play? In this episode we take a philosophical look at fast food and its impact on society. I think it is safe to say that we live in a fast-paced society. We are always on the go. In this kind of social climate, fast food really does fulfill a need.

Here's an interesting question: Is our fast-paced society to blame for fast food, or is fast food to blame for our fast-paced society. My answer: Why can't it be both? Fast food does indeed fulfill a need, but it also allows society to move even faster. We don't have to stop to cook. We don't have to set the table. We can simply go through a drive-thru and get our favorite burger and fries in a paper wrapper and cardboard container. And our condiments come in plastic packets. It's so easy. Just throw it away when finished. No clean-up necessary. Unfortunately, in all of this, we miss each other. We fail to connect.

In the Jan/Feb 2009 issue of Gilbert! Magazine, we read the following in the editorial:

"As Chesterton says, every meal could be called breakfast; it is breaking a fast, and it should also be be a feast of thanksgiving , no matter how humble the fare. Ideally it begins with prayer and ends in laughter. Many, maybe most, of our good memories come from times around the table, eating, drinking, talking and laughing with those we love. If the family is the center of society, the table is the center of the family. It is a demonstrable fact that families who sit down together for at least one meal a day are more tightly knit, supportive, and healthy. It is communion" (p. 7).

It is communion. When I first read this, the neurons started firing. I began to see another example of our fast food society, an example that we can see in our churches every Sunday. I don't know about your parish, but in mine it is amazing the number of people who leave Mass right after receiving communion. The Mass is not over. The meal is not done. Everyone else is still eating. And they leave, without even excusing themselves. Apparently, other things are more important than lingering with their brothers and sisters at their Father's table. Does this not denigrate the Eucharist to fast food? Does it not equate to "fast food Jesus?"

Another article, written by David Beresford in the Jan/Feb 2009 issue of Gilbert!, highlights for us the predicament of the modern family:

"Now consider the modern family suppertime, which is presented to us by our culture: it is an unholy mixture of plastic, pre-cooked protein, ugly toy dolls and clowns. Grace, if said, feels awkward. Cash can fill your belly, cash can entertain your kids. The entire event is a hollow shell, a mockery, a mini-sacrament in the culture of death, lacking even the authenticity of the pagan meal. The message is clear: there is no family, no ritual, no community, no life -- for food pay cash.

"It is now a radical pro-life act to cook and eat at home. So let us clear away the plastic, set the table with our best china and light the candles, putting a chicken on the table and knives in the hands of our children. And, beginning with grace, dig in after a hard day's work" (24).

So, what does fast food have to do with youth ministry and vocation? Fast food can break down community. Without community (especially the Church), how can we recognize the voice of God. He is the one who calls... each one of us. Are we able to hear Him? We need to start recognizing that our fast food society is breaking down community in families. What we need is to slow down. To cook a meal. To share that meal with family and friends. This builds community. Sitting at the table with others, sharing good food, fosters conversation. And conversation brings people closer together... it can also help us listen to God.

Some of the links mentioned in today's show:

Called by Name (from the Diocese of Baton Rouge)
Abbey Youth Festival
St. Joseph Abbey
Covenant 7's Facebook group page
Gilbert! Magazine

Remember, in episode 14 we will finish our discussion on youth ministry, vocations, and fast food. We are going to talk specifically about leading teens to the sacraments. Do you have any comments or questions about these topics? Let us know!

Leave feedback at catholicfoodie@gmail.com or call the listener feedback line at 985-635-4974.

You can download episode 13 here or listen to it below:

My Podcast Alley feed! {pca-f872e135158dec27f1ce9f73e89a5d3a}


Christie Martin said...

You have really touched on a source (or a symptom?) of empty and unfulfilling interaction in our world today. The fast food culture is a cultural disconnect. As a 1st grade teacher I was appalled at the lunchroom behavior I saw. For my class, I cancelled the lunchroom. We all ate together in the classroom for several months while we learned all those meal rituals that these children had rarely experienced. It was an eye opening experience for me as well. Behavior problems plummeted, and the kids really bonded with me and each other. Years later, I'm a mom who insists on all meals at the table. Your post is so to the point!

The Catholic Foodie said...


Wow. It sounds like you had a powerful experience. I am simply amazed at how much fast food has affected our culture. We think nothing of it, yet it tears down the fundamental daily experience of families.

Can families build community over fast food? Yes, they can. But it is not the same. It is one step removed from reality. I keep thinking of all the plastic involved. Plastic, fake, not real, etc.

"I'd like a real knife and fork, please. A real plate. Oh, and real food, too, please!"

Maureen said...

Yay. Let's make all the single people cook all alone, clean all alone, and ponder their loneliness aloneness all alone -- all while holding sharp kitchen knives. You can stamp out restaurants and single people at the same time!

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