Sunday, November 29, 2015

First Sunday of #Advent: Hope Overcomes Fear

We begin the Advent season with an excerpt of a reflection from Rev. John Rausch, a Glenmary priest who was recognized by Pax Christi with a Teacher of Peace award this year. An instrumental version of  Bernardette Farrell's song Bread of Life follows (via jazzairwaves).
Advent allows a step back from our preoccupation with economic worries and the cares of the world. It raises our eyes to see the new liturgical year as the hopeful dawn of salvation that will ultimately reach completion with our participation. Fear about the “end of the world” gets replaced by excitement about the fullness of God’s Reign. Your “ransom,” “liberation,” and “redemption” are at hand!  -Rev. John Rausch 

Saturday, November 28, 2015

An Action Plan for Healthier Farms and People in New Mexico

New Mexico faces a stark paradox: ranking close to the top of the list in food insecurity and child and senior hunger, while about one-quarter of our population suffers from obesity and numerous diet-related chronic diseases. Public meal programs are critical opportunities for addressing the health and well-being of New Mexicans and there is real promise for those fruits and vegetables to be provided by New Mexico growers. -from The Power of Public Procurement: An Action Plan for Healthier Farms and People in New Mexico, September 2014
Cover: Seed Art Mural, Bernalillo County Youth Detention Center
Photo Courtesy of: Jade Leyva, Curator for SEEDS:A Collective Voice Multimedia
Exhibits, Community Seed Mural Projects Co-Artist & Coordinator

Over the past week we published blog posts on the links between health and hunger from the Bread for the World Institute, New Mexico Voices for Children and and First Choice Community Health Care. An important aspect of providing healthy food to the population, particularly low-income communities, is to ensure that fruits and vegetables are available at affordable levels. The produce does not need to be trucked from California. Rather, there is an abundance locally.

A little more than a year ago (in September 2014), Farm to Table and New Mexico State University (via the Department of Agricultural Economics and Agricultural Business, the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences and half a dozen agricultural extension offices) published a report that attempts to identify and understand the potential and current barriers that New Mexico farmers and New Mexico’s public institutions face when trying to sell and purchase locally grown fruits and vegetables for their respective meal programs.

The report, entitled The Power of Public Procurement: An Action Plan for Healthier Farms and People in New Mexico, recognizes that a potentially significant market exists for the sale of New Mexico grown produce to the State’s public institutions. This is particularly true for the school districts’ food service programs.

"A large, and until recently, untapped, commercial exchange may be fostered between fruit and vegetable growers and the public officials who administer the procure-ment systems of public institutions," researchers said in the executive summary of the report. "Yet, practicalities and barriers currently impede the process."

The authors of the report make a number of recommendations at various agency and inter-agency levels, placing a strong emphasis on schools, but also on senior centers, state corrections institutions, and farming and agriculture.  Read the executive summary and the full report.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Summer Feeding Program in Albuquerque Linked Hunger and Health

The Bread for the World Institute's 2016 Hunger Report, released on November 23, took the broad view of hunger as a health issue. A report published the same week by New Mexico Voices for Children examined the impact that a proposed tax on groceries would have on health and hunger in our state.

There are other local efforts underway to link hunger, nutrition and health.  First Choice Community Health Care launched a pilot program this past summer aimed at addressing child hunger as a health issue. The program, which took place June 1-August 7, was developed in partnership with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) and the Bernalillo County Office of Health and Social Services.

The pilot program was put in place at the South Valley Health Commons in Albuquerque, offering any child between the ages of 1 and 18 access to a nutritious free lunch. The pre-packaged meals distributed at the Commons met USDA's nutrition standards and were prepared by APS Food Services, which has created a balanced menu that includes fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and low fat milk.

The program was the first of its kind at a primary care clinic, where pediatricians look for signs of malnutrition, including obesity.

First Choice is considering the possibility of expanding the program to its seven other locations in the metro area, as the USDA seeks places to expand its impact beyond the traditional school breakfast and lunch programs nationwide. “Hunger is a health issue in many ways,” said Dr. Will Kaufman, a local physician who specializes on nutrition and health. “Families report skipping meals and buying cheaper food to stretch their budgets, which can mean food that is high in fat, sugar and calories, and low in nutritional value.”

The children’s feeding program is one of several strategies First Choice is using to address hunger and nutrition. Patients also participate in La Cosecha Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, which sells low cost bags of fresh, vegetables grown by South Valley farmers each week of the growing season, delivered to the South Valley Health Commons.

The CSA food is subsidized by Presbyterian Healthcare Services, which helped organize a summit in Albuquerque on health and hunger in May of this year, in partnership with ProMedica and The Alliance to End Hunger.  Clients also participate in the WIC program, which provides supplemental food for children and pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, including vouchers to spend on produce at Farmers Markets.

First Choice also helped launch a mobile farmers market that made stops throughout the South Valley and International District of Albuquerque during the summer. The mobile van, provided by Bernalillo County,  featured healthy cooking demonstrations, a mobile pantry stocked by The Storehouse and recipes.

Thursday, November 26, 2015


If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough. Meister Eckhart

“God wants nothing of you but the gift of a peaceful heart.”  Meister Eckhart

God of all kindness, everything that exists comes from you. You renew our joy in your creation, and give us a heart attentive to those we meet. And then we can better show your luminous presence for every human being.
-Taizé community  

Three of the 13 Gratitutudes
(Joyce Rupp, OSM)

  •  To find ways to reach out and help the disenfranchised, while also preserving their dignity and self-worth. 
  • To be as loving and caring as possible, in a culture that consistently challenges these virtues. 
  • To remember to say or send “thank you” for whatever comes as a gift from another.

Gratitude abides in a larger universe. So, no matter how it presents itself, punctuate this moment with spacious thanksgiving!... We are, after all, thanks - givers! Giving thanks is our truest calling — to reflect back, with shining eyes, all the goodness we perceive.   An excerpt from "Pause, Breathe and Be Grateful",  a spiritual exercise in Still in the Storm (JustFaith Ministries)

Notice the enoughness of your life in any way that you can. Allow feelings of scarcity to move away in favor of a sense of sufficiency – appreciating what is yours to appreciate... Grateful Living is a direct pathway to the qualities of mind and heart which lend themselves to simplicity and sustainable motivation. Simple living comes when we trade our acquisitive tendencies for inquisitive and appreciative tendencies. Then, the experience of enough-ness, which brings peace and equanimity to our lives and relationships, will spill over into abundance.   excerpts from "Appreciating Sufficency" (via

Donate to Lydia Pendley's RESULTS Virtual Thanksgiving Feast

"At this meal, there will be no place settings, no formal attire, and no cleanup. Actually, there will be no turkey either. At this time of plenty for many Americans, I am asking you to join us in remembering children in the U.S. and around the world who don’t know where their next meal is coming from....RESULTS volunteers defend SNAP (food stamp) and child nutrition funding for in the U.S. and advocate for global child nutrition programs in Congress. In this season of plenty, please help me and other volunteers fight hunger by visiting my personal fundraising page and help me support the work that RESULTS does today so that others may feast tomorrow."

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Report Examines Impact of Proposed Food Tax on Health and Hunger in New Mexico

Reinstating a tax on the sale of food for consumption at home could harm the health of New Mexicans who are already food insecure—meaning they don’t always have enough to eat. And while the revenue generated from a tax on food could be used to mitigate some of the damage the tax would do, the report finds that it is unlikely governments would spend the new revenue toward that end. -New Mexico Voices for Children's report“A Health Impact Assessment of a Food Tax in New Mexico
There are many efforts underway to examine the relationship of health and nutrition to hunger. This week, the Bread for the World Institute published a comprehensive report on this issue, entitled The Nourishing Effect On Tuesday, we posted a piece about this report earlier this week.

The New Mexico Voices for Children also published a report on the same topic this week. The report, funded in part by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Pew Charitable Trusts, is more specific to New Mexico.  This report examines how proposals to reinstate a tax on the sale of food for consumption at home could harm the health of New Mexicans who are already food insecure. 

“When all is said and done, taxing food will hurt those New Mexicans who are already hurting the most,” said Veronica C. García, Ed.D., executive director of NM Voices. “Almost a third of our state’s children don’t get enough to eat—even with school meals, SNAP benefits and food banks. How can we, in good conscience, expect them to do with even less food?"

The report looks at three possible outcomes of a food tax: that families would maintain their current food purchasing patterns, leaving less money for other necessities such as medication and health care; that families would spend the same amount of money on food, but be able to purchase less of it (or substitute less-expensive, less-nutritious foods); and that state or local governments would collect more revenue, which could impact their spending patterns.

Health Impacts of a Food Tax on Family Economic Security: Taxing food would cost each New Mexico household around $350 per year, or $29 per month, on average. Highest-income earners in New Mexico would spend about one-half of 1 percent of their income on a food tax, while the lower half of New Mexico earners would spend around 1 percent of their income on the food tax alone—double the rate that high earners would pay. Research and calculations show that a food tax would exacerbate the tax system’s regressivity—that is it would hit low-income earners harder than it would hit high- income earners—and could harm family economic security, which could have negative impacts on mental health and stress levels, income available for other necessary purchases besides food, need and demand for public assistance, childhood development, ability to pay for health services and medicine, economic equity, and the ability to manage chronic conditions through diet.

Health Impacts of a Food Tax on Food Security, Diet, and Nutrition: Taxing food could also have an adverse impact on food security, diet, and nutrition by prompting purchases of less food or cheaper, less nutritious food. This could have important and harmful implications for health, particularly nutrition-related chronic conditions, the ability to manage chronic conditions through diet, childhood development and learning capacity, malnutrition issues, the incidence of low birth-weight and/or preterm babies, and the need and demand for food assistance from public, private, and nonprofit sources.

Health Impacts of a Food Tax on Government Spending: It is also possible that the negative health impacts of taxing food could be mitigated by how that revenue is spent. If food tax revenues lead to overall increased government spending on direct health services, food assistance and nutrition programs, programs that provide recreational opportunities, and education, then the food tax could have positive implications for health, or at the very least have no net negative implications. However, it is more likely that food tax revenue would be used to make up for decreasing revenue and so be used to maintain current service levels. Though it is possible that any increases could be spent on the programs noted above, for most program areas, it is unlikely, particularly at the municipal level.

Here are links to the executive summary and the full report

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

2016 Hunger Report Looks at Relationship of Health and Hunger

The Bread for the World Institute's 2016 Hunger Report, The Nourishing Effect, was the talk of Twitter on the day it was released on Monday, November 23. #HungerReport was the #1 Twitter trend in Washington and was the #6 trend in the nation.

Several VIP's were on hand for the release of the report at the National Press Club, including Kevin Concannon, the Undersecretary of Agriculture, and Deb Eschmeyer, who runs the Let’s Move program in First Lady Michelle Obama’s office.

Here is  an excerpt from the executive summary.
Hunger, food insecurity, and malnutrition ruin health. But good nutrition is preventive medicine. Hunger leads to poor health and poor health contributes to descents into hunger and food insecurity—especially among people who must choose between paying for food or medicine. In the United States, the issues of hunger and health have been seen as two separate and distinct challenges. But that is beginning to change as the system adapts to an ambitious reform agenda driven by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA is moving the U.S. healthcare system to focus on prevention and to address the root causes of chronic diseases.
Photo: Bread for the World
The Bread for the World Institute and Bread for the World will host a Twitter conversation this (Tuesday) morning at 11:00 A.M. Eastern Time (9:00 A.M. Mountain Time).

If you have any questions or observations about the report, please share them with the hosts of the Twitter conversation: Kelvin Beachum, an anti-hunger activist who plays for the  Pittsburgh Steelers; Lisa Scales of the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, and Asma Lateef, director of the Bread for the World Institute. If you want to participate, follow @BreadInstitute on Twitter.

Download the full report

Here are some tweets related to the release of the report.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Kimberly Burge's Television Interview in Cincinnati

On the birthday of my friend and author Kimberly Burge, I post this video of her television interview on WKRC-TV in Cincinnati, which was aired when she was visiting her hometown of Cincinnati back in October. I finally finished reading The Born Frees, and I totally enjoyed reading the stories from the young ladies in Gugulethu and their interactions with Kimberly. If you haven't picked up a copy of the book, I highly recommend it. (Your independent book store can special-order it for you. Or if you must use the big box commercial retailers, online and otherwise, you can also get the book that way. Kimberly is going around the country promoting the book. We hope to bring her to Albuquerque next year. Below the video are links to her recent promotional trip to the San Francisco Bay area.

San Francisco Trip

The Forum, Grace Cathedral  (November 1)
A series of stimulating conversations about faith and ethics in relation to the issues of our day.  Hosted by the clergy of Grace Cathedral, we invite leading public figures, musicians, theologians, artists and writers to bring the most innovative and interesting thinking to our public space, engaging our minds and hearts to think in new ways about the world.

San Francisco Theological Seminary  (November 5)

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Our Father of Benevolence

(Here is a wonderful reflection on The Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6: 9-13 and Luke 11: 1-4) , paraphrased by Malcolm Street, a member of  the Bread for the World board of directors from Fort Worth, Texas. The prayer was said at one of the sessions of the November board meeting).

Our Father, Father of all benevolence, We are in reverent awe of you: your Goodness and your Grace, your Mercy and Forgiveness, your power and might, your humble and gentle heart.

We pray that your reign of love be realized, made real, in us and that your desire for Good be pursued by us, as it is already so in the saints who have preceded us to heaven.

Just as your earth yields bread for our bodies, give us a Word from you to nourish our souls.

Release us from the debt we have incurred by acting as if we were God and not you, as we will forgive the debt of those who have tried to lord it over us.

O Lord, don't lead us as you did Jesus, into the desert that tests our faith; But if it must be so, deliver us from falling away from you in the time of trial.

We long for your Kingdom rule over us in love, your power in us that frees us from our sins, and for Christ, who is our only hope of glory.

And Lord, we go on to pray that you would bless our deliberations here today that they may bear the fruit of blessing to those on the margins, yes even beyond the margins of hunger and poverty.

Lord, may you give bread to the hungry and a hunger for you to those who have bread.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Bread for the World Advocacy Outcomes for 2014

Members of Congress rely on their constituents to keep them informed of issues and concerns in their districts. By writing your members of Congress, you’ve made yourself a valuable source of information. Congressional aides figure you represent others, so your voice becomes amplified. Writing letters gives you voice and power. Taking the time to write tells your members of Congress that you’re serious and that they’re accountable to you.  Exerpt from "Why Write to Congress", in Bread for the World's Take Action page.

Have you ever wondered what impact those letters to Congress, those meetings with congressional aides, those phone calls to Washington and the district office, those tweets, those letters to the editor are having?

The communications staff at Bread for the World put together these illustrations to show the progress against hunger since 1990 and the outcome of the advocacy efforts of grassroots members and staff during 2014 (illustrated in the five graphics below)

Remember those letters you wrote in 2014 urging Congress to reform food-aid programs? Legislators approved a set of reforms, and as a result, 1.5 million more people around the world have been fed.

These results, of course, did not occur in a vacuum. Bread for the World works in a number of coalitions (like the Modernizing Foreign Asissistance Network), and many other organizations and their members contributed to the outcome of the legislative initiatives.

This year, Bread for the World members (in partnership with other nutrition advocates) urged Congress to reauthorize child nutrition programs in our country, through our Feed Our Children campaign. In New Mexico, members of 18 congregations wrote more than 2,000 letters to Congress around this issue. Stay tuned for legislative updates.

Here are the graphics for the advocacy outcomes for 2014.

Food Aid Reform:

Circle of Protection:

Poverty-Focused Development Assistance

Immigration Reform

New USAID Strategy 

Friday, November 20, 2015

An Unfortunate Choice of Words for the Local Holiday Food Drive

At the risk of being called a "Debbie Downer" during this time of giving, I feel I must add my two cents to the otherwise noble effort by a group of businesses to partner with Roadrunner Food to collect non-perishable food items during the holidays.

The image on the left is a scan of the paper bag that was inserted in between the various sections of The Albuquerque Journal  this week. The paper bag presented a misleading message to the public:"Solve Hunger" by donating food. A better word would be "Help Alleviate Hunger."

To actually solve hunger, we must solve some of the structural problems that cause hunger, one of which is poverty and related factors like unemployment, underemployment, low wages, lack of access to affordable and nutritious food, a high level of debt and other causes. There are 50 million of our neighbors who do not know where their next meal is coming from, including 360,000 in New Mexico who are at risk of hunger.

"Despite the end of the Great Recession and a falling unemployment rate, the nation continues to be plagued by a very uneven recovery; low employment rates; stagnant wages; inadequate public investments; and inadequate public safety net programs. Yes, there has been progress. But it has been too slow," the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) said in its recently unveiled Plan of Action to End Hunger in America.

And how much difference does the food drive make?  It certainly helps increase the amount of food available to Roadrunner Food Bank and all the Feeding America affiliates around that country. That is an important reason why we all should participate in this holiday drive. Go to your local grocery store (instead of emptying your pantry) and buy $10 or $15 worth of non-perishable food items and leave them by your mail box on Saturday. Or better yet, take them directly to your nearest post office.

"More than half the households in New Mexico have to make really tough decisions every day," said an editorial in today's edition of The Albuquerque Journal, one of the sponsors of the food drive.  "Sixty-one percent choose between spending on food and utilities. Sixty-six percent between food and transportation. Fifty-nine percent between food and medical care. Forty-eight percent between food and housing. But there’s an easy choice more fortunate New Mexicans can make today and Saturday. That’s to fill the brown grocery bag in Thursday’s Journal with nonperishable food,"

The brown paper bag also contains some handy tips to help Roadrunner Food Bank, including signing up for programs where retailers donate a portion of your holiday purchases to our local food bank. And you are also given an opportunity to text a donation.  Here is why the financial donations are important.

"Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger relief organization, annually serves 46.5 million people across the U.S. through its network of 200 food banks, according to its "Hunger in America 2014" study," said an article The Huffington Post. "But what you may not know is that these organizations have limited resources themselves. While approximately 100 million pounds of food is donated to Feeding America food banks each year via canned food drives, these items alone won’t solve the issue of hunger that so many Americans face. Tight budgets, limited volunteers, finite donations, and the short turnarounds required between receiving fresh foods and distributing them to families in need can be challenges in addressing the issue of hunger – and doing so with nutrient-rich foods."

The holiday food drive should give us at least a small opportunity to show solidarity with those who receive the food. One way to do this is to be aware of the reasons why families are in their current predicament.  It doesn't help when the campaign tells us that we are actually solving hunger through our holiday donations.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Peace in a Time of Anguish (A video from the Parliament of World Religions)

We share this vision of creating peace in these times of anguish. Let us be love and compassion, a link to interfaith understanding, and may we move together in harmony to reclaim the heart of humanity. Let our spiritual paths intertwine, our action join us in a global compassion effort, and let us lead our lives together toward a better world. - Parliament of World Religions

Confronting War, Violence and Hate with Love and Compassion
In memory of all who have been harmed and died in global conflicts and for our human family, We share this vision of creating peace in these times of anguish. Let us be love and compassion, a link to interfaith understanding, and may we move together in harmony to reclaim the heart of humanity. Let our spiritual paths intertwine, our action join us in a global compassion effort, and let us lead our lives together toward a better world. Video © 2015 Parliament of the World's Religions
Posted by Parliament of the World's Religions on Monday, November 16, 2015

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Thanksgiving Meals for the Homeless Community in Albuquerque

Courtesy of ClipArtSheep  
(Please note: All these sites already have all the volunteers they need. The one location that might need help is La Mesa Presbyterian Church. You can call the church office, 255-8095, and ask: “What can I do to help you out on Thanksgiving Day?)

November 21 (Saturday)  
11:00 am to 3:00 pm -- Chava Trucking Company Thanksgiving Dinner, 409 Clark Road SW (2-1/2 miles south of Rio Bravo off of 2nd Street).

Shuttle service will be provided, beginning at 10:30 am, at St. Martin’s, Good Shepherd Center, Albuquerque Rescue Mission, Project Share, Noon Day, Salvation Army Temple (on Broadway & Lead), and Joy Junction

November 23 (Monday)  
  • 6:00-7:00 pm – Pre-Thanksgiving meal at Joy Junction

November 24 (Tuesday)
  •  8:00 am to 4:00 pm -- Noon Day is open (showers, laundry and breakfast, but no lunch)
  • 11:00 am to 2:00 pm – Albuquerque Rescue Mission’s Thanksgiving meal (no breakfast or dinner that day at ARM)
*****All other sites will have regular schedule*****

November 25 (Wednesday) 
  • 8:00 to 11:00 am -- Noon Day is open (showers, laundry and breakfast, but no lunch)
  • 11:00 am to 2:00 pm – Joy Junction’s Thanksgiving meal at the Convention Center downtown (you can get free tickets at various shelters for reserved meal times, but no one will be turned away)
*****All other sites will have regular schedule (including HCH)*****

Courtesy of ClipArtSheep
Thanksgiving Day (Thursday).
  • There will be a circle of remembrance, a sunrise gathering in honor of Native peoples (6:25 am sunrise) in the parking lot of the Albuquerque Center for Peace & Justice (Harvard & Silver SE)
  • 8:30 to 9:30 am – Thanksgiving brunch at Good Shepherd Center (only meal that day at Good Shepherd)
  • 9:00 am – holiday meal at St. Martin’s (hours are 7:00 to 11:00 am on Thanksgiving Day)
  • 10:00 am to 2:00 pm –Thanksgiving meal at Salvation Army Temple, 501 Broadway SE (& Lead)
  • 11:00 am to 2:00 pm – Thanksgiving meal at La Mesa Presbyterian Church, 7401 Copper NE (north of Central, east of Louisiana)
  • 2:00 to 4:00 pm – Thanksgiving dinner at Joy Junction
  • 5:00 to 6:00 pm – Thanksgiving dinner at Project Share, 1515 Yale SE (south of Kathryn)
  • 5:00 to 6:00 pm – regular dinner at Albuquerque Rescue Mission (no breakfast that day, but opens at 12:30 pm)
    **Albuquerque Healthcare for the Homeless (HCH) and Noon Day will be closed****

November 27 (Friday) Homeless services: St. Martin’s hours will be open 7-4 with 10:00 am meal only; all other sites (Noon Day, Healthcare for the Homeless (HCH), Good Shepherd Center, Albuquerque Rescue Mission and others) will have regular schedule.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Interfaith Procession and Candlelight Prayer for UN Climate Meeting Scheduled for Monday, November 30, in Albuquerque

The Interfaith community in Albuquerque is coming together on Monday, Nov. 30, for a procession and candlelight vigil ahead of the upcoming UN Climate Talks in Paris. The vigil begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Federal Building, Gold and 6th SW, and ends at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, 619 Copper Ave. NW  Here is a map (Note: The exact route will be announced later. The map just shows the starting and ending locations)

Even as the world is reeling from the violence in Paris, World Leaders from more than 150 nations prepare for the UN Climate Change meeting in Paris, November 30-December 11. An unprecedented number of leaders of religious traditions, including Pope Francis, the Dalai Lama and Muslim and Jewish world leaders are calling all people to act for climate justice. They will offer a moral voice to public officials as they meet to agree to an international agreement.

You are invited to participate in a special prayer for the meeting and to bless those from Albuquerque who will be traveling to Paris for this important gathering.

Order of evening:
*Procession calling to mind the many climate refugees
*Candle light prayer in Immaculate Conception with music, sacred dance, prayers by major religious tradition representatives, blessing of those going to Paris and blessing of those representing organizations that will be in Paris, call to action.

Co-sponsors: New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light, New Mexico Conference of Churches, New Mexico Oxfam Action Corps, Bread for the World-New Mexico, Catholic Charities of Central New Mexico, Catholic Archdiocese of Santa Fe, and others.

For more information contact Sister Joan Brown (

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Blessed are They

Fort Tryon Park, New York City
We've occasionally published posts about the Beatitudes, including a great reflection from Pastor Steve Garnaas-Holmes, an interesting perspective from Rev. Aimee Moiso, an insightful interpretation from Franciscan scholar Ben Baran and a picture of the words of Matthew 5:3-12 at Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción in Cuernavaca, Mexico.

Rabbi Daniel Polish,  author of the book Bringing the Psalms to Life, refers to the Beatitudes in a reflection in the Jesuit publication America magazine on the topic of finding happiness in the Psalms. The piece, which quotes the writings of English poet John Donne, is the first of a four-part series published by America on the Book of Psalms

Here are some excerpts:
"The first word of Psalm 1—and thus of the entire Book of Psalms—is ashrei, probably the same word that Jesus used in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12 and Luke 6:20-22). The translation Donne read renders this word as “blessed.” And thus Donne writes in his sermon:

How plentifully, how abundantly is the word Beatus, Blessed, multiplied in the Booke of Psalmes? Blessed, and Blessed in every Psalme, in every Verse; The Booke seems to be made out of that word Blessed, And the foundation raysed upon that word, Blessed, for it is the first word of the Booke.

Trust in God and happiness seem closely aligned in many of the Psalms. This is the thread Donne might have us find running through the entire book. Indeed we read of ashrei from the beginning of the book to the end: “Happy are all they that take refuge in Him” (Psalm 2:12). And “Happy is the one that hath made the Lord his trust” (Psalm 40:4).

Donne argues that the very character of the book as a whole is suggested in the very first word. And he might well be right. But interestingly, the correct meaning of that first word is really not “blessed” at all, with all of its theological connotations. Today most translators would render ashrei as “happy.”

Read full article by Rabbi Polish

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Franciscan Sister Wins Food Netwok's Chopped' Contest, Seeks to Bring Attention to Issue of Hunger

"Perhaps being on national TV and winning this competition will bring some attention to the issue of hunger and to the reality that God's love is so strong and so big, he can take this little nun from Chicago who never went to culinary school to compete. ... Literally nothing is impossible with God." -Franciscan Sister Alicia Torres
Sister Alicia Torres, 30, is one of the new generation of Catholic nuns. She has her own Twitter account and she appeared on the Food Network's reality cooking show Chopped--and won!

Sister Alicia, who lives and works at the Mission of Our Lady of  the Angels on the west side of Chicago, was one of four chefs cooking with the typical makings of a conventional Thanksgiving dinner—turkey, green beans, potatoes and cranberries—on the special volunteer edition of the show.

In the appetizer segment of the contest, Torres transformed leftovers into Mexican-style quesadillas.For the entree, Sister Alicia made a Mediterranean-style dish with curry turkey, a sweet potato cranberry hash and a dipping sauce with goat cheese and green beans.

Here is what she wrote on Twitter on the day of the contest.
Sister Alicia is a member of the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist, which serve the Mission of Our Lady of the Angels, located in Humboldt Park, one of the poorest neighborhoods in Chicago. "With the economic crisis, families and seniors in the area do not have the necessary resources for sufficient heat and nutritious meals," the mission said on its website. 

The mission  distributes food and clothing to residents of Humboldt Park on Tuesday mornings. The first Saturday of the month, the mission also serves as a model of how to efficiently run a mobile food pantry. The mobile pantry provides food and clothing for approximately 300 families.

Sister Alicia's victory brought a prize of $10,000 for Our Lady of the Angels. More importantly, it provided her the opportunity to shine the spotlight on hunger and poverty on the west side of Chicago and in many places in the U.S. "Perhaps being on national TV and winning this competition will bring some attention to the issue of hunger and to the reality that God's love is so strong and so big, he can take this little nun from Chicago who never went to culinary school to compete. ... Literally nothing is impossible with God," Sister Alica said in an interview with The Chicago Tribune.

And here is a video from an interview with Sister Alicia on WGN television in Chicago.

Siser Alicia was featured in the film Light of Love in 2013, a movie by the Imagine Sisters Movement, in which she discusses her religious calling.