Food, Glorious Food


Some of us may have read Charles Dicken’s novel “Oliver Twist.” Many more have probably seen the musical “Oliver,” based on the 1838 novel which narrates the life of orphans in Victorian England. Nine-year old Oliver, a victim of slow starvation, living on three small bowls of oatmeal gruel every day, dreams of better food.

At the start of the musical, Oliver and his fellow orphans sing “food, glorious food” in the hopes of getting a good meal. Bowl in outstretched hand Oliver dares to say the now famous line, “Please, sir, I want some more.” That results in him being thrown out of the workhouse to fend for himself in London’s underworld of theft and violence.

Today, the United Nations food agencies estimate that around 690 million people around the world go to bed hungry every night. The pandemic has made the situation worse. People have lined up for hours to get food from Food Banks to feed their families.

Recently, in an attempt to de-clutter, I came across a newspaper clipping from the Evening News of India, Monday, May 31, 1971. The article talks about five of us, who volunteered in the slums of Mumbai every Sunday morning “to better the living conditions of the shanty town dwellers.”

I can recall faces lighting up as we walked into this predominantly Muslim area with a sprinkling of Hindus, Christians, Jews, and Sikhs. We gave them clothes, household equipment, textbooks, and of course, grains like rice and wheat. Offering a listening ear and food, were gifts to their very hungry hearts and stomachs.

It is true that people are starving for food, but so many are hungry for love. This is a poignant fact in “Oliver,” especially when this lost orphan sings the plaintive melody, “Where is love?”

He asks wistfully, “Does it fall from skies above? Is it underneath the willow tree that I’ve been dreaming of?” Eventually he does find love with his grandfather who was searching for him. His heart and his belly are now fully satisfied.

It is an unpleasant experience to go without food for an extended period of time. Without proper nourishment we slowly become weaker and feel drained. Our life seems to be ebbing away, and in a way that is true. Just as food and drink are vital to our well being, more so is receiving the Eucharist. Jesus said, “My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.” (John 6:55)”

The Eucharist is so life giving, as is evident in He Leadeth Me a book written by Fr. Walter Ciszek a prisoner in a Siberian labor camp. He risked saying Mass every day. He said, “I would go to any length, suffer any inconvenience, run any risk to make the bread of life available to these men.” Receiving the Eucharist under difficult circumstances made it even more meaningful to these exhausted men who worked long hours in the cold. Fr. Ciszek was “occasionally overcome with emotion…as I thought of how [God] had found a way to follow and to feed these lost and straying sheep in this most desolate land.”

Another example par excellence of Eucharistic love is the late Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan, who spent 13 years in a Communist prison, 9 of which were in solitary confinement. On the pretext of having stomach pains, he was sent medicine, which was actually a small bottle of Mass wine. With that, and a few broken hosts, he made the impossible possible. He said, “I will never be able to express the joy that was mine: each day with three drops of wine, a drop of water in the palm of my hand I celebrated Mass…. At 9:30 every evening when lights out rang everyone had to be lying down. I bent over my wooden board and celebrated Mass, by heart of course, and distributed Communion to my neighbours under their mosquito nets.”

Then there was Gandhi, who was wise to admit, “There are so many hungry people in the world, that God could only come into the world in the form of food.” Jesus teaches us with his Word, but feeds us with the Eucharist, his body.

Richard Rohr clearly states that “the Eucharist is telling us that God is the food, and all we have to do is provide the hunger. Somehow, we have to make sure that each day we are hungry, that there’s room inside of us for another presence…our only ticket or prerequisite for coming to Eucharist is hunger. And more often sinners are much more hungry than the ‘saints.”

In my travels around the world, I have sampled a variety of good food, but I yearn for the Eucharist, the bread of life. Jesus promises, “If you eat this bread you will live forever.” (John 6:51). I have come to the conclusion that if I learn to live in what Thomas Merton called the True Self, then I become what I eat, and can honestly echo what Paul said, “I live no longer; not I, but Christ lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20) The Eucharist, God’s glorious food, is slowly changing me.

Viola Athaide, a student of Theology, is actively involved in parish life, leading Bible courses, the Prayer Group, and the Ministry with Maturing Adults.

  • Peter Chouinard
    Posted at 06:40h, 12 July Reply

    This article is just so beautiful! You have brought elements of God’s love for us with various examples through history and the imagery of Jesus being the food and we the hungry is so poignant and deeply moving.

    Thank you so much. You are a gift to me today and your words food for my soul!

  • Ana Maria Rodriguez
    Posted at 08:12h, 12 July Reply

    The Eucharist, God in us, the only food that can feed us spiritually even when we are not physically present at church SPIRITUALLY COMMUNION The only requisite HUNGER
    I become what I eat… God thank you for being there to feed me in order to live for ever.
    Thank you Viola, God Bless You

  • Peter Bisson
    Posted at 09:08h, 12 July Reply

    Thank you Viola!

  • Olga Protz
    Posted at 09:41h, 12 July Reply

    Thank you for this beautiful and meaningful passage … is my prayer reflection today.

  • Maria Lobo
    Posted at 10:31h, 12 July Reply

    Dear Viola,
    Your article brings together so beautifully, the spiritual and the physical aspects of our lives, while inspiring us to yearn for the “Forever” glorious food. Yes, you remind us to “want to be in that number, when the saints go marching in.” Thank you!

  • Mario Coutinho & Olivia Coutinho
    Posted at 11:12h, 12 July Reply

    Dear Viola,
    We love the way you write what most of us like-minded folks think but do not act on.
    Yes, these wonderful priests made many sacrifices to feed the Eucharist to the people in jails and prisons.
    These pieces of information prick our consciences and we are sure some good action results.
    Keep up the good work!

  • Sylvia Lee
    Posted at 12:51h, 12 July Reply

    Thanks for sharing this spiritual food with me today.
    God bless you, Viola.

  • Tonis Kilp
    Posted at 13:02h, 12 July Reply

    Thank you Viola, this is so much appreciated, you are truly blessed, I will keep you in my prayers, thank you for all your wisdom and the many articles you provide us, take care and may God keep you in his hands, silvia and tonis

  • Doreen Pinto
    Posted at 17:26h, 12 July Reply

    Viola, your article is absolutely beautiful. I don’t have words to express my feelings about what you have written, but I know it has touched me in a special way. St. Augustine had perceived, for whatever reasons, that the words of consecration “this is my body, this is my blood” are intended more to change the people present than to change the bread and wine. The real task of the Eucharist is in fact to change people, to create out of us the real presence.
    This is so true.
    God Bless

  • Jacqui Hubbard
    Posted at 20:56h, 12 July Reply

    It amazes me that you always manage to take a secular example and turn it around teaching us all a valuable, spiritual lesson. Thank you for reminding me what truly feeds my soul.

  • Jacqui Hubbard
    Posted at 21:02h, 12 July Reply

    It always amazes me that you can take a purely secular reference, turn it around and teach us a valuable, spiritual lesson. Thank you for reminding me what feeds my soul and my relationship with God.

  • Rosa Scarpino
    Posted at 10:09h, 13 July Reply

    It saddens me to know that physical hunger is still affecting many lives. May Jesus the Bread of Live inspire nations to end hunger in the world. Thank you Viola for the beautiful reflection and praise God for your talent.
    May the hunger for the Holy Eucharist continue to grow in all of us. God bless, Rosa.

  • Fay
    Posted at 13:50h, 25 August Reply

    Thank You for always sharing you well written poems, a great gift from the Holy Spirit.
    Truly inspirational

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