In Augustinian spirituality, there are three official Core Values: Unitas (Unity), Veritas (Truth), and Caritas (Love). However, there is also an unofficial fourth Value that I have found to be central to my spiritual growth during my year with the Augustinian Volunteers: Fooditas.
Fooditas: n. \ˈfüdə̇ˌtäs\: the recognition that sharing a meal with others is a sacred spiritual experience; the fourth Augustinian Value.
Every evening after we get home from our service sites, my community members and I sit at our dining room table to have dinner together. Before we eat, we join hands, and one of us takes our turn to lead grace. The prayer usually sounds something like this:
“Dear God, thank you for the opportunity to gather around this table together at the end of our day. Please bless the food that we are about to eat, that it may nourish our bodies, and our conversation, that it may nourish our hearts. Please bless the land from which this food came and all those who helped to bring it from the fields to our table. And please bless most especially all those who will go without food and company tonight. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.”
This prayer sums up the kind of integrated life of faith & justice to which I aspire and in which I have had a unique opportunity to grow through my AV experience.
Whether it is just the four of us community members in the dining room or we are joined by the Augustinian friars, former AVs, co-workers, college students on a service trip, or friends & family from home, we recognize that relationship is a gift from God and that we are all called to support each other in our search for Him. I’ve found that this is easiest to do when we’re gathered around the same table.
And as we gather to eat with those we know, we must recognize that the meal is not possible without the labor of so many workers whom we will never meet and the health of land and water that we will never touch. Our faith calls us to be good stewards of our planet. My community members have been very supportive of minimizing the amount of animal products (meat, dairy, eggs, & seafood) we consume and choosing organic/Fair Trade options where possible, which reduces our negative impact on the environment and promotes justice for those who produce the food that we eat.
And yet while we are fed well in community, every day as I serve as a nurse in a clinic that is dedicated to patients who are experiencing homelessness, I encounter many people who go oftentimes without food and company. Many times I can provide a sack lunch to a patient and connect him/her to resources such as our soup kitchen and our social worker for further support. And at all times I can offer kind words of support and affirmation of the person before me. But these small acts of charity are only part what my faith calls me to do. My faith also calls me to support and advocate for policies that will help create a more just society in which all people have access to the food (not to mention shelter, healthcare, and education!) that they need to flourish as human beings. Whenever I contact my government officials or cast my vote, I do it with the names and faces of my patients in my mind, heart, and prayer.
I hold my patients closest in prayer when I attend Mass each Sunday with my community members at St. Patrick’s, the local Augustinian parish. As I am fed by Christ truly present under the appearances of bread and wine, I pray for an earthly reality of justice and peace in which all people are fed, both physically and spiritually, as we await the “heavenly banquet,” of which the Eucharist is a foretaste.
The word Eucharist literally means “thanksgiving.” As my year of service comes to a close, I look back on this experience with a grateful heart. Every time I gather around a table, whether it be my kitchen table or the altar, I will be sure to give thanks for the nourishment I received during my time as an AV, and do my best to continue to seek justice and live my faith with a spirit of Unitas, Veritas, Caritas, and Fooditas.
San Diego, CA 2016-17