and guide your heart in the right way.
Do not join with wine bibbers,
nor with those who glut themselves on meat.
For drunkards and gluttons come to poverty,
and lazing about clothes one in rags.
But it seems we’ve forgotten these and have not only accepted the secular trend that has made overweight the “new normal,” we are wallowing in it without hesitation or thought.
In our diocese, like many others I suspect, our fundraisers and gatherings feature the sale and consumption of very unhealthy, cheap, highly-processed foods. I support – as I believe the Church teaches – offering an abundance of varieties of food for special celebrations. Such events are wonderful for the community and fellowship they provide. But when unhealthy food is sold or handed out on an almost weekly basis we are promoting poor health. These gatherings don’t qualify as “special celebrations” by any definition.
The largest fundraisers for most parishes in our area come from food/beverages sold at an annual street festival, summer socials, and Lenten fish fries. All support the purchase and consumption of some of the least nutritious foods that exist, and give parishioners in our diocese a sense that every weekend, we can support our churches through the patronage of these events.
At the risk of sounding curmudgeonly, the fish fries, which are supposed to encourage Catholics to follow their Lenten observances, undermine the spirit of Lenten fasting. Sure, we’re all eating fish instead of meat, but how can a 1,500-2,000 calorie meal featuring fried fish and succulent desserts be considered in any way penitential? Fasting, done properly and responsibly, carries significant spiritual and physical benefits. If fasting, almsgiving, and prayer are the three pillars of Lent, it seems that any table from which we seek our daily bread must have three sturdy legs (not just two), to support our pursuit of the resurrected Christ, and not only during Lent.
With each struggle, comes an opportunity, and with an opportunity can come a movement. The movement, however, starts with the person in the mirror. I believe that each of us are being challenged to truly reconsider how in Catholicism spiritual, emotional, mental and physical fitness merge, if we only adhere to the doctrine that has long existed. As a people who have long been reminded (or should have been) of the dangers of gluttony, I believe we are in a good position to lead a countercultural, universal change to a deeper spirituality through better health. In doing so, and increasing our capacity to take on each uniquely divine call, we are closer to becoming, as Matthew Kelly notes, “the best version of ourselves.”
Jim Schroederis a pediatric psychologist at St. Mary’s Center for Children in Evansville, Indiana. He resides there with his wife, Amy, and their six children. He received a BS from Ball State University and graduated with a PhD in clinical psychology from Saint Louis University in 2005. He completed an internship the University of Louisville School of Medicine / Kosair Children’s Hospital and did his postdoctoral fellowship at St. Louis Children’s Hospital through the Washington University School of Medicine. He also writes a monthly column entitled Just Thinking (www.stmarys.org/articles) designed to inform, educate, and motivate parents and providers in applying pertinent research in meaningful, practical ways.