Welcome to The Daily Feast where we connect Saints, Soups, and Sustainable Living!
Each day of the year is the “anniversary” of millions of ordinary and extra-ordinary events or encounters in which our ancestors (and we?) experienced the Presence of Mystery, the Power of Love, the Beauty and Wonder of Life. The sacred calendars of every religious and spiritual tradition invite us to remember, rehearse and realize each day, the depth and richness present in the NOW.
SAINTS. This project has grown out of a lifelong fascination with and love for the lives and feasts of the saints, the holy days, the sacred seasons and the highest holy days of the Catholic liturgical year. Having grown up a stone’s throw from the front doors of St. Mary Church, Griffith, Indiana, in a family of 9 girls and 3 boys, I found it quite easy to consider the whole Communion of Saints as my extended family:
Birthdays & Feastdays. We celebrated birthdays with special prayers, “birthday suppers” and of course, “birthday cakes” (almost without exception, “Angel Food cake with whipped cream and your favorite [seasonal] fruit for frosting”). Most of us also celebrated our “Names-days,” the feasts of the patron saint whose name we shared. Think about it: 14 birthdays and 14 names-days meant 28 days of each year were “special occasions” in some way just for our immediate family. Then there were birthdays and names-days for grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, the other holidays and holydays and life-events–many of which included something special in the way of attending Mass together as a family and on the “highest” occasions, special foods associated with that feast day (or fast day). That didn’t leave many “blank days” in my calendar.
Church and World. In the intervening years, most of these traditions died out for many in my family and in our faith communities. But they grew stronger in my own life –and expanded beyond Catholic and Christian “feast days” to include a deep respect and appreciation for the sacred days, weeks, months and seasons of other faith traditions. Why not invite everyone to the feast! All of us have so much to celebrate and share with a world starving for beauty, festivity and a sense of belonging to something and some One much bigger than ourselves.
Praying the Feast. My high school and college years were spent with Salesians in Cedar Lake, Indiana and Benedictines in St. Meinrad, Indiana. It was with these gentle souls that I discovered yet another way to “celebrate” the feasts and fasts: the Liturgy of the Hours–formerly known as the Divine Office. What an incredible treasure of hymns, psalms, and readings from every book of the bible cleverly interwoven with music, poetry, legends and the lives and writings of the saints to celebrate every part of every day of every week, month, season and year! Too much to prepare well for every day; but an amazing storeroom of beautiful, inspiring, texts and a fair amount of silly and fantastic tales.
Every Sunrise and Sunset provide occasion enough for awakening wonder and awe:
but to celebrate morning and evening each day with the “saints and ancestors” brings their experiences of “now” to our now as we tune in to the Presence (of the Sacred) and the presents (= gifts) in the present (right here–right now).
SOUPS. Well, much more than soups– Feastday/Fastday recipes of all kinds.
How can you celebrate a feast without eating? Living the Feast includes recipes for “special” foods associated with the saint of the day (see St. Nicholas Speculaas), the native region or ethnicity of the saint ( Siena Almond cookies for St. Catherine of Siena), or with what may seem a rather bizarre connection with the name of the saint (the eye-shaped buns baked as Lucy’s Cats on the feast of Santa Lucia – whose name means “light” and “sight”) or the way the saint suffered martyrdom (roasted vegetables or meats on the feast of St. Lawrence). Feasting (or fasting) — with great elegance or with elegant simplicity– brings the “great cloud of witnesses” to the garden, pantry, kitchen and dining room. It is not supposed to be complicated or costly…just a “little something” goes a long way towards remembering, rehearsing and realizing the miracle of “now” and all those who have been “here” before.
Sustainable Living. Celebrating the feast days, fast days, holy days, seasons, and ordinary working days is not about returning to the past–it is drawing upon the experience and wisdom of our ancestors as we encounter the real and sometimes overwhelming challenges of right here and right now: ecological devastation, climate change, species extinction, economic inequality, social injustice, racism, sexism, you know the list. Living the Feast highlights one or two “sustainable living practices” associated with the stories or wisdom of the saint of the day or a brand new “pun” on the saint’s name: on December 13th (St. Lucy) you can count on several references to “turning off the lights” to save energy and cut down on emissions from coal-fired power plants!
John Kenneth Leonard, Ph.D., is Professor and Chair of Religious Studies at Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin, where he teaches courses in Spirituality, Eco-Spirituality, Christian Liturgy, Liberation Theologies, and Catholic Social Teaching. Although The Daily Feast was technically his “Sabbatical Project” for the Spring Semester of 2014, it was launched at Sunset on November 30th, on time for the celebration of Evening Prayer I of the First Sunday of Advent with which the the Liturgical Year begins.
This website was designed with the help of Fr. Scott Steinkerchner, OP, who was Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Edgewood College (2013-2015) and serves as web-designer or web-master for many Dominican communities throughout the world.