Don Claudio M. Berardi
The whole man and interdisciplinary dialogue
The contribution is introduced by a historical-philosophical overview that follows the downward parabola of modernity compared with the conception of man. The hinge of the anthropological disorientation is not science but the way to understand the scientific method. The contemporary cultural challenge is to help the dialogue between men of faith and men of science, which is possible if we avoid the epistemological overlapping, distinguishing the competences for a unified vision of knowledge. The speaker points out the usefulness and necessity of an interdisciplinary approach to the knowledge of reality also under-
stood as a response to the fragmentation of knowledge and to the learning decadence of post-modernity. The unity of knowledge is proposed not so much as a philosophical method, but rather as a personal and university training path. The confusion generated by different philosophical and “scientific” approaches in anthropology and methodology can be attributed to several historical and preconceived causes, one of these is the lack of semantic rigor and the lack of distinction between the psychical dimension and the spiritual one. The contribution calls for a greater collaboration between the scientific world and theological knowledge by creating a meeting place, under the same “roof” despite living in different “rooms”, being aware that the “door” of knowledge is open to everyone and invites us to «build the house in the shade of Wisdom and dwell in it».
Dr. Leonardo Marletta
Sin-vice of gluttony-gastrimargia
Dr. Leonardo Marletta starts from an assumption about spiritual diseases (diseases of the soul) as disorderly passions and
desires, which involve the estrangement of the faculties of the soul from their orientation to God. The spiritual dimension of the sin-vice of gluttony-gastrimargia is represented by the excessive pursuit of pleasure through eating, the intemperance of the mouth and stomach (gastrimargia as “belly madness”); it is a manifestation of lust (the human condition of greed, possession, desire), and the selfish ego that blocks the spiritual path. Some actions and conditions are implemented for spiritual healing such as: re-directing the faculties of the soul to God; synergy between human effort and grace received; conforming the human will to the Christ’s; conversion as a radical change of lifestyle; the desire to heal; discipline exercises of one’s own orality; the sacraments of penance and the Eucharist; the prayer; the practice of the virtues of temperance, sobriety and moderation; the fight against thoughts; being vigilant sentries and keeping our hearts from being weighed down to be ready for spiritual combat against temptations. The speaker points out the need for a change of perspective: from the logic of consumption to that of communion/sharing; love not only gifts, but also the Giver, as taught by St. John of the Cross in the Dark Night of the Soul, to be perfectly pure and free from any attachments and
desires to possess in order to join God through charity. Finally, the psycho-social dimension and the cultural patterns amplified by the mass-media are dealt with: food as a meeting point between nature and culture, which involves the values related to pleasure, material possessions, self-affirmation, wellbeing and happiness, pain and suffering.
In conclusion, it is pointed out that in the subject of food-nourishment several dimensions are involved: the material-biological one, the symbolic-cultural one and the spiritual one, therefore the need for nourishment is about food and water, the gestures and words that nourish relationships, the Word of God.
Prof. Mihály Szentmártoni, S.J.
Bulimia and anorexia
Prof. Mihály Szentmártoni places the relationship between man and food on two extremes: on the one hand, the idolatry of food that is exemplified in the case of the rich man of the Gospel, and on the other hand the contempt of food that is exemplified in some cases of ascetics among the earliest hermits. Man’s relationship to food can be deformed and becomes a symptom of a mental disorder, through the phenomenon of an eating disorder which is alarming in our western society: anorexia, bulimia, vegetarianism and other new disorders. The theme of anorexia is explored with the diagnostic criteria for severe weight loss, fear of gaining weight, the body dysmorphia, amenorrhea. The alteration of the self-image is analyzed, which makes us perceive our own body as inadequate and, in particular, constantly under conditions of overweight. The speaker offers some ideas on the therapeutic approaches: leaving the stomach of the whale, where the therapy consists in leaving the grip of family protection, let go of the prodigal son; Overeaters Anonymous (the group of anonymous obese people). There are no anorexic and bulimic people. There are only so many people who no longer know how and when to “open” or “close” to the world and use food to say something. There is nothing to “fix”, to “repair”, to “normalize”. You just have to open the door to the joy of life and stop thinking that everything is a “burden”. One must understand that it is not so much the “symptom” that hurts, but the pain that turns into a symptom, to negotiate with the reality the price of one’s own freedom. Finally the “holy” anorexia is analyzed
through the experience of saint Francesca Romana (1384-1440), trying to identify the traits that distinguish her from today’s anorexic women. The modern anorexic woman seeks a social purpose: physical health, thinness and self-control. The anorexic saint of the Middle Ages seeks her spiritual health, fasting is an act of deprivation, she sees the Lamb, Jesus Christ, she is close to Him in heaven, she feels the love of God and feeds on the Host.
Dr.ssa Lavinia Gasperini
Educational response to poverty and hunger with an interdisciplinary approach
In order to promote the millennium objectives in the United Nations, FAO avails itself of the interdisciplinary collaboration in partnership philosophy with numerous civic and religious organizations, both public and private, which can help the fight against hunger and poverty in the world. The fundamental objective is food security that integrates both the qualitative and quantitative aspect of nutrition, not only for consumers but also for manufacturers. In particular, the Partnership Education for Rural People (ERP) wants to create a bridge between those who are concerned with human development (in a global sense, physical, biological and spiritual) and those working in the field of rural development to bridge the gap between the urban population and the rural one. Its activity is based on the belief, confirmed by recent studies, that investment in education, training and development of skills is an essential prerequisite for reducing poverty and increas-
ing food security in each country. Taking into account that 70% of the poor are located in rural areas, we understand the reason for the specific and primary commitment towards the populations living in the countryside and the importance of sensitizing governments on a national as well as international level so that the theme of education of the rural populations is not misunderstood and mixed within the so-called disadvantaged or vulnerable groups such as the disabled, prisoners, etc. The main activities of the ERP partnership, which have been going on for ten years by now, can be summarized in a few large scopes of intervention: allocation of resources to the rural populations; establishment of a coordination between the various bodies involved in the development; facilitation of access to education; education for agricultural development by encouraging and promoting entrepreneurship; containment of the phenomenon of the flight of teachers from rural areas. Some positive signs of the action undertaken by FAO can be seen in the fact that some countries including in their programs the promotion of rural education serve now as a model for other developing countries, besides in some cases people are better able to report to the central government the needs of rural communities, and finally, the declaration of the World Summit of Heads of State held in 2009 recognized the need to invest resources in rural infrastructure, including among these also the broad field of education.
Dr. Paul Soster
Feeding on God: medical aspects in the case of blessed Alexandrina Maria da Costa
The contribution deals with the story of blessed Alexandrina Maria da Costa, who was born and lived in Portugal at the beginning of the twentieth century, in its medical aspects related to her subsistence on the Eucharist alone; a situation that has been tested in hospitals and that raises important questions about the nature of the observed phenomena.
A progressive dysphagia since March 1938 brought the
blessed to the point she could no longer take food or drink with the exception of the Holy Eucharist. She was therefore proposed a voluntary confinement at the Refuge for Infantile Paralysis in Oporto for 40 days of medical observation from which it
appeared that Alexandrina did not eat, did not drink or urinate or defecate throughout the period. The clinical picture configured in such situations is that of acute renal failure which did not happen in the case of the Blessed.
There are various interpretations: the scientist theory claiming that the facts can be explained through the advancement of technology and knowledge or with mental illness; another theory claims the human body is capable of using internal energy of the body itself that manifests in particular conditions such as holiness; yet another interpretation comes from the eastern world, where there are no scientific studies, though.
The Catholic Church considers this case a miracle that shows humanity the true nature of the Eucharist: the Body of Christ as the true food and as a foreshadowing of the subsistence of the organism after the resurrection of the body that will occur at be the end of time.
Don Riccardo Petroni
Eucharistic spirituality in the lives of the saints
Eucharistic spirituality unites the lives of all the saints, because it is exactly from their conscious and active relationship with Christ present in the Eucharist they were able to accomplish the wonderful works of charity we witness, but above all to practice the Christian virtues heroically.
The Eucharistic communion specularly realizes what the Holy Spirit operates in the consecration of the Eucharistic species: on receiving the Body and Blood of Christ, the Christian is assimilated and transformed into Him, to the point that his being is no longer his own, but becomes the Body of Christ.
Saint Paul, the first eucharistic saint, expresses the fulfillment of this mystery when he says: «It is no longer me who lives, but Christ lives in me» (Gal 2,20). During the patristic age saint Ignatius of Antioch, knowing that he must face the ad bestias death sentence because of his faith in Christ, expresses the desire to become «bread ground for Christ» and implores Christians not to intercede with the Roman authorities for his release, so that through the sacrifice of his life in union with Christ he can realize his “transubstantiation”. The Eucharistic saint par excellence was saint Tarcisio, the young acolyte commissioned by Pope Sixtus II to bring the Eucharist to Christians who was sentenced to death because of persecution; brutally killed with stones, he died clutching to his chest the Eucharist he had been taking care of with great love and which became part of his own body. It is not possible to enumerate all the saints especially connected with the Eucharist. Among the most recent ones we must remember St. Peter Maldonado (killed in hatred of the faith in Mexico while trying to keep the Blessed Sacrament from soldiers’ profanation) and Cardinal Van Thuân (prisoner for 13 years, including 9 in solitary confinement in a prison of Vietnam).
Prof. Jordan Sliwinski O.F.M. Capp.
Food and violence: symbolic aspects
The theme of «food and violence» is addressed through an anthropological analysis on the cultural context of contemporary Western civilization, which is particularly emphasized in three aspects: consumption (eating something), cannibalism (eating someone), self-consumption (eating oneself). Today man feeds on immediate and fleeting emotions, feelings, impressions and consumer goods have become a way to continually create new sensations, with the dual risk of an excessive waste of resources and the loss of his historical identity. In addition, the relationships between people are mostly based on a conception of man limited to his body dimension; the result is a reduction of the person to an object of consumption for his own sake or pleasure, but at the same time a longing for an authentic personal relationship based on love. Finally, as a result of new technologies, there is a sense of alienation of the subject from reality, an isolation from the real world that takes away from a person the freedom of choice, making him dependent on what is being proposed. However, there are also positive aspects such as critical consumption and environmental awareness that is becoming increasingly wide-
spread. In the religious sphere we can see the tendency to treat religion as an analgesic against the problems and difficulties of life and therefore as an object from the supermarket, where values are relativized to suit our needs. Christian teaching is full of reflections and proposals – such as the epistemology of fasting – to counter this limited vision of the person and of religion.
Prof. Elmar Salmann O.S.B.
Food and beauty: between contemplation and union
Between the purely symbolic and figurative approach (the logic of visio and contemplatio) and the opposite one that emphasizes the reality of a meal, as well as eating (the logic of consumptio), Professor Salmann addresses the theme of the Eucharist in the name of the dialectical logic that contextualizes and relativizes both positions. By exploring the classic approach of the scholastic-thomistic theology, in particular from the analysis of the Eucharistic hymns of St. Thomas Aquinas and of some questions of the Summa Theologiae, he demonstrates that both aspects are included and somehow overcome in the great mystery of the Eucharist. Seven points will help you understand this perspective: at the centre of the Christian mysteries there is a sort of void, an elusive and inexpressible reality; the Last Supper as a summary of the practice of Jesus, and thus as a sign of the significance of his life; the Eucharistic rite, ranging from animal symbolism and sublimation; the vast semantic field used in reference to the Eucharist embracing memory, blessing, praise and worship, extends to sacrifice, gift, offer (oblatio, pascha) passes through the hidden, but revealed presence, as far as the consecration, the conversio, the change in substance; the sacrificial dimension that expresses the bloody sacrifice of Christ; eating (sumptio) understood as spiritual nourishment of the soul which is in turn assumed, transformed into what receives and enjoys the vision (contemplatio) of God; the eschatological dimension of vision and eating that leads to the logic of Eucharistic monstratio: Christ exposes himself to us, for our contemplation so that we in turn allow ourselves to expose existentially to others to show something of the face of God to those who do not yet know him.
Bishop Alceste Catella
Food and liturgy
Through the lens of “anthropological mediation”, which highlights the human sense of eating, Bishop Catella analyzes the Eucharist “ritual”, instituted during the Last Supper, and explains its meaning from the symbolic value of the gestures and the words spoken by Jesus Christ throughout his life. The New Testament compares the life and story of Jesus with a banquet, whose memorial is represented by the Eucharist. In John’s Gospel the symbolism of eating and drinking is very rich and is related both to the life of grace and the love relationship between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ is the one that satisfies the thirst of men, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, who brings forth the divine life in the hearts of believers; the food of Jesus is doing the Father’s will, Christ is the living bread coming down from heaven, who gives his life by offering his own flesh and blood as nourishment for humans. The bread that Jesus holds in his hands in the Eucharistic Supper bears not only a natural and historic symbolism, but also the one resulting from the “supernatural” history of the Old and New Testament (Easter, manna, etc.). Jesus’s thanksgiving extends to the gift of all creation and humanity summarized in Him. The breaking of bread is the free gift of his own life, for the love towards the Father and men, symbolic and perfect transcription of the Trinitarian ecstasy, in which each divine Person exists only in relation with the Others and never on His own. The “given body” expresses the transition from the flesh body to the mystical body. With the command: «Do this in memory of me», Jesus invites the whole Church to join his Eucharistic act of donation and love, so that man’s action becomes the action of God through man. The wine is at the same time a symbol of joy and suffering with which Jesus means that his death, with all the bitterness that involves, contains, however, an inexpressible joy, because it is the implementation of the Covenant, of the communion between God and men, anticipation of the endless joy in the heavenly banquet.
Prof. Fabrizio Pieri
The temptation of Jesus: one does not live by bread alone
The hermeneutical key used by Father Fabrizio Pieri is the experience of the Man Jesus in the desert of trial, who lives and spends his whole life to satiate the hunger for the Bread of God, which consists in fulfilling His will thoroughly. The Lucan texts, even in the original Greek version, are explored. In Luke 4,1-13 Satan tries the divinity of Jesus in an attempt to turn away his will from the Father’s. Jesus responds to temptation by putting his divinity and his power only in the service of the Father, so that from this act the plan of salvation can appear and be realized. In Luke 22,39-46 Jesus is shown in the weakness of his humanity, to be a model for the disciples: only the prayer allows us to experience the trial as a way of salvation. In the prayer, rather than the removal of the trial, Jesus asks for the strength to overcome it. In fact, the Father does not remove the cup, but sends an angel to comfort him. The temptation as a mystery of the trial, which is painfully experienced by Jesus to the point of sweating blood, but also as a kairos of salvation and redemption, in order to be the food that satisfies the hunger for love of the Father – he challenges us to be believing men and women, who are projected in what really matters: receiving, living and incarnating the Word of God in order not to fall into the trap prophesied by Amos, in the name of God: «Yes, days are coming, says the Lord God, when I will send famine upon the land: not a famine of bread, or thirst for water, but for hearing the word of the Lord. Then shall they wander from sea to sea and rove from the north to the east in search of the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it» (Am 8,11-12).
Don Andrea Ferrero
Witchcraft and nutrition
The possibility of witchcraft through nutrition can be explained from a theological point of view with the presence and the activity of Satan, who since the beginning of creation has operated to introduce and spread evil in the world and humans. Some texts of the Sacred Scripture allow us to affirm that, in some cases, there is a link between this action of the evil spirit and the act of eating, such as in the case of the original sin and the betrayal of Judas. We talk about witchcraft in the strict sense when we resort to practices that invoke the help and intervention of the devil to bring harm to others, their property or their person. The effectiveness of the witchcraft is subject to the divine permission, which somehow tolerates evil with the purpose of obtaining a greater good; but it also depends, in part, on the evil of the one who invokes Satan. In the Gospel the Lord Jesus abolishes any food prohibition, declaring all foods pure, and St. Paul, speaking of meat sacrificed to idols, points out that they have no value, in fact foods subject to witchcraft do not contain poisonous substances, but serve as a sensitive and symbolic tool for the working of Satan. The witchcraft food is not fought by using magic rites and formulas capable of “removing” the witchcraft (even if accomplished by a priest), but with the confident recourse to God who invites us to draw close to Him in sincere search of his will, purifying our faith, trusting in his mercy and his help and performing acts of charity toward God and our neighbor.
Prof. Dr. Massimo Aliverti
The magic-religious dimension of food. History and anthropology of food rituals
The contribution sets out, in a comprehensive and detailed way, and completed with numerous literary references, the importance of food rituals in the ancient history of man of which it represents a constant. It arises from the integration of biological and cultural factors reflecting the society they belong to, and is charged with a symbolism which finds its highest expression in the magic world, through the preparation and intake of filters anzd potions, and in the religious one where it takes the meaning of «a common link between the earthly world and the supernatural world». Rituals can be observed in the procurement of food to get abundant crops or game, in the celebration of important events in the community or a part of it as well as in the phenomena of cannibalism where the intake of parts of the deceased person was used to acquire certain qualities from him. Besides, many of the occurrences of the year, whether sacred or profane, have always been characterized by the consumption of food, such as the feast of Halloween of St. Nicholas, of Saint Lucia, for the celebration of Christmas, or the feast of the Epiphany. More specifically in the field of religion it is well known that all major religions have rituals and rules of behaviour related to food. Christianity provides for limited periods of abstinence and fasting, in the Catholic liturgy «the bread and wine are offered to the faithful as the body and blood of the divine», for the Jews there are forbidden foods, rituals for the slaughter of animals as well as limitations in the consumption of wine and vegetables, Muslims cannot eat certain foods, they observe periods of abstinence and prepare food according to specific rules, Buddhists and the Hindus follow rules that regulate and limit nutrition. In conclusion, «food rituals have characterized in the past and still characterize the countries and people of every age and in every part of the world».
Prof. Roberto Fornara OCD
Bread to be eaten: food, liturgy and the gift of life in the Hebrew Bible
The analysis of the terms used in Hebrew to indicate food or nutrition in general highlights a variety of meanings and applications that recall on the one hand violence, destruction or consumption, and on the other, celebration, joy, prosperity, but also the silence for listening to the Word of God. In the biblical text, the divine prohibition of eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, which is contained in the story of the creation of the book of Genesis, and the detailed requirements on the purity or impurity of foods, contained for instance in the Book of Deuteronomy are very significant. The limit placed by God to nutrition, and thus man’s subsistence, means that the human being must always recognize God as the origin of life and as the One who provides for the deepest needs of man. At the same time, however, he must accept the limitations and finitude of his own existence, without wanting to become the sole and absolute reference for his actions, but must assume an attitude of responsibility towards the gift and the Giver. The temptation of Satan relies on the fear of this limit, to obscure the true image of God and lead to sin, which is consumed when the man, yielding to greed, loses sight of the Giver and wishes to get totally hold of what he has received as a gift. Conversely, if the man learns to fast, thus giving up the logic of rivalry and possession to accept the logic of the gift, he will get to know and “see” God better.