It’s Thanksgiving Eve. I spent the day at the St. Crispin Friary as the friars and volunteers gave away 425 turkeys and bags of food to community members.  Hungry people lined up outside the church and we gave them tickets, recording their names, to ensure each person only got one. The St. Crispin Friary in many ways feels like an extension of CYFM, but different because they actually serve the poor and needy through the friary & St. Anthony Residence, while CYFM ministers to Catholic families, keeping the Franciscan spirit alive and nurturing Franciscan spirituality within the youth. St. Crispin’s provides an opportunity for us to live out our “Fourth Day,” serving Christ in love and being a light to the world.

Meanwhile, today Rhett from the Franciscan Action Network posted about how he is going to be fasting over Thanksgiving for immigration reform. I think this spirit is also what moved me to go to the friary today, and on a daily basis to be thankful for the food that I do have while trying to keep my meals simple and not extravagant. As Rhett came from Wisconsin where his policymakers made decisions that hurt people, I live in the Bronx, one of the hungriest places in America. I need to stand and be in solidarity with those who are impacted by our broken food system and our broken immigration system – in short, systems that express our failure to be in right relationship with God.

It felt good to be at the St. Crispin Friary today helping provide food for a Thanksgiving meal to many people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it.  While many people are being fed through St. Crispin’s for Thanksgiving, there are many more people all over the world that will still go hungry. They don’t celebrate Thanksgiving the way we do. Our celebrating of Thanksgiving is a celebrating of the fact that a land’s inhabitants many years ago were welcoming to strangers – immigrants from another land – and they all shared the bounty of the harvest from the earth together. We have neither welcoming immigration policies, nor a true bounty of the land. Unless you grew your food yourself or know directly the farmers that did, your food most likely is the product of a broken food system that does not honor the land nor the workers who grew that food.

And our food system certainly doesn’t help people who are trying to grow food in other parts of the world – many of whom wind up as refugees seeking to immigrate to others countries such as our own. Corporations participate in “land grabs,” stealing away land from peasant farmers who can no longer use the land to grow food and make a living, the way they used to. Growing commodities like corn, soy and rice in the U.S. and dumping it overseas as “food aid” undermines local economies as peasant farmers can no longer make a living because their customer base no longer needs to purchase food from them. Climate change also drastically impacts people’s ability to grow food across the world.

What I’ve always liked about groups like
Oxfam, however, is that they empower local communities to become self-sufficient and overcome obstacles to growing food and making a living. They support such practices as micro-lending (which was invented by the Franciscans).

True solidarity and peace with the land and the people who steward it and harvest God’s bounty comes through being directly involved with those most affected, and seeing all people as Christ through the eyes of God. I can think of no better example than the Franciscans and the farmworkers story from California that Br. Keith Warner wrote about, showing how solidarity and reverse evangelization can be a social prompt for conversion. We must see ourselves as equal with all other people and see our relationship with the land and the ecosystem as a whole as equally as important. As I think about all the hungry people in the world, I cannot help but feel the urge to fast in solidarity with them and the others fasting for immigration reform. May we feel called to request our elected leaders do more for the health and well-being and livelihoods of the people of the world and the earth that sustains us.