“We hold that there is a strict difference between eating and dining. We eat at fast-food places with the emphasis on ‘fast.’ We hardly take time to taste the fried whatevers. We are usually double-tasking while merely doing away with a sense of hunger. Dining is more relational, takes time, involves tasting, enjoying and being more present. Dining creates memories, not merely of the food, but of those with whom we dine. It is a “slow-food” process moving the diners to gratitude for the whole experience of food and friends. Eating is often self-centered while dining is usually interpersonal and therefore creative, both individually and interpersonally, of those dining together. Reflection in the Ignatian tradition is rooted in God’s creating us and our being available to that process by attempting to be present at the table of our lives.”
This is a quote from an article called “The Nature and Importance of Reflection” that Creighton’s beloved resident Jesuit best friends Father Gillick and Father Carlson distributed to Creighton seniors through Ignatian Wisdom Groups this past fall.
This paragraph has stuck with me, leading me to do a lot of reflecting on the difference between eating and dining over this past year. Most recently, I started thinking about the connections between eating, dining and ritual. Rituals come in two different packages. Some daily rituals include brushing your teeth, drinking water, or catching up on the news. Rituals in the Catholic Church are more sacred in their essence but also in the fact that they are less regularly partaken in — Eucharist, confession, and Christmas are weekly, monthly, and yearly rituals.
Eating is a daily ritual, necessary for life. But is it a daily ritual of necessity, like sleeping, or is it more than that? A rumbling stomach in the middle of a busy day is more likely to lead to daydreams about what kind of food we will consume, rather than who we will share our meal with. If doing away with hunger is treated as a more sacred ritualistic experience of gratitude for both food and friends, it becomes a holistic and fulfilling experience in a number of ways.
How would our daily lives change if we treated the daily ritual of eating with sacred care — transforming this thrice daily activity into dining? If we focused less on consumption, and more on community? What if every dinner was as intentional as a birthday, Thanksgiving, or Christmas dinner?
This past week, I’ve had a renewed understanding of how meals can fill more than just an empty stomach — and how an experience of dining in community, even in the midst of tragedy, can bring joy and laughter. We’ve spent the past 7 days immersed in learning about the culture of the Kino Border Initiative, an organization that, among many things, creates a warm, welcoming space for migrants to share meals together every single day. Empty stomachs are never an inconvenience at Kino, and every meal is treated like a celebration and a gift.
Any and every migrant is welcomed at Kino with warm smiles and warm tortillas. The guests that dine at the comedor are dehumanized and demoralized every day through harsh immigration control enforcement and negative stereotyping, even from their Mexican peers. How could they ever find faith and hope in these conditions on an empty stomach?! In fulfilling basic needs of food and drink, and escalating the experience to truly empower guests, reminding them of their inherent love and worth in Christ, Kino Border Initiative provides a flame of hope in very dark times.