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A communal experience

11 September 2013


I am used to variety - in a week I might not eat a meal based on the same country's cuisine twice. Carbonara gives way to coq-au-vin, curry follows pad thai and tacos, tagine and toad-in-the-hole might round out the week.

Getting my daily bread has never been a problem. God has provided a generous and abundant world, and I am able to take advantage of more than my fair share of it.

But on a trip to El Salvador to visit the partners and people that CAFOD works with, the phrase 'our daily bread' started to take on a whole new meaning for me. 

  • I was able to see just how important daily bread, in the sense of a basic staple food, really is.' 

Each breakfast, lunch and dinner was a variation on the same basic ingredients of beans, rice, cheese, avocado and sometimes chicken.

And every meal was accompanied by a plate piled high with tortillas for all to share.

This showed me the variety that I take for granted. The supermarket choice encourages me to try new things, to buy (and eat) way more than I need, and to rarely question where it comes from, who grew or produced it, and how much they were paid for it.

And I was able to see for the first time just how important daily bread, in the sense of a basic staple food, really is.

As I talked to Erasmo Valiente - who works with our partner, the Jesuit Development Service - about the floods that had struck the year before my visit, I also gained an insight into how precarious this daily bread can be.

But just as important as the receiving of this daily staple is the fact that it is our, rather than my, daily bread.

As I was welcomed into people's homes, food was always a communal experience.

Sharing chicken soup (and tortillas, of course) with Lazaro, his friend and neighbour Angelberto, and their families - and afterwards listening as the two men sang songs from their church choir - is something that will stay with me for a long time.

Everything they had was shared with us - their food, their life stories and their talents.

Looking back on this experience gives me a new understanding of this part of a prayer that is so familiar.

In this one line, I now realise, I pray for the abundant world that God has created and given to us all, and recognise that we all have the right to share in it.

I pray for the basics that we all need, and that I may have the strength not to overindulge my own appetites.

And I pray for my brothers and sisters around the world, giving thanks for how much they have shared with me and committing myself in my turn to share with them, so that we may all have our daily bread.

Catherine Gorman, theology programme communications coordinator, CAFOD.


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