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Roxane B. Salonen, Published August 02 2013

Living Faith: Why have a snack when you can have a faith feast?

In our school cafeteria growing up, a poster of a cartoon boy with body parts comprised of foods he’d consumed hung on a wall I faced too many meals to count. The poster included the words, “You are what you eat.”

Those words and image have stuck with me, not only in terms of nutrition and how our bodies function and thrive in relation to the healthy foods we consume, but also regarding the life of faith.

In my early faith journey I was prone, as many, to being spoon-fed. But just as we graduate from mashed peas and finger foods from our parents and other caregivers, in time, we must decide the quality and quantity of our spiritual intake.

Recently it’s become even more apparent that what I ingest hugely affects my health and could help determine the duration of my life.

I understand, too, that what we take into our mind influences our soul. Just as I’ve tried to be more mindful of food choices, I’ve become more intentional about my spiritual consumption.

We are, after all, souls housed in a human body. Both components need healthy nourishment to thrive.

To this end, as I began growing more in faith, I started eliminating “junk food.” My large consumption of television was first to go. These days, I watch it only minimally, zeroing in on the most edifying offerings. My attention span for the time-wasters also has dimmed considerably.

My reading choices have changed, too. Currently, I’m reading a book recommended by a trusted source titled, “The Secret Diary of Elisabeth Leseur.”

Leseur, who lived in the early 1900s, was a Christian whose husband was an atheist, and many of their friends were intellectuals who scoffed faith. Hers was a life of quiet sacrifice and both bodily and spiritual torment, yet also one of great trust in God and his mercy.

Leseur poured her thoughts into a journal, and when she died, her husband found and read it. A profound conversion resulted, which led him into the priesthood. Her life is currently being reviewed for canonization to sainthood.

To offer a small sampling, on Dec. 18, 1901, Leseur wrote, “One must have lit in oneself so bright a flame of sympathy and tenderness that all who are beginning as we are ending can come to find there light and fire.”

In the same entry, she laments her situation. “Could I on this account deserve some pity from God?” she posed. “Because it is a deep and secret suffering, one of those that God alone sees, for which He makes sometimes the most sweet compensation.”

Leseur’s words feed my soul in a way no romance novel or reality television show ever could.

Who among us hasn’t uttered a cry from the heart in our darkest moments, seeking solace from God? Leseur’s soul sharing has offered me a commiserating voice that brings hope to deeply held pains in my own life.

I see words like Leseur’s and others that are morally appetizing as a spiritual banquet. And why stop at the snack when you can have a feast?

I’m not pushing anyone to read Leseur, nor do I believe I’m now perfect in my spiritual consumption. The point is to show we can choose to live a life of depth, one laid down for others, and cling mightily to God, or open our mouths wide with eyes closed to the spoon-fed offerings of our culture.

The food we feed our body is vital; all the more is the food we feed our soul. Our bodies will wither and die, but our spirits, if we feed them well, can remain young, strong and vibrant, not just here but forever in heaven.

Roxane B. Salonen is a freelance writer who lives in Fargo with her husband and five children. If you have a story of faith to share with her, email roxanebsalonen@gmail.com