Catholic Creative: An Entrepreneur
An interview with John Hart, founder of Feast Day boxes
“My passion is really to help Catholics model the domestic church more closely to the Mass and liturgical calendar, to make the time at the table more spiritual, using tradition to connect with Catholics of the past, present, and future and helping us grow closer to Christ.”
Katie Warner interviews Catholic artists and artisans about their crafts, asking how their art impacts the Church and their faith impacts their work.
Tell me a little about who you are and about your craft.
I’m a cradle Catholic from Kansas City. I grew up in a parish where the faith was a natural part of life. When you did things, you probably did them at the parish. Growing up in that environment led to a love of the rituals of the faith, those in the church and those in the home. Now, a husband and father of three, living in a time when living liturgically, even a little, can be difficult to manage, I’m hoping to help others make the faith an everyday part of their life.
When did you start your liturgical living subscription box service? What inspired you to do this as a career, part-time work, ministry, or hobby?
The idea for Feast Day started years ago when I saw a recipe for St. Martin’s goose in a Slovenian cookbook. I was moved by the way folks in Europe commemorated St. Martin, and why they observed his feast day so elaborately. I knew I wanted to find a way to help families connect with the faith through food and celebration but wasn’t sure how. I started investigating other interesting foods that had been eaten in different places and times to celebrate certain feasts and seasons of the Church. I discovered a long list of traditions but also found that several folks had the same interests. There are many fine books on the topic. However, even with cookbooks, some of the foods are so unusual to the modern American it would be too costly, timely, or difficult to try to make many of the recipes with all the other demands most families are under. Last Lent, I finally realized that the subscription box model might be the most convenient way to help others experience these traditions.
How does your faith influence your work?
Feast Day wouldn’t exist without my faith. I enjoy food, but I don’t have a passion for it alone. My passion is really to help Catholics model the domestic church more closely to the Mass and liturgical calendar, to make the time at the table more spiritual, using tradition to connect with Catholics of the past, present, and future and helping us grow closer to Christ. There are plenty of places to order delicious food. We’re different because we source a wide variety of food from all over the world that isn’t just delicious but has meaning based on the Church calendar.
How does your work impact your faith?
The impact isn’t one I had expected. I expected to impact the faith of others. But starting a business was never something I had planned and it’s all quite new. It initially took a lot of trust to make the decision to do it, but since then, while learning new things and facing new challenges, it has demanded my trust daily. It’s teaching me more and more to abandon myself to God and trust in him.
Can you pick a favorite project you’ve worked on recently? Tell me a little about it.
I’ve long loved the apparition of Our Lady of Lourdes, and this devotion has grown considerably over the last few years. Our February boxes paid a lot of attention to her feast. We liked it so much that we had to put together a special product, the Lourdes Shopping Bag, to keep available for all those who might be sick or suffering. It contained an easy mix to make cassoulet, the classic film The Song of Bernadette, a bar of Immaculate Waters soap, which contains water from Lourdes, and a pocket prayer book with the novena of Our Lady of Lourdes.
Why do you think Catholic art has such an important role to play in the Church?
It is impossible for me to respond to this question without bringing up Dana Gioia’s essay “The Catholic Writer Today.” It discusses the decline of prominent Catholic writers in contemporary literature and of prominent Catholic artists in contemporary culture. Why does this matter to the Church? Gioia says, “The loss of the aesthetic sensibility in the Church has weakened its ability to make its call heard in the world... The loss of great music, painting, architecture, poetry, sculpture, fiction, and theater has limited the ways in which the Church speaks to people both within and beyond the faith.” This topic was important to Pope Benedict, also. If Catholicism is important to us, it has to be a major part of our identity; it has to be present in our culture.
To whom do you turn for inspiration?
We’re only half joking when we say the company is run on signal graces and roses from St. Thérèse of Lisieux, so Mary and St. Thérèse are certainly among those we rely on. I’ve certainly turned to St. Joseph over this work. But it is probably a devotion to the Divine Mercy that started everything. Without that devotion, the trust in God to try something new would have never been there. And when I struggle with trust day-to-day, I constantly think about passages from St. Faustina’s diary.
Name one piece of advice/wisdom that has had a great influence on your work.
Before opening the online shop, I was worrying about all the things that needed to be done and was considering dropping the idea before I got any deeper into it. Then the thought came to me: “Go and fear nothing,” and I was immediately calm. Our Lady of Good Help is famous for saying, “Go and fear nothing. I will help you.” I think of this often. Jesus reminds us to trust in him and not be afraid. Mary also reminds us not to be afraid; she’s there to help.
If people want to explore your work in more detail, where can they look?
Check us out at https://feastday.co