Saturday, February 28, 2009

First Community Meal!

Our first open meal to the community served a grand total of . . . (drum roll) . . . 8 people! However, all of us were volunteers!

In the Catholic Worker tradition, we try not to distinguish between the "poor" and the "non-poor." We had a meal for the community and the community did show up. However, we would certainly have liked to have included folks who didn't have an option of a meal waiting for them back at home.

We had a bounty of donations and a wonderful bunch of folks who helped. All day long people stopped by to drop things off and help out in one way or another.

This was an impressive show of support and for a trial run we did just fine. We enjoyed a wonderful meal together and it was a fantastic evening of community and fellowship. It was great to spend time with new friends from the parish as well as those who have been part of the Columbus Catholic Worker since the beginning.

We also celebrated Mary Ellen's birthday! Happy Birthday to a Leap Day gal!

I have never heard of a free community meal that has had difficulty attracting people. I continually read about how food pantries are feeling an increase in demand during these tough economic times. I am fully confident that people will be drawn to our meals. It is just a matter of finding better ways to get the word out. Today, it was a feast fit for a king.

This food will be shared with others. Some will be frozen and the perishables will be given out, including to other soup kitchens. We will serve it also for people who come to the legal clinic on Thursday and prayer on Friday.

We decided not to advertise too heavily because we were afraid of a huge turnout. Next time, we'll beat the drums a little louder.

This house is certainly turning into a place where good company and good food come together. Not a bad start for a group who values hospitality as we do.

If anyone has suggestions for good ways to spread the word about our meals, please let us know.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Hispanic Legal Clinic

We have been looking for ways to serve the Hispanic Community. As the saying goes, ask and ye shall receive.

The Catholic Latino Ministry Office of the Diocese has asked us to host a free legal clinic. They have a bilingual lawyer who is currently offering pro bono work and needs to relocate. The lawyer specializes in immigration issues but can also provide guidance for any legal questions.

This service is very much needed by the Hispanic community and is one of the things they asked for.

It is our job to provide hospitality and a warm welcome. One of the front parlor rooms would be a cozy and private place for the lawyer to do her consultations. We need to organize people as they arrive so that they see the lawyer on a first come, first served basis. Everyone else will wait in the main living room or dining room areas. We'd like to serve refreshments and just be generally hospitable. Some of the people are coming to talk about difficult legal issues and may be wary of trusting us, so the more we can do to help them feel comfortable, the better.

This will be the first Thursday of every month from 6:00-8:00 in the evening, starting next week: March 5th.

We'll start setting up around 5:30.

Our live-in volunteer Pat will be working this by himself, so please sign up to help! You don't need to speak Spanish at all, although this would be a perfect time to practice if you were looking for an opportunity. The only language you need to speak is the language of hospitality.

Thanks to Fr. Pat and Dale for setting this in motion!

Note: The Director of Latino Ministry for the Diocese is going to meet with us at 6:00 pm on Monday, March 2nd. If you are interested in attending, please meet us at the house. We'll be touring the neighborhood shortly thereafter.

Entertaining Angels

The Social Justice group at St. James the Less invited the parish to a viewing of the movie Entertaining Angels last evening. We had a short discussion after the movie.

This is a movie about the early years of Dorothy Day and the start of the Catholic Worker movement. Moira Kelly plays Dorothy and Martin Sheen plays a whimsical Peter Maurin.

There are a number of people around who still have a living memory of Dorothy Day (and even Peter Maurin). They claim that many of the scenes in the movie did not actually happen and are just dramatizations of her life.

Still, the basic facts are true: Dorothy was a young suffragette journalist who hung around in Marxist circles with the literary elite of New York City. She went against her instincts and had an abortion, which she regretted. The birth of her daughter coincided with her conversion to Catholicism. As a Catholic, she continued her Marxist concern for the poor but in a different way. After asking God for direction, she soon met Peter Maurin who helped guide her into publishing The Catholic Worker newspaper. In the midst of the Great Depression, they opened their home to the hungry and homeless of New York City. They lived in community and in poverty with the poor while continuing to be a voice for social change.

It is hard to imagine another American Catholic who has had as great of an impact in the last century as Dorothy Day, although she would always credit Peter Maurin for so much of what they did. In any case, they were certainly an amazing team.

Dorothy is currently up for canonization (against her wishes!) She was an influence on Vatican II, especially concerning the role of the laity. So much of the social justice activity of American Catholics today owes its start to the Catholic Worker movement. Their brand of hospitality and community living is one of the primary influences on the new monasticism. This personal approach to outreach work has influenced others far and wide. Numerous communities all over the world--some who call themselves Catholic Workers and some that do not--follow the model that Dorothy and Peter started so many years ago. Dorothy was a prolific writer.

The movie is quite powerful. There were not many dry eyes in the room at the close of the film. Many thanks to the Social Justice group for organizing this event!

NOTE: We have a copy of the movie at the Catholic Worker house and are willing to show it again anytime, so just ask!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

St. Joseph the Worker

The patron saint of the Catholic Worker movement is St. Joseph the Worker. His feast day is on May 1st, and we plan to do a celebration on that day. It falls on a Friday this year, which lines up conveniently with our regular Friday evenings of prayer. It is a good time for a house blessing and perhaps a naming ceremony. Details will be forthcoming as they unfold.

We are toying with the idea of naming the house after Blessed Margaret of Castello. She is often considered the patroness of the unwanted. How consistent that is with our patron--St. Joseph was a man who was asked to raise a child that was not his, certainly conceived under questionable circumstances. A single, pregnant woman in first century Palestine was a social pariah, and Mary could have faced the death penalty. It was hard to find someone more unwanted. Hospitality is a very ancient, time-honored tradition in the Jewish faith, but you could argue that the first Christian House of Hospitality was right there in a stable in Bethlehem.

The stable wasn't even his own! Joseph probably could have fended for himself a lot better, but he made himself poor to take on this new family. The story just sounds more and more Catholic Worker-ish as I continue to think on it!

It was not his job to get the glory--it was his job to do the work. He didn't see his nose on the baby's face or notice his own mannerisms reflected in the child's behaviors. You could argue that Joseph did eventually get the glory that is due him, being one of our most beloved saints. However, he might have had a tough time seeing that while he was raising this patchwork family. He doesn't say much at all in the gospels, but you can feel his presence. He was holding it all together. The worker.

The Church does a good job of reminding us of the unwanted. The marginalized. Those discarded in some accounting ledger as "collateral damage." The price of doing business. The Catholic Worker--carrying the spirit of St. Joseph--reminds us that there is a space for them at the table, too. St. Joseph didn't seem to give big speeches or make a big deal about it. He was just there when someone absolutely needed him, sharing his own life and home with them. He quietly did his job.

May St. Joseph watch over us and adopt us, just as he watched over and adopted the first family of Christianity. Lean on St. Joseph--just as he raised a family that wasn't his, he will take you in, as well.
May the Catholic Worker always carry his spirit.

Friday, February 13, 2009

When I Was Hungry . . .

We are inviting our neighbors to a meal at our home on Saturday, February 28th at 6:00 pm. Our plan is to invite people who are already receiving donations through the St. Vincent de Paul Society at St. James the Less. This way, we can start small with people who have already been referred. If we were to distribute signs through the neighborhood, the turnout might be too much for our first time!

We are eager to begin this ministry, as the corporal works of mercy are near and dear to our mission. It is not just a distribution of food--our charism is hospitality and we desire to share a warm welcome and good conversation while we break bread together. After we offer this meal, we will evaluate how it went and decide how often to offer it in the future.

Donations of food and volunteer help are both very much welcome!

As Catholic Workers, we are also looking for ways to address the underlying systemic issues. Hungry people need to be fed, but why are people hungry in the first place? In a sense, all of our activities are designed to feed people. For example, we are currently putting plans together for English classes and a community garden. At first glance, it is hard to see how those projects have anything to do with the brick and mortar work of feeding the hungry or giving drink to the thirsty. However, both of those activities are the same thing as offering a meal. In fact, they may have an even greater impact in the long run.

Teaching immigrants English will help them find work in this country so they can feed themselves and communicate with others. Community gardens help people to grow their own food and network with neighbors. As the saying goes, Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day. Teach a person to fish and you feed them for a lifetime.

During the Great Depression, my grandparents moved out of Cleveland, OH, to a small farm in the country. They knew that no matter how bad the economy got, they would at least be able to feed themselves. Urban farming is a means to the same goal. It is a cheap and nutritious way to put food on your table. Even if the entire economy collapses, you can still be fed. This agrarian idea is at the core of the Catholic Worker tradition. Both the ESL courses and the gardens build community among neighbors.

So this is why the Catholic Worker addresses the works of mercy from both angles. As Peter Maurin* writes, "The Catholic Worker believes in Houses of Hospitality for the immediate relief of those who are in need." People are hungry right now, and they can't wait for economic systems to change. However, the ultimate goal is a restructuring of society so that people are not hungry in the first place.

If you would like to help, please call us at 614-267-3322 or email us by clicking this link. Volunteers can help cook, clean or mingle with guests. Musicians would be most welcome! Please pray that this ministry does the work of the Lord!

* Quote from the Easy Essay entitled, "What the Catholic Worker Believes" by Peter Maurin

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Quasi-Taizé Prayer Ministry

We have decided to hold a prayer service every Friday evening. The service will start at 7:15 pm and continue for about 30-45 minutes. There will also be an informal pot luck dinner at 6:30 pm. People are more than welcome to attend the dinner, prayer or both.

We started last week and affectionately referred to it as our "Quasi-Taizé" service. In other words, we are not Taizé purists, but we do borrow a lot from the style! Last week, Dale led us with a number of songs, hymns and readings. From week to week, we will vary the format to include such things as meditations, reflections and roundtable discussions. It will depend on who the planner is and how the Spirit moves us!

Please join us this (or any) Friday!

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Some Updates!

There has been so much going on recently! I'd like to catch everyone up a bit:

We hosted a gathering of the Ohio Dominican University Theology Department this past Saturday. They were treated to a multi-lingual mass at St. James the Less immediately before our party and spoke very highly of the service. We had a pot luck dinner, played a rockin' game of Killer Bunnies, talked a lot and even had time for a song or two.

We had our first "Quasi-Taizé" Prayer Service on Friday. Dale did an excellent job leading us in compline chants, songs and other hymns. He also decorated our chapel in a Taizé style (see photo). Jonathan read a wonderful passage from Jean Vanier (founder of the L'arche communities). Stay tuned for dates/times as we plan to offer this again soon.

Last weekend, we helped Mary Ellen and Amy move to a new apartment (closer to the CW house, I might add!) Mary Ellen was allergic to the new carpeting in her last place, so that prompted her to move to a new place which she likes much more than the last one. Sometimes being forced to change is the best thing that can happen to us. This is an important thing to remember during these stressful days of lay-off's and economic problems--there is opportunity in everything that happens, even if it sometimes brings with it pain and uncertainty.

Later that same evening, we were invited for an evening at "Aunt Ginger's" house. She treated us to a marvelous Christmas dinner (the Vatican leaves Christmas decorations up until February 2nd, so she does, too!) She gave us a wonderful array of statues that will brighten our already happy home. Thanks, Ginger! Your support has been a real beacon of light to us.

The previous weekend we attended a service at St. Peter's Church in celebration of the "Week of Prayer for Christian Unity." The event was hosted in part by the Focolare. They are an intentional Christian community whose charism is Christian unity and love. There is a community right here in Columbus! We hope to connect with them in the future, as our two communities no doubt have a lot in common and there is much that we can do together.

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We have been blessed by the wonderful people we have met. It is good that our home has been a place where others can gather to pray and just find good fellowship. We are a movement of hospitality, after all. As we participate in the works of mercy in the future, we hope these connections we are making keep us strong and help to spread the word about what we are doing.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Breaking News: Prayer Service!

Please join us on at 7:00 pm on Friday, February 6th, 2009 for a prayer serve at the Catholic Worker! Dale will lead us in a Taizé-like format. Get your voices ready for singing!

We plan to host a prayer service like this once a week. We are still experimenting with the time, but Friday evenings look to be a strong possibility. It will start with a potluck and then go into the prayer. We may eventually have it in the church sanctuary of St. James the Less, especially if attendance demands it. For right now, we'll start by having it at the Catholic Worker.

Our service will include songs, prayers and meditations, loosely based on Taizé. If you are not familiar, Taizé is the name of a town in France where a large ecumenical monastic community resides. They are known for singing short refrains over and over, with each pass going deeper into the meaning of the music. You don't have to be a stellar musican to fully participate!

We apologize for the short notice, but we'd like to get started. We hope you can join us!

The picture is a Taizé Cross, based on icons by Brother Eric of Taizé