Monthly Archives: February 2009

HOUSE NEWS: Observing Lent with the GCW

The Way of the Cross 2008

The Way of the Cross 2008

The season of Lent, a time for reflection, repentance, prayer, and almsgiving, begins on Ash Wednesday, February 25. Over the past eight years, some folks have made it part of their Lenten discipline to become more involved in some of the activities here at the Jubilee House. If you’re interested, here are some ways to plug in. You can also always check out our weekly calendar for details on what is happening.

Pray with us at Tuesdays or Fridays, Morning Prayer – 7:30-8am at the House.

Sponsor or help out at the Breakfast Brigade – Fridays, 4:15am – 7am; Serve a healthy, tasty breakfast to hungry folks at the day labor pools. Or buy breakfast – we serve up to 120 people/week for about $120-150.

Volunteer at Dorothy’s Café – Every Wednesday, and the first and third Sundays of each month; Help to prepare the soup, learn to bake the bread, serve, eat, and/or clean up. Prep on Wednesdays begins at 9:30am and clean-up is over around 6pm. On Sundays, prep begins at 11am and clean-up is over by 6pm.

Participate in Scripture Study – Tuesdays, 2:30-4pm.This semester we’re looking at the readings for each Sunday in the traditional reading cycle of many churches. We’ll be studying the gospel readings that lead up to Easter during the Lenten season. To see the schedule for readings, click here.

Join us at the Roundtable – Thursdays, 6-7:30pm; each week we share a potluck dinner while a guest speaker leads us in a discussion on a current economic, political, religious, or cultural issue. During Lent, we’ll be joined by Joe Jackson, UF law professor and advocate for the homeless; Junior St-Vil, director of Pax Christi Haiti; Patrick Finn-Schultz on the state of our criminal justice system; Diedre Houchen, educator; members of Islam on Campus; and others. Bring a dish to share if you can!

Take Part in the Good Friday “Way of the Cross” – Friday, April 10.  The Way of the Cross is an ancient tradition. Join us as we make our way through downtown Gainesville and reflect on how Christ continues to be crucified among us in the poor and marginalized in our community.

Monthly Mass at the GCW – Join us Thursday, March 5th or Thursday, April 2 at 6pm for Mass at the GCW, celebrated by our chaplain, Fr. John Phillips, pastor of Holy Faith Catholic Church.

Commit to Learning to Live More Locally – Since the beginning, we’ve considered it a main mission of the Gainesville Catholic Worker to “live locally.” We try to buy the food we use and serve directly from local farmers (we highly recommend the 441 Farmers Market on Saturday mornings) or – when impossible from Ward’s, a local grocery store that often buys directly from local growers. And we try to be conscious of how what we consume – food, entertainment, energy, clothing, etc. – affects our brothers and sisters. During Lent, we are going to try to be more intentional and invite you to struggle along with us, and weigh in when you can, on how to live locally in Gainesville. A member of our community will be fasting every day during Lent and we’ll also experiment with lowering our electricity footprint. We write regularly about our family’s attempts, failures, education – and hopefully progress – HERE.

HOUSE NEWS: Our week with the stars

Bishop Robert Baker, Bishop of Birmingham (AL), visits the GCW

Bishop Robert Baker, Bishop of Birmingham (AL), visits the GCW

Dear friends,

To see what is happening at the GCW this week, click here.

OUR WEEK WITH THE STARS: Thursday, February 12th thru Thursday, February 19th was “our week with the stars” at the Gainesville Catholic Worker. We were incredibly fortunate to have visits from theologian and author Jim Douglass, Bishop Robert Baker of Birmingham, Fr. Chepe Perez from Guatemala and human rights activist Fr. Roy Bourgeois, MM of School of the Americas Watch. Jim and Roy were our featured speakers one week apart at a our regular Thursday Roundtable, while we hosted a special Tuesday Roundtable with Chepe and we received a surprise visit at Sunday’s cafe from Bishop Baker, thanks to Fr. John Gillespie of St. Augustine Catholic Student Center.

While the work that we do around the works of mercy–feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, welcoming the stranger, and giving drink to the thirsty–is so central and important to our common life at the GCW, our vision for our community has always been that the GCW would function as a place of serious and challenging inquiry for people who were asking the big questions about life, faith, the way the world works, and so on. Being able to host speakers with whom we can discuss the important issues of our time in light of our faith and our values and take from those discussions direction for how to live our lives and change the world in which we live–this too is the essential heart of what the GCW is. So last week we got a history lesson from Jim Douglass on JFK, his conversion to the work of peace in our time, the resistance within our own system to such a vision, and his assassination. Chepe shared with us a model of church within Latin American communities that thrives on a “kingdom-centered” theology and spirituality and seeks to make the needs of the people central to the work of the church. Roy shared with his life story with us, how he was awakened to our nation’s oppressive role in Latin America, how he became energized by the spirit of martyrs of like Archbishop Romero and the work he and groups like SOAWatch are doing to transform U.S. foreign policy. And Bishop Baker, who founded Gainesville’s St. Francis House many years ago and has always made the care of the impoverished central to his own ministry, blessed our work at the GCW and spoke inspiring words to the confirmation students from Holy Faith Catholic Church who were serving at Sunday’s cafe.  We hope that you were aong the over 150 guests, visitors and volunteers who got to share in the visits of these wise and holy men who shared so much with us this week.

Jim Douglass with the GCW community

Jim Douglass with the GCW community

Fr. Roy Bourgeois, MM with Moraa

Fr. Roy Bourgeois, MM with Moraa

GAINESVILLE AND THE HOMELESS: This week we’re excited to have Joe Jackson with us. Joe has been teaching at the UF College of Law since 1995 and been involved in homeless advocacy, particularly legal advocacy, for the past 8 years. He’ll be addressing the city of Gainesville’s regulations restricting the provision of food and shelter to those in need–giving background on the kinds of restrictions different cities have imposed, how those restrictions have held up to legal challenges, and about Gainesville’s restrictions and current efforts to have those restrictions loosened. Please bring a dish to share if you can!

THE WORD ON THE STREET: It is not too late to join us in studying scripture each week. We meet on Tuesdays, from 2:30-4pm, to look at the readings which many churches will be using on the following Sunday in their worship services. As the season of Lent starts this week, our study will concentrate on readings which orient us toward Jesus’ confrontation with the political, economic and religious powers of his time, the repercussions of those confrontations and the final showdown which happens when Jesus brings his campaign for liberation to the heart of power in Jerusalem. We’ll look this week at Mark 1:12-15 and Genesis 9:8-15.

BLUE HOUSE PANTS? Look in next week’s email or on the website for information on a new project the GCW will be starting next weekend. We think that many of you will be intrigued…

In peace,


HOUSE NEWS: Two Roundtables this week?!! Cool.

Dear friends,

To see what is happening this week, click here.

ROUNDTABLE, PART ONE: We are excited and honored to host our good friend Fr. Chepe Perez from Jesus Nipalikin community in Guatemala for a special TUESDAY Roundtable this week. The Jesus Nipalikin community is the sister parish of Holy Faith Catholic Church and Kelli from our community has visited twice, while her son Joe has spent the past three summers there working and teaching. Fr. Chepe will share with us on the topic “Liberation Theology and Guatemala.” We hope you’ll join us for this special night.

ROUNDTABLE, PART TWO: And we are also thrilled to have good friend Fr. Roy Bourgeois, MM, founder of the organization School of the Americas Watch for our regular Thursday Roundtable. Fr. Roy will be speaking on the SOAWatch’s “Latin America Project”. Fr. Roy is a noted human rights activist, a Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace, and a torture survivor. If you are unable to make the Thursday Roundtable with Fr. Roy, he’ll also be speaking at a luncheon, from 11:30a-12:30p on Thursday at Westminster Presbyterian Church (hosted by Emmanuel Mennonite Church, CODEPink, and others); and also will speak from 8-10pm Thursday night at UF in NPB 1002 (hosted by Amnesty International, the Religion Graduate Students Association, and the Latin American Studies Department).

ON A PERSONAL NOTE: It is difficult to capture what a graced experience living at the GCW can sometimes be. Many weeks, it is simply hard work and what I feel most is just tired. But I am coming to realize, after living here for nearly 5 years now, how much more there really is to see if one only has “eyes to see”: the former guest who dumps out his sock drawer into a bag and tells me to give them out to people who need them, because he read on our chalkboard that we needed socks; the current guest who lovingly reads a picture book about skunks to our 3 year-old grandson after amazing our 11- and 13-year old with magic tricks; the couple of limited means who have financially supported us regularly since we opened our doors showing up for an overnight visit with armfuls of bagels and Krispy Kreme donuts; the 66 year-old homeless woman who regales us over dinner after Wednesday’s cafe with stories of her former career as a professional model and dancer and performs splits in our kitchen to show us she’s still got “it;” the stunning mix of people–little kids and grandparents, black and brown and white, homeless people and students and working people–all being taught by our favorite Egyptian cook how to make falafel, then sitting down to one celebration of Saturday night dinner. Loud. Crazy, Boisterous. Beautiful. It is a sin that I am not more overcome by and grateful for the depth and beauty of this life and the lives around me every day.

Thanks to all of you who keep tabs on us here or in person, often dropping by to help out or to just say hello. For you, and for all of this, we give thanks.

– John

HOUSE NEWS: Additional Jim Douglass event!

For students (and others), Rusty Poulette will host Jim Douglass on the UF campus tomorrow, Thursday, at 3:30pm for a discussion on his book and other matters. You can reach Rusty at if you need more information. I’ll be dropping Jim off at the Presbyterian/Disciples Student Center on University Ave across from UF at 3:15pm, so if you’re interested, people can join us there before 3:15; then we’ll walk over to the Plaza of the Americas for a discussion with Jim (so you could also just go to the Plaza and look for us there by 3:30pm). More information on Jim is below, including the correct time for his Friday luncheon talk at Westminster Presbyterian Church.

JIM DOUGLASS ON JFK: We are really excited to have Jim Douglass join us this week to talk about his new book, JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters.  Jim is an author, activist and theologian (as well as fellow CW) and he will join us at the Roundtable on Thursday at 6pm as part of his current book tour. He’ll discuss with us his research regarding the Kennedy assassination, its repercussions for peace in the 20th and now 21st century, and why it matters to us today. Please bring a dish to share if you can!

If you absolutely can’t make it on Thursday, Jim will also be the featured speaker at a Friday noon luncheon which will take place at Westminster Presbyterian Church (bring your own lunch) at the corner of NW 16th Ave and 34th Street. This event is being sponsored by the Gainesville Interfaith Peace Center, Emmanuel Mennonite Church, CODEPink, and others.

HOUSE NEWS: Theologian, author, activist Jim Douglass joins us this week

Dear friends,

To read what is happening this week, click here.

JIM DOUGLASS ON JFK: We are really excited to have Jim Douglass join us this week to talk about his new book, JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters.  Jim is an author, activist and theologian (as well as fellow CW) and he will join us at the Roundtable on Thursday at 6pm as part of his current book tour. He’ll discuss with us his research regarding the Kennedy assassination, its repercussions for peace in the 20th and now 21st century, and why it matters to us today. Please bring a dish to share if you can!

If you absolutely can’t make it on Thursday, Jim will also be the featured speaker at a luncheon which will take place at Westminster Presbyterian Church (bring your own lunch) at the corner of NW 16th Ave and 34th Street. This event is being sponsored by the Gainesville Interfaith Peace Center, Emmanuel Mennonite Church, CODEPink, and others.

WHEN RELIGION GOES ROGUE: Last week’s scripture study enjoyed some intense discussion and reflection on healthcare and poverty, the social dimension of illness, religion which accommodates power instead of critiquing it, and more. To read last week’s reflection on Mark 1:29-39, click here. This week, we’ll be looking at Mark 1:40-45 as well as some possible passages from Leviticus. Everyone is welcome to come.

SCHEDULE CHANGE: Just a small one–Monday morning prayer has been switched to Tuesdays, still at 7:30am. It usually lasts 30 minutes and anyone is welcome to attend. (We also have morning prayer on Fridays, same time.)

GCW NEEDS SOCKS: We need clean men’s socks. Foot infections are common among homeless men, and this past December, we actually had one of our friends nearly die from a foot infection that went untreated for a long time. If you can drop off socks at Jubilee House, we would be most grateful.

Special thanks last week to Rev. John Phillips and Mike Marconi from Holy Faith Catholic Church. We celebrated a beautiful, intimate Mass at the house and then enjoyed a good meal together. Fr. John will join us the first Thursday of each month, so plan ahead to join us if you’d like.

And we are on for Dorothy’s Cafe this Sunday. Jon Meinholz and the confirmation students at Holy Faith will be joining us in hosting and preparing the meal. We usually can use a few extra volunteers, so feel free to drop by and help out, or just get some food.

In peace,


SCRIPTURE STUDY: Mark 1:29-39 – Irrelevant widows, to be sick and poor, and when religion goes rogue

In this middle section of Mark’s first chapter, we’re seeing early scenes from the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. There are three distinct, short passages contained in these eleven verses, which continue the 24 hour period which began in verse 21 and sort of represents “a day in the life of Jesus.”

In verse 29, as the passage opens, Jesus is moving from the synagogue–a public, sacred space and the domain of the scribes, elders, et al–to a more private, intimate space–the house of Simon and Andrew. The shift in scene takes Jesus from a place of tension and conflict (in the passage just prior, Jesus was confronted by demons and the people openly privileged Jesus’ teaching over the teaching of their professional religious leaders) to a more relaxed, comfortable setting.

Upon entering the home, Jesus is told that Simon’s mother-in-law in sick. This verse has a few clues for us to consider. One, Jesus has not demonstrated his power to heal up to this point in Mark’s gospel (the earlier passage is an exorcism, distinct from healing), so to assume that Simon or Andrew bring up her sickness as a request for Jesus to heal her seems a little bit of a stretch. One person this week suggested that maybe the assertion that the mother-in-law is sick with a fever functions more as a warning to Jesus, i.e. Jesus should steer clear of her.

The second consideration is the status of Simon’s mother-in-law. Since she’s living with Simon and her daughter’s family, we can assume that she has no husband to care for her. As a widow then, she fits into that specifically Jewish list of those who are consistently the most marginalized and vulnerable in society–the widow, the orphan and the stranger/foreigner/immigrant.

So when Jesus touches her in verse 31–even though he has been warned to stay away, and even though she is a widow, i.e. a person of no account–it seems to be less about any miraculous healing and more about Jesus’ preferential option to see those who are typically rendered invisible, touch those who are typically deemed untouchable, take account of those who are typically considered of no account. Even the muted nature of the miracle–she’s in bed with a fever, not blind or lame–asks us to look elsewhere for deeper significance in the action. The passage asks us to consider how much sickness is intertwined with the feelings of being discarded, ignored, or uncared for by others, as much as it is about the actual physical discomfort. Jesus has not allowed the people’s astonishment or amazement toward him [verses 21-28] to inflate his own sense of self-importance that he would dismiss the sickness and loneliness of this silent widow.

Finally, we should also note that the Greek word interpreted here to say that the widow then “waited on” Jesus and his disciples is the same Greek word used later in Mark that is specific to the “service” that is associated with discipleship (see 15:41). The work of seeing to another’s need is recognized as an authentic exercise of discipleship, not devalued as “unimportant” work to be done by those of lesser status.

The next passage opens by noting that the Sabbath has ended (“after sunset”) and that a large number of people were being brought by their friends, families and others to the door of the hosue where Jesus was staying. The people being brought before Jesus are identified as “ill or possessed by demons.” So what does this identification mean?

Historically, these stories are circulating probably around the time leading up to the Roman-Jewish war of 66-70 AD. It is a time of increasing political and economic instability, helping to lay the foundation for the short-lived success of Jewish zealots and others who are able to temporarily drive the Romans out. In times of political and economic distress, the ranks of the poor swell with those who once were able to get by losing what little they had and those who had next to nothing to begin with reaching an even more severe level of destitution and desperation. For the increasing number of poor, to be sick meant much more than to be physically disabled. There are also emotional, psychological and spiritual dimensions to poverty, similar to what we saw with Simon’s mother-in-law. But we also know that illness holds more devastating consequences for the impoverished than for people of means and status.

First, the poor are more likely to get sick and to stay sick. This is directly related to their access to healthcare, their ability to pay for medicines, their lack of access to those things which lead to good health (healthy foods, clean living conditions, networks of social support) and the likelihood of lifestyles or jobs (lack of a home, hard or dirty manual labor) which expose them to greater risk of sickness.

But sickness has social and cultural, and certainly in Jesus’ time, religious dimensions as well. To be sick was to be in a “socially devalued state.” Sickness was a symptom of sinfulness, of ritual impurity, and it meant being excluded from worship, from one’s social networks, and in extreme cases, from one’s community or town. Besides suffering from an inability to access or pay for cures for the physical symptoms of an illness, the sick also could only return to worship and their various social units upon making atonement for their ritual impurity or sinfulness–which meant also having the economic means to satisfy the prescriptions of the sacrificial system which was administered by the priesthood or their proxies. The business of sickness (and at that time, ritual impurity) was big business, as it is now. And such a system put undue and sometimes impossible strain on the poor.

In summary then, those who are coming to Jesus in verse 32 are most likely overwhelmingly the poor and destititute sick, those whose physical condition have marginalized them socially, politically, economically, religiously and culturally as well. The ways to physical healing and social health have all been closed to them. They do not have recourse to the systems built and maintained by people of status, means, and power. What Jesus then represents to them is so much more than the simple curing of their physical symptoms. Yes, we can acknowledge a physical dimension to these stories of Jesus’ healing; but so much more than that is taking place. The act of healing includes the possibility of restoration to the community, the reopening of relationships, a chance at a new life, the ability to work and to worship, and the reclaiming of dignity. There is a social dimension to these acts of healings that we miss entirely if we narrowly attune our eyes to the “miracle” of a blind man seeing, or a deaf woman hearing.

Our passage transitions again in verse 35, with Jesus again withdrawing from a very public scene (masses of people at the door of the house where he is staying) to a private one, a deserted or “lonely” place where he goes to commune with God. His disciples “pursue” him or “hunt” for him in verse 36, telling him that everyone is looking for him in verse 37. Jesus’ reply to them is interesting. In verse 38, he does not answer that he will go back with them, but rather that they will “go on to nearby villages.” And for those of us who have maybe gotten too hung up already in the gospel on Jesus’ miracles of healing, Mark notes succinctly that Jesus’ purpose is “to preach,” an assertion which throws us back to the verses 14-15 where Jesus states unequivocally the message of that preaching: the good news of God, that the kingdom of God (as opposed to all the partial and fallen kingdoms of this world) is at hand. All of Jesus’ word and actions are aimed at this good news: that the poor will hear good news, that the imprisoned will be released, that the oppressed will be liberated, the blind will see, and the Jubilee will commence (return of lands, forgiveness of debts, etc.)

The passage ends on an ominous note. Referring back to verses 21-28, Mark now makes clear what was murky. The religious institutions of Jesus’ time have become possessed, no longer serving God or the needs of the people, but rather serving a corrupt and demonic power (greed? wealth? power? the market? nation? empire?) So Jesus embarks on a campaign, preaching and driving out the demons which have taken up residence in these places of worship and education and in the people who run them. His campaign is from synagogue to synagogue, liberating each of them, throughout all of Galilee.

Next week, we’ll look at the last passage from this opening chapter in Mark, 1:40-45.

SCRIPTURE STUDY: Flyer with dates and readings for this semester

For folks coming to the scripture study this semester or those who want to follow along, here is a flyer with the dates and readings for scripture study over the next few months: Scripture Study: January-April 2009

Feel free to join us anytime! I’ll also be posting regular reflections after each scripture study if you want to check them out here on the website.

– John

OPINION: Our favorite Catholic Worker newspaper

Many folks don’t know that the first “Catholic Worker” was a newspaper–NOT a house of hospitality. From the very beginning, Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin were consistent (maybe insistent) in the belief that a newspaper was an important, even essential part of the Catholic Worker movement.

We make no secret of our great admiration of the folks at the Los Angeles Catholic Worker and our own attempt to live as Catholic Workers is modeled on much of what we have witnessed and know about their communal life and their mission. We are incredibly grateful for their support over the years that we have been doing this and we continue to take inspiration from them.

Much of that inspiration comes from the newspaper they publish, “The Catholic Agitator.” We get 25 copies at the house which disappear pretty quickly but we want to share with many of you that the newspaper is also available online at the LACW website. So if you’re looking for some great social and political commentary, incredible scriptural reflection, and poignant critique of our culture, check out the LACW online at And for the latest issue of the LACW, click here.

For some insightful reading on the problems of our current economic system, I highly recommend 3 pieces from the December 2008 issue: Jeff Dietrich on “Free Market Capitalism: Robbing the Poor;” Ched Myers on “Sabbath Economics;” and the interview with author Mark Engler. Mark and Ched are both friends to the GCW and we’re always impressed and thankful for their work. Click here to check out these articles in their December 2008 issue.

HOUSE NEWS: Cold nights and our first Mass in over a year

Dear friends,

To see the schedule for this week, click here.

COLD NIGHTS: When the weather is particularly bad–cold, rainy, etc.–we open our doors and share our home with people who are trying to find a safe and welcoming place to sleep for the night. We don’t have extra bed space for any long-term guests, but we decided that we would concentrate on this type of short-term hospitality for now and do what we can–a warm place to sleep out of the cold, a small breakfast in the morning, some coffee, and so on. This past week was one of our busiest, with a handful of people (2-5) sleeping at the house every night.

MASS AT THE GCW: We’re honored and excited to start regular monthly liturgies/prayer services at the Jubilee House again. Fr. John Phillips, pastor of Holy Faith Catholic Church and chaplain of the Gainesville Catholic Worker community, will join us to celebrate Mass on Thursday at 6pm at the house. This will take the place of our regular Roundtables, and a potluck dinner will follow the service. We’ll do this once-a-month, the first Thursday of each month, with Fr. John joining us when he is available. We hope many of you will be able to join us!

SCRIPTURE STUDY TUESDAY AT 2:30PM: We’re continuing to look at a section at the beginning of Mark’s gospel, concentrating on 1:29-39 this week. We may also take a look at the Hebrew scripture accompanying this passage in next Sunday’s readings, Job 7:1-7. We’ve also posted some background on how we do scripture at the GCW. Click here to read “Approaching the Story seriously as a story.”

JUSTICE FOR FLORIDA FARMWORKERS: The GCW has a long relationship with our brothers and sisters of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, and this past week we received an alert asking us to support them in getting Gov. Crist to take leadership on issues regarding slavery in the fields of our state. We hope you’ll consider adding your name to this letter on behalf of farmworkers, maybe even downloading the petition and getting additional folks to sign on. A copy of the letter is on the Jubilee House bulletin board if you want to sign when you’re here with is. Otherwise, click here for more information.

Thanks again for all of your solidarity and support. We hope to see you this week at the Jubilee House!

In peace,