Category Archives: REFLECTIONS
This week, we were visited by two immigrant families and their small children. The children were hungry, and one of the mothers confided that their household was struggling to put food on the table. We offered the children a snack and, as we were slicing bagels and cheese at the tall kitchen table, three little sets of huge, brown eyes – barely high enough to see over the table – watched the food preparation seriously and with longing.
Today, during the meditation portion of morning prayer, I opened my eyes for a moment and saw a friend’s face lifted up, rather than bowed, as she prayed. I thought of those hungry children – their upturned, serious and hopeful faces – and my own deep pleasure in preparing something they needed and were asking for.
I am not sure how prayer works honestly, or if it “works” at all in the way we might think, but this seems like a good posture to take regardless – watching and hopeful, honest in your longing and need.
The prayer this morning was lovely, too – from John O’Donohue:
Somewhere, out at the edges, the night
Is turning and the waves of darkness
Begin to brighten the shore of dawn.
The heavy dark falls back to earth
And the freed air goes wild with light,
The heart fills with fresh, bright breath
And thoughts stir to give birth to colour.
I arise today
In the name of Silence
Womb of the Word,
In the name of Stillness
Home of Belonging,
In the name of the Solitude
Of the Soul and the Earth.
I arise today
Blessed by all things,
Wings of breath,
Delight of eyes,
Wonder of whisper,
Intimacy of touch,
Eternity of soul,
Urgency of thought,
Miracle of health,
Embrace of God.
May I live this day
Compassionate of heart,
Gentle in word,
Gracious in awareness,
Courageous in thought,
Generous in love.
“Like any other map, mine had both a center and an edge. At the center stood the Church, where good women baked communion bread, ironed altar linens, and polished silver that had been in the church family for generations. Parents presented their cildren for baptism, and those children grew up with dozens of church aunts and uncles who knew them by name. The Christian education committee recruited Sunday school teachers, the youth group leaders planned pizza parties at the bowling alley, and the choir rehearsed from 6:30 to 8:00 in the parish house on Thursday nights. At the center, some people never picked up a prayer book on Sunday morning becaus they knew the communion service by heart, and even those who had to look said the Nicenne Creed all the way through without leaving any parts of it out. These people at the center kept the map from blowing away.
As it turned out the edge of the map was not all that far from the center. It was not as if I or anyone else had to take a mule train for three weeks to find ourselves in the wildrerness. All we had to do was step outside the Church and walk to where the lights from the sanctuary did not pierce the darkness anymore. All we had to do was lay down the books we could no longer read and listen to the howling that our favoriite hymns so often covered up. There were no slate roofs or signs to the restroom out there, no printed programs or friendly ushers. There was just the unscripted encounter with the undomesticated God whose name was unpronounceable — that and a bunch of flimsy tents lit up by lanterns inside, pitched by those who were either seeking such an encounter or huddling in their sleeping bags while they recovered from one. These people at the edge kept the map from becoming redundant.
According to the Bible, both the center and edge are essential to the spiritual landscape, although they are as different from one another as they can be. The wilderness of Sinai provided the people of Israel with an experience of God that was distinct from their experience in the Temple in Jerusalem. The Judean desert showed Jesus a side of God’s Holy Spirit that was not apparent while magi knelt before his manger in Bethlehem. There is life in both places because the same God is in both places, but they are so different from one another that it is often difficult for people to be one place without wanting to be the other place or to agree that both places really belong on the same map. Much that is certain at the center is up for grabs in the wilderness, while much that is real in the wilderness turns out to be far too feral for the center.”
– Barbara Brown Taylor, in Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith
Listening to one of my favorite podcasts, Speaking of Faith, while taking a long walk yesterday morning, I was struck again by how coherent the voices are if we have the ears for them. Ellen Davis, professor of “Bible and Practical Theology at Duke University, talks about the theological underpinnings of caring for the land. She recalls the repetition of the phrase “God saw that it was good” as creation unfolded and said it could be translated as “God saw how beautiful it was.” Embedded in the interview are recordings of Wendell Berry reading his poetry in that slow, careful manner poetry must be read. The poet’s voice, and the word arrangement on the page, are created things – things that taketheir time and must be taken in slowly to actually receive them. Davis remarks that Wendell Berry has said himself that “poetry cannot be read in distraction” and that whatever slows us down must be valued “and maybe is a gift and even a calling from God.”
Don’t all wise people say something like this? That we must be present to the place we are in order to remember the place we hold in the order of things?
Most Wednesdays, for Dorothy’s Cafe, Kelli makes the main dish–usually some type of soup, a quiche, stew, beans and greens, etc. One of the hallmarks of our cafe is that we primarily (often exclusively) use food grown in our own gardens or produced and bought locally, most often from local farmers, sometimes through our family-owned grocery store Ward’s. One could assign it minor importance–but for us, it is one of the essential values of our community and goes to the integrity of what we do.
Most of the food which is distributed to people who are impoverished is high in fat, sugar, starches, salt, and so on. It’s usually highly processed food, often lacking any nutritional value. It’s food that if you eat a lot of it, you’re more apt to be unhealthy, to get sick, to suffer all the physical, emotional and spiritual malaise that comes with eating food that is just not good for you. From the beginning of the GCW, we have sought to provide for and share with people only the very best food that we can; as much as possible, we buy or attain local, organic, in-season and non-processed food which we then take the time to prepare for our friends who come for the cafe or the coffeehouse, or whom we meet at the labor pools on Friday morning.
Food can be a powerful force for binding us to one another. So many of our religious stories revolve around the sharing of food, and these stories often point out the strength or weakness of the economic, social and spiritual health of our communities. From whom do we get our food, what kind of food do we have, and with whom do we share our food? These are all questions that go to the heart of what it means to be community. From our local farmers who gifted us with lots of lettuce and radishes for the salad, the onions and broccoli from Mr. Henry for the pizza, to Kelly H.and her goats (goat cheese) and the eggs from Springhead Ranch and the oranges from the Hendersons. Kelli writes about this network of relationships often, and the goodness and beauty of it was so evident to me as I held all these various strings connecting us to others in my hands in the final pulling together of today’s meal for the cafe.
So this is what good meals are supposed to do I think: not just fill our bellies, but fill our bellies with food that sustains and lifts us. Even more, our meals should build community and tie us more closely to one another–from the gathering of the raw materials to the preparation to the actual sitting down and eating. This is the Latin root of the word “religion”–to bind together–and I don’t think I’m stretching it too far to talk about our meals as being religious experiences.
Dorothy Day passed away on November 29, 1980, after nearly a half-century of leading by word and example the Catholic Worker movement. Dorothy is “up for sainthood” in the Catholic Church, and many who have not otherwise known of her life and work have become familiar with her and the Catholic Worker movement through the effort to have her named a saint.
On this day, the anniversary of her death, we share with you a short prayer sent to us by a friend in New Jersey:
Prayer for the Intercession of Servant of God Dorothy Day
God our Creator,
your servant Dorothy Day exemplified the
Catholic faith by her conversion,
life of prayer and voluntary poverty,
works of mercy, and witness to the justice and peace of the Gospel.
May her life inspire people to turn to Christ as their Savior and guide,
to see his face in the world’s poor and
to raise their voices for the justice of God’s kingdom.
We pray that you grant the favors we ask
through her intercession so that her goodness
and holiness may be more widely recognized
and one day the Church may proclaim her Saint.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day. – E.B. White
In Jewish tradition, these are the Days of Awe – the span of ten days between Rosh Hashanah, the birthday of the creation of the world, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. It’s a time to examine one’s life and ways before your fate is sealed. Sharon Astyk writes just beautifully on this tradition in the context of our environmental crisis in a recent post where she describes how and where she finds hope.
Reading it, I was reminded of another Jewish woman who inspired me a couple years ago with her description of these high holy days. Sharon Brous, a rabbi, was interviewed by Krista Tippett on how she brings this ancient tradition to bear meaning to her young congregation:
This is a moment when we celebrate the possibility of transformation, the possibility that every single one of us can be re-created . . . [a time] in which we identify that we have a real purpose and meaning in the world and that we can redirect our lives so that we’re actually responsively going after those priorities. . . We actually have the capacity to radically transform the way we understand our lives and the world. So really this is a moment of celebration.
(Earlier this month, we received a generous gift from Jon Meinholz, a parishioner at Holy Faith Catholic Church and good friend of the house. We wore out our old truck over a year ago, and we didn’t realize how much we relied on it and how much of a real blessing it was to us until we had to do without it over the past year. Jon remedied that for us a few weeks ago. The following is from Kelli’s blog. You can read the whole post by clicking here.)
One of my horror stories from childhood was having to wash my father’s car every weekend – and cleaning the whitewall tires with a toothbrush. For no pay. That, and never being allowed to eat in the car and having to remove every last tiny bit of trash from it each time we got out, and heaven forbid we put something in the little ashtrays on the door handles. When we started driving, the lectures on removing all traces of sand from the bottom of our shoes, and never wiping the fog off the window or mirror with anything but Windex and a clean rag, and DO NOT LEAVE THE RADIO OR AIR CONDITIONER ON drove my teenager-self crazy. By the time I left home I was in full revolt – in my head at least – condemning my parents for being materialistic control freaks.
On my own, I drove cheap, ugly, trashy cars and happily added my own trash to them. I joked that my car was simply a closet on wheels and that I was not so shallow as to care what the thing looked like.
But time has taken its toll on my disdain, and as an adult – still driving old cars for the most part – I am getting why even a high-minded, self-righteous, non-materialist might deign to take care of one of them. They last longer…
We’ve got the Bean with us here this week, and he’s “helping” a lot. The enthusiasm a four year-old has! He falls asleep each night happily anticipating the next day’s work. Garden-work, kitchen-work – what some might call drudgery – this boy is all over. I know from experience that the helping phase passes about the same time the competence phase arrives, but I’m still enjoying it, especially on this short-term basis. Even the more so for all the helpees we have around here graciously accepting his offers (or demands: “I wanna help!”) to work with them.
To read the rest of this post from Kelli’s blog, click here.
From Kelli’s blog, “What am I doing in Paris?”
I took one last train trip before leaving Paris – to Auvers-sur-Oise, the tiny town about 20 miles from Paris where Vincent Van Gogh lived and painted a few months before finally shooting himself. I missed the daily train from Paris, so I took the RER (suburban train) to Pontoise and then a bus from the train station. Arriving on an empty street in front of city hall, I was surprised at how few tourists were there compared to the numbers at Giverny. I walked in solitude up a hill toward the “tourist information” building and watched alone a little video about Van Gogh’s stay in Auvers. Then, with the map provided, I followed a winding path through the village to visit some of the scenes Van Gogh painted while he was a resident. He was a prolific artist wherever he was, and there were a number of sites marked with a print of the painting that represented it, scattered up and down tiny roads and farmland.
To read the whole post, click here.
There is a wonderful demonstration garden right in the center of Paris in front of the l’Hotel de Ville, a 15th century municipal building. The closest space we have like this is Gainesville I think is City Hall, a plain 1960s building surrounded by concrete and former goldfish ponds. Normally, the area in front of the l’Hotel de Ville is a large paved plaza area with benches and a fountain – not so entirely different. But in early June, raised beds were created in wooden boxes and installed throughout the plaza along with information on “bio” (organic) methods of gardening in small places.
They have fine weather for gardening here in the summer – about twenty degrees cooler than our summers and a little more dry. The garden is beautiful and, everytime I pass it, full of people enjoying it – which is the idea. The word for vegetable garden in French is potager, and the word for sharing is partager, so this potager for partager is also a nice play on words.