by John Zokovitch
Before coming to work at Pax Christi USA, I worked with college and high school students at our local parish and Catholic student center. In talking about the gospel to them, one thing became readily apparent: they don’t want to hear about it; they want to see it. All the talk was just talk – empty and meaningless, if not outright hypocritical. If you didn’t in some way embody what it was you were talking about, you were easily dismissed.
Early on in my ministry I came to realize that students, and, indeed, real seekers of any age, aren’t interested in some dumbed-down, lowest common denominator form of Christianity made palatable to the largest number of people. As Dorothy Day once said, they had “a hunger for the heroic.” The great German pastor and theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, worried that what passed for discipleship in our churches was really “cheap discipleship,” a pale imitation of the real thing. But my students were telling me that they wanted the “real thing” – the “deep-down” thing – and they weren’t going to be moved by anything “plastic.” I remember this feeling from my own childhood when, as a teenager, I was ready to chuck it all aside and go follow a mythical baseball player who had studied with the lamas in Tibet, slept on a straw mat, didn’t want the New York Mets to pay him any salary, and could throw a baseball 160 miles per-hour. (Sidd Finch, look it up on the web, I swear, the perfect Christ-figure for a lonely, religiously-minded, 16 year-old baseball junkie.)
The point is that the gospel is – should be – transformative to people’s lives. It’s not simply a nice accessory that makes life a little better-looking. Rather, it turns everything upside down, provokes, even disrupts business as usual. It is, ultimately, a story fundamentally in conflict with so many of the major narratives of our time around which we build our lives. But our ears have become so numb to the words that they have lost all their power – because Word without Witness is dead, just as James tells us that faith without works is dead…
GCW ANNIVERSARY PARTY ON OCTOBER 4: Each October, we celebrate the beginning of the Gainesville Catholic Worker community. We started 9 years ago, October 2000, in a little house (Jeremiah House) just two blocks from our current home. We feel it is important to give thanks and celebrate with all of our friends and supporters who have been essential to keep this house going. Whether you are near of far, we invite you to join us for food, music, some speakers, and more from 1-4pm, Sunday, October 4. We’re excited to have the JustFaith group from San Juan Del Rio
Church over near Jacksonville join us that day and provide much of the hospitality, but we also want to encourage everyone who can to try and bring some food or drink, potluck-style. We are so hopeful that many of you will join us.! So mark it down: Sunday, October 4, 1-4pm.
EDUCATION ROUNDTABLE: This Thursday, from 6-7:30pm, we’re happy to have with us Diedre Houchen, good friend to the GCW, mother, teacher and activist. Diedre has a background in education, anti-racism work, sustainability and community-building. Diedre will be addressing issues around education, our educational system and how race and class factor into our educational policies and priorities. We hope you can join us! It is a potluck dinner so bring something to share if you can!
NEW TRUCK FOR THE GCW: Just over a year ago, our old truck gave out. We made do with the Pathfinder, but frankly, for so much of the work we do–hauling garden equipment, picking up food from the farmers’ market, moving people into apartments and so on–a truck is so, so, so much better. And to our great delight, Jon Meinholz, a regular volunteer with us and parishioner of Holy Faith Catholic Church, donated us his old truck a few weeks back. We are so grateful to Jon and for what this means for our work at the house. Kelli wrote a nice blog entry about Jon, his truck and caring for things last week. You can see the truck and read more by clicking here. Thanks so much Jon!
DAYS OF AWE AND PEACE: Today is officially the International Day of Peace/Prayer for Peace. The organization I work for, Pax Christi USA, is sponsoring actions and prayers and other events to mark this day throughout the country. If possible, we ask everyone to take a moment today and to pray for peace in our world. Also, these next few days are called the “Days of Awe” in the Jewish calendar, marking the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Kelli recently wrote about the connection Jews make between this time of year and the work of “mending the world” – click here to read her post. And to our Muslim friends who just completed the month of Ramadan, we give thanks for your witness!
WE NEED BLANKETS, SOCKS: Even though the weather hasn’t turned yet, we’re in need of a handful of blankets at the GCW. We have folks regularly come by looking for something to cover them for the night, and we’re plum out of blankets to give away right now. Last week we got three requests and were able to find a sheet, old tablecloth and some fabric, but it’s nice to keep a few blankets on hand. If you can donate an old one to the house, it would be much appreciated. AND at St. Augustine Catholic Church and Student Center, the good folks on the Christian Service Committee are collecting socks for us to give out to our guests and visitors to the house. Foot hygiene is a big deal for homeless folks and we’ve instituted a “swap-a-sock” program at the house where people can give us their dirty socks and we’ll give them a clean pair in return. There is a nice bin (courtesy of Kimberly) in the vestibule of the church for folks to drop off new socks for us to hand out.
Hope everyone has a great week and we look forward to seeing you at the house!
I believe that it was at the Pax Christi USA National Assembly in Cleveland in 1996 when scripture scholar and teacher Ched Myers invoked the story of Gulliver and the Lilliputians (from Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift) to describe the task that is before the peace movement. For those unfamiliar with the story, Gulliver, the titular hero, is washed ashore after a shipwreck and awakes to find himself a prisoner of the Lilliputians.
The Lilliputians are a miniature people, with an average height of around 6 inches tall. To them Gulliver is a giant, and a threatening one at that. Their attempts to subdue Gulliver include hundreds of Lilliputians racing around Gulliver’s prone body, throwing tiny ropes over various parts, seeking to keep him immobilized, tied to the ground. Some Lilliputians are trying to fasten down his knee, others his wrist, some around his midsection, and so on.
Our apologies for the recent lack of communication from us at the GCW. Things got a little busy, we went to the SOA (we’ll have photos up next week), then Thanksgiving week was upon us, and we simply didn’t find the time to get on the website and keep everyone abreast of what was going on. But we are back–Haiti, anarcho-primitivism, Advent. . . Come on, there’s really something for everyone this week! To jump right to the schedule for this week without the commentary below, feel free to click here.
We need some extra help this week! Patrick is off to Haiti this week on a one-person fact-finding delegation for Pax Christi USA, so we’re going to be a little short-handed, especially at Tuesday’s cafe, this week. If you can drop by and give us a few hours anytime Tuesday, between 10am and 6pm, we would be very grateful! And look for a Roundtable on Patrick’s trip to Haiti sometime in the spring semester.
Speaking of Roundtables. . . Rusty Poulette, GCW regular and staff member of the Presbyterian-Disciples Student Center, will be our speaker at the Roundtable this Thursday beginning at 6pm. Rusty spent some time with Friend of the GCW Ched Myers, a scripture scholar from LA, recently at a conference on “anarcho-primitivism.” Anarcho-Primitivism is a radical critique of civilization that has surfaced in the last few decades in response to our ecological crisis. New anthropological evidence suggesting that pre-civilized societies were actually less violent, more leisurely, much more egalitarian and much more ecologically sustainable has gotten many re-thinking the “superiority” of industrial civilization. Interestingly, a handful of theologians are re-reading scripture through this lens to find that the bible may actually be, as one anthropologist said, “the first known resistance literature to the project of civilization.” So join us on Thursday, bring a dish to share if you can, and check out Rusty’s presentation and our discussion.
Advent Morning Prayer: Each weekday at 7:30am, we’ll be doing a short Advent morning prayer, no longer than 30 minutes, if you’d like to join us. Also, if you’re looking for good ideas for prayer-study-action during Advent, check out Pax Christi USA’s website by clicking here.