On Pilgrimage in Oklahoma City
A Catholic Worker blog.
By Robert Waldrop, Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House, Oklahoma City
This is the historical
archive of On Pilgrimage in Oklahoma City posts from
Labor Day 2003 through May 2008. Posts between October
22, 2008 and July 2010 may be found at www.onpilgrimage.justpeace.org.
Since 2010, all of my posting
as been at www.bobwaldrop.net
. Find us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/oscarromerocatholicworker
May 25, 2008, Open Letter to Archbishop Pietro Sambi, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States
May 1, 2008, Feast of St. Joseph the Worker and the 75th Anniversary of the Founding of the Catholic Worker Movement
March 26, 2008 An open letter to His Eminence Francis Cardinal George, OMI, Archbishop of Chicago
March 9, 2008 Dear Mayor Mick Cornett
November 7, 2007 Mukasey recommendation a sign of a declining, decadent, United States
October 15, 2007 , Memorial of St. Teresa of Avila, A report from NW 21st Street.
September 28, 2007 , NCR and the Iraq War
September 17, 2007 , Wars and rumors of wars.
July 12, 2007, A dark day for the Church in the U.S.
June 26, 2007, The Letter from Osama to the US Bishops
April 17, 2007, A Dark Day for Oklahoma
March 19, 2007, Bishops destroy the church's witness to life.
February 20, 2007, Fat Tuesday, On Pilgrimage in Canada
The Feast of the Epiphany, January 7, 2007, And the Glory of the Lord shall be revealed.
July 11, 2006, on Liturgy and War and the US Catholic Bishops
May 2, 2006, A new plot against the poor in Oklahoma City.
March 24, 2006 The Martyrdom of Romero
February 28, 2006 An open letter to Senator Coburn
January 29, 2006 An un-Catholic Workerish thing?
November 24, 2005 Thanksgiving 2005
November 22, 2005 A message to GM workers from the Oklahoma City Catholic Workers
August 22, 2005, The Extreme Green Makeover of the Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House
July 25, 2005, It's a GREAT DAY for the American Labor movement
July 15, 2005, Taking the bus to work.
July 12, 2005 Construction begins on Dorothy Day Social Ministry building at St. Charles Borromeo parish in Oklahoma City!
June 23, 2005 Depraved US Supreme Court declares OPEN SEASON on poor and working class neighborhoods
April 8, 2005, 6 AM CDT, a prayer following the funeral of Pope John Paul the Great
Palm Sunday 2005, March 20, 2005
St. Joseph's Day 2005, March 19, 2005
A Prayer to Dorothy Day for the People of Iraq, January 26, 2005
Do you hear the angels speaking to you tonight, December 18, 2004, Christmas deliveries
December 10, 2004, in memory of Thomas Merton
December 2, 2004, Letter to all the Catholic Worker houses
November 25, 2004, Thoughts on Thanksgiving Day, preparation of the feast, and the "Letter of Paul the Apostle to the Agrarians", a new redaction from the epistles of Paul
November 20, 2004, Thanksgiving Deliveries
November 9, 2004, Feast of the Dedication of St. John Lateran Church, "Free Camilo Day" in Lawton
November 3, 2004, Picketing St. Peter's
October 12, 2004, Against the support of objective evil in the voting booth, an essay on the eve of the 2004 presidential election
October 9, 2004, TEAR DOWN THE GARAGE DAY
October 4, 2004, Our Annual Appeal
September 4. 2004, We pray for the people of Beslan in Russia.
August 24, 2004 , The monks of Clear Creek: Finding the "monk within".
June 19, 2004, Juneteenth, "We ask ourselves "What would Jesus do?," but the idea of living next door to Jesus fills us with dread, fear, and loathing."
June 6, 2004 Letter to Malcolm Berko, executive summary: "The rich who oppress the poor are going to hell."
May 17, 2004 "My advice to Catholics is to flee the Sodom and Gomorrah of the Democratic and Republican political parties."
I finished a letter to the Apostolic Nuncio today, but I decided it was too long to add to this page so it has its own, http://www.justpeace.org/sambi.htm .
The Feast of St. Joseph the Worker, May Day, and the 75th Anniversary of the Founding of the Catholic Worker Movement
On this day, 75 years ago, Dorothy Day and the other early Catholic Workers distributed the first edition of the Catholic Worker newspaper at May Day rallies in New York City, thereby causing scandal to both the Church AND the Communists. And I think that has been pretty much true of us ever since.
On one hand, people always say "nice things" about the Catholic Worker solidarity with the poor and devotion to the corporal works of mercy. But on the other hand, when we begin to ask why these people are hungry in the first place - or why the bishops are "praising with faint condemnation" an unjust war - some of those same people are a bit uncomfortable. I've been told that our support for immigrants and labor unions and our opposition to the war was "costing us donations". Maybe so, but for going on nine years now, in our own little community, we have nearly always had enough food on hand to meet the requests we receive for food assistance. We don't publish our paper or almanac as often as I'd like, but that is more of a matter of time than it is money. We give thanks to God and all the saints for the providence which gives us the bread we have to share with the hungry.
This understanding of the connection between word and deed, justice and charity, has always been an essential aspect of our charism. I can't speak for any other Catholic Workers, only myself, and I know in my own life I have only made the barest beginning of understanding the depths of the Catholic Worker charism. I keep wanting to find more time to reflect on that, but it seems that another one of the essential aspects of the Catholic Worker charism is busy-ness. I took the day off from work today, and my intentions were to go to Mass and write this essay early in the AM, and finish planting the garden. But today was also the opening of the May order for the Oklahoma Food Cooperative, and I bet 30 people phoned me today. So here I sit, nearly 10 PM, I didn't make it to Mass, I did get some planting done, but not as much as I had hoped.
One of those calls was pretty interesting, however, it was from a member of the Teamster's Union down in Lawton who found us on the internet and called us up and maybe I'll go down there and speak and he'll come up here and volunteer and who knows where this little seed will end up. Lawton is the home of Ft. Sill, and I saw James Branum at Rev. Lance Schmitz's ordination as a Nazarene minister last Monday, and he said he was thinking about starting a house of hospitality in Lawton for the many soldiers that are coming to him for legal assistance in establishing their conscientious objector status. I told him we'd help.
This of course is the on-going narrative of the Catholic Worker movement. In a hierarchal church, we are conspicuous by our lack of hierarchy. I remember calling Brother Louis at the Holy Family Catholic Worker House in Kansas City, and asking him, "Who do I ask permission from to start a Catholic Worker house?" He said, "God." I said, "No, I mean, is there someone in the Catholic Worker movement in charge of authorizing new houses?" He said, "No. Every house is autonomous and thus responsible for its own work. If I give you permission, then I am responsible. But our way is that you are responsible. We will of course pray for you."
No one could plan all this. The charism of the Catholic Worker could be called "spontaneous order", except that the fact of this matter is an up-swelling of the Holy Spirit into life, a supernatural reality as vivid as the birth of a new baby. It is an outbreak of Beauty, Wisdom, Justice, and Truth. It is sacramental grace in the midst of daily reality. It is the Shekinah - the fiery glory of God that led the Children of Israel through the desert and rested upon the Tabernacle and the Temple.
The charism of the Catholic Worker is the Epiphany of the Lord Jesus Christ in daily life, where water is changed into wine, the blind see, the deaf hear, and the lame walk. Sometimes it is unutterably sad, and it is a sadness that penetrates your being and seems for a moment to suffuse all of Creation, the tears flow without ceasing. But it is also Joy, and it is an "Alleluia" that can also fill all of Creation -- the hills clapping and the valleys leaping, the trees and bushes singing, and all creatures praising.
The charism of the Catholic Worker is zeal that fills all with a desire for justice and peace that burns with impatience in the very core of your soul. And it is the patient understanding of the farmer, who knows that seedtime and cultivation must come before the harvest. It is the wisdom of mothers -- giving birth in pain, empowered with strength, loving and hoping, at all times and in all circumstances giving thanks to God.. And it is the understanding of fathers -- patient, protective, persistent. The charism of the Catholic Worker is solidarity - not as some kind of a pious item to be checked off a list -- but as an actual lived reality, where the spiritual and corporal works of mercy are daily opportunities to meet and minister to Christ, even if He happens to be wearing one of his more distressing disguises..
It's a lot of hard work and manual labor and the occasional personal drama too, but all the rest of it makes the manual labor and personal dramas go easier.
I guess the words on Dorothy Day's tombstone describe it better than anything I can say - Deo Gratias!
Let us all give thanks today and tomorrow and all the days thereafter for the 75 years of ministry of the Catholic Worker movement. Let us pray that we will stay strong in this work, and will always listen to the Word of God which calls and guides us on this pilgrimage. Let us pray for peace, justice, and hope, and also that we will finish building the new structures that will be needed before the old ones come crashing down around us.
Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we give thanks and praise to you for the 75 years of ministry of the Catholic Worker movement. Help us to remain strong in this work. Open our hearts and minds and souls so that we will always listen to your Word which calls us and guides us on this pilgrimage. We pray for peace, justice and hope; prudence, fortitude and mercy; love, joy, and beauty. Help us walk with authenticity and wisdom through the tumultuous days which are upon us. These blessings we ask through the intercession of Mary the Most Holy Mother of God, in the name of your Son our Lord, Amen.
St Joseph the Worker, Help us to finish building all these new structures that will be needed, before the old ones come crashing down around our heads. Amen.
St. Dorothy Day and St. Peter Maurin, Here we are, 75 years later, your spiritual children, the Catholic Workers. Thank you for setting us on this path and for the authenticity of your lives and ministry. In our time of need, walk with us every step of the way. When we feel weak and want to quit, give us your strength. Keep us focused on the inherent dignity of every human being. May our houses always be places of hospitality, justice, mercy, and solidarity. Help us to save the world with Beauty, Cult, Culture, and Cultivation. Amen.
An Open Letter to
Dear Cardinal George:
I have read the news reports and the Archdiocesan statement concerning the disruption of an Easter mass that you celebrated at your Cathedral. Your official statement says, in part. . . "This is a profoundly disturbing action. . . It is a sacrilege that should be condemned by all people of faith and good will."
Although I actively oppose the unjust war the United States is waging on the people of Iraq, I agree that the demonstrators action was disturbing and sacrilegious.
However, theirs was not the first sacrilegious act of that day. The sacrilege commenced when you ascended to the Altar of God and began to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with your hands dripping with the blood of the innocent in Iraq whom you and most of the other United States Catholic Bishops have so callously abandoned to their grisly and violent fates. Like the rest of the US Bishops save one, you issued no canonical declaration forbidding Catholics of the Archdiocese of Chicago from participation in the unjust war on the people of Iraq. A review of your website finds no pastoral letter instructing the souls entrusted to your care about the Church's teachings on unjust war and condemning the war on the people of Iraq as unjust. Like nearly all of your confreres in the U.S. hierarchy, you have preached a gospel of moral relativism and moral laxism that makes a mockery of the Church's teachings on life. You claim you want "peace", but you have done nothing to actually support peace other than to offer pious platitudes and hypocritical rhetoric from your position of safety in your palatial Chicago residence.
Your holidays and festivals I detest, they weigh me down, I tire of the load. When you spread out your hands, I close my eyes to you; though you pray the more, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood! Wash yourselves clean! Put away your misdeeds before my eyes; cease doing evil, learn to do good. Make justice your aim, redress the wronged, hear the orphan's plea, defend the widow. Isaiah 1
I am obviously just an obscure Catholic Worker. You and all the other bishops have consistently ignored everything I have had to say to you since I started writing bishops on the Feast of the Holy Innocents in 2001. Which is fine with me, I am not interested in collecting letters of denial from bishops and cardinals making excuses for their moral cowardice. The charism of the Catholic Worker movement is faithfulness to the Gospel of Justice and Peace - even when all of the United States bishops save a small handful choose Nationalism over Catholicism. So once more I write again these words of inconvenient faithfulness, to remind you that God is watching every moment of your reign as Archbishop and Cardinal and you will one day be accountable for these actions.
God was watching when you refused to properly catechize your people about unjust war.
God was watching when you refused to forbid Chicago Catholics from participating in an unjust war.
God was watching when you dined with the Tyrant-Emperor George Bush, and you did not condemn him as a murderer and prosecutor of an unjust war.
A reading from the book of the Prophet Micah. . .
And I said, Listen you leaders of Jacob, house of Israel! Is it not your duty to know what is right, you who hate what is good, and love evil? You who tear their skin from them and their flesh from their bones? They eat the flesh of my people and flay their skin from them, and break their bones. They chop them in pieces like flesh in a kettle, and like meat in a caldron. When they cry to the Lord, he shall not answer them, rather shall God hide from them at that time, because of the evil they have done.
Thus says the LORD regarding the prophets who lead my people astray; Who, when their teeth have something to bite, announce peace, But when one fails to put something in their mouth, proclaim war against him.
Therefore you shall have night, not vision, darkness, not divination; The sun shall go down upon the prophets, and the day shall be dark for them.
Then shall the seers be put to shame, and the diviners confounded; They shall cover their lips, all of them, because there is no answer from God. . . .
Therefore, because of you, Zion shall be plowed like a field, and Jerusalem reduced to rubble, And the mount of the temple to a forest ridge.
So as it turns out, when you condemn these young people, you condemn yourself.
Which is worse? A prince of the church who by any objective judgment is a moral coward who has preached a false gospel of moral laxism and relativism regarding an unjust war? Or a few young people, who hear the cries of the victims, and in despair act out in such a public manner? Is it not true that your own abject failure as a Cardinal Archbishop provoked these young people to such a rash action? Are you not, then, a "secondary disrupter" of your own Mass, and thus have a significant share in the responsibility for their deeds? Have not your actions -- or rather, inactions -- violated the inalienable rights of the people of Iraq to life? Who, then, is really at fault in this matter? These young protestors? Or a cowardly Cardinal Archbishop, who shuts his eyes, ears, and heart to the cries of the people of Iraq for justice and peace and is a scandal before the entire world?
I write these words to you, in remembrance of the hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians and soldiers who have died in this unjust war on the people of Iraq. One day you will meet them and they will tell you of their terror, pain, and fear and they will ask you, "Why, in the name of God, did you not do something serious to stop this from happening?"
I pray that God has mercy on your soul and brings you to an understanding of the grave evil and moral disorders that you and the other United States Catholic Bishops foster and encourage by your moral cowardice in the face of this unjust war on the people of Iraq
A Prayer to Our Lady of Sorrows for Those Who Will Die Today in War
Our Lady of Sorrows,
Our Most Holy Lady of Sorrows,
Dear Mayor Cornett,
It is said that during a Roman Triumph, a slave was assigned to ride in the chariot with the victorious general, and continually whisper in his ear, "Remember, you are only mortal."
So at this moment of your triumph, here are some things I want to whisper in your ear.
Some things that I think bode ill for the future of Oklahoma City were continually illuminated in the recent MAPS for Millionaires campaign.
1. Denial. I was astonished to hear that you denied that hunger was a problem in Oklahoma City, when asked about that by a reporter from a Seattle newspaper. Mayor, you need to get out more. You should follow my friend Marcus Evans and me around some time. Since 1999, we and a few others have been delivering food to people in need who don't have transportation to get to a regular food distribution site. . . to the tune of several tens of thousands of pounds of food every year.
2. Demonization of your opponents. I am proud to be one of "those kind of people", as you and others often described those opposed to the MAPS for Millionaires welfare check handout to some of the richest families in the state. Frugal? Yes I am. Conservative? Amazingly so, more so than you are, despite your many claims to being the "most conservative mayor in America". It speaks very poorly of who you are as a person and as our mayor that you found it necessary to demonize your opponents in this way. I guess you feel the end justifies the means, which is always a temptation for politicians.
3. Class warfare. The map in the Sunday Oklahoman showing the election results was very illuminating. I know many of the neighborhoods colored bright orange indicating the lowest "yes" votes. We deliver food there all the time. They knew exactly what this was about -- you are taking from the poor and working classes and giving lavishly to the gluttonous rich. Any claims to the contrary are merely discussions of the naked emperor's clothes. Tell them to your rich friends, I'm sure they'll be impressed. But don't try it with anyone making the minimum wage.
This isn't the first time this has happened.
Oklahoma City has a long history of class warfare against the poor. Let us recall one example -- the ethnic cleansing of the Deep Deuce via a racist "due process riot" using the subterfuge of "redevelopment". I've spoken with people who have been forced to move as many as three times in their life by Oklahoma City, and all of them said to me, "Each time we ended up worse off than before."
Therefore, as a Christian, I feel it is my duty to warn you that God sees all of this.
+ God was watching every time the Oklahoma City council has slashed bus service while lavishing money on golf courses.
+ God is watching as you delay -- for years! while gasoline prices move steadily towards $4 and $5/gallon!! -- improvements to the transit system that would help the working poor so you can build a fancy downtown playground. God will see every abortion that happens because of the increased economic desperation of low income households who can't get to work without a car and expensive gasoline because there is no bus service that goes where they need to go. God will know whose hands are stained with the blood of those innocent babies whose lives are cut short before birth so we could become a "Big League City."
+ God will see every penny you take from the widows and the fatherless for your sales tax that you will spend building luxury accommodations for the mega rich. He will see every bite of food they cannot buy because they pay your tax. Those who have the least in Oklahoma City will have even less thanks to your tax. You may deny it, but God sees it happening.
+ God was watching as Oklahoma City let conditions deteriorate and crime increase in the Walnut Grove and Riverside neighborhoods, in order to drive down property values and make people less inclined to oppose ODOT and Oklahoma City's preferred route for the I-40 Crosstown Freeway relocation project. It's not an accident that crack houses were allowed to proliferate in those areas just before announcement of the ODOT/OKC route selection.
+ God was watching as ODOT broke its promise to the people of the Riverside neighborhood and Oklahoma City did absolutely nothing to protect the people of the Riverside neighborhood from ODOT's treachery.
+ God sees your plan to drive out the rest of the poor from the Riverside neighborhood so it can be gentrified.
+ God is watching as Oklahoma City uses its regulatory powers to suppress economic entrepreneurship among the poor and keep low income people from repairing their homes.
+ God sees how the government takes money from the poor inner city areas to be spent on the wealthy suburbs.
+ God sees every time that Oklahoma City takes land from the poor and gives it to the rich.
+ God is watching when Oklahoma City uses community block development grants as corporate welfare.
+ God hears your denials of the reality of poverty in Oklahoma City. Tell yourself whatever lies you want to ease your conscience, but the reality is that Oklahoma City is grinding the face of the poor into the dust in its quest to be a Big League City.
In the battle between God and the demonic forces which prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls, there is no neutrality. You are either for God and His Kingdom, or you do the work of demons.
And if there is anything that is clear from the Holy Bible, God is not on the side of the rich, the powerful, and the arrogant.
But you, Mick Cornett, Mayor of Oklahoma City, have publicly taken your stand with the rich and the powerful and the arrogant. Your solution to poverty is apparently "Steal what little they have, kill their kids in abortuaries, and then leave them behind for the wolves to devour."
How can I say this? I judge your works, and the consequences of those works, and do not listen to your words. With politicians, this is the only way to make a moral judgment.
So in the battle between good and evil, I have to ask -- whose side are you on anyway?
The fact of this matter is simple. In the end, you will not be judged by what you did for the rich and powerful. Jesus Christ is going to look at you and judge you by the standards detailed in the 25th chapter of the Gospel of St. Matthew.
Did you feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, and visit those in jail?
Or did you drive the poor from their homes "for economic redevelopment purposes"?
Did you take the money of the poor to build lavish palaces for the rich? (Herod did that in an earlier time.)
Did you take money from poor neighborhoods and give it as bribes to a big corporation?
Did you demonize those who object to your lavish excess for political purposes?
"Those who shut their ears to the cry of the poor will themselves also call and not be heard. (Prov. 21:13)
"Those who oppress the poor blaspheme their Maker, but the one who is kind to the needy glorifies God. (Prov. 14:31)
"Woe to those who enact unjust statutes and who write oppressive decrees, depriving the needy of judgment and robbing my people's poor of their rights, making widows their plunder, and the fatherless their prey! " Isaiah 10:1-2
Mukasey recommendation a sign of a declining, decadent, United States
If Judge Michael Mukasey doesn't know that water-boarding is torture, he is either too dumb or too morally deficient to be the Attorney General of the United States. Perhaps he could undergo the procedure himself to help his decision process.
The Senate Judiciary Committee's YES recommendation on the nomination, forwarded with bi-partisan support, is one more bit of evidence of the moral bankruptcy of the declining and decadent United States. Our national recourse to torturing prisoners of war is a scarlet mark of shame against the United States. The fact that torturing war prisoners finds support on both sides of the aisle is a sign of how far along we are on the road to collapse and national disintegration. When sadism becomes a respectable item of political debate, you know a nation is in deep trouble.
Memorial of St. Teresa of Avila
A report from NW 21st Street in Oklahoma City. . .
The trend in requests for help is up.
Food supply is adequate, but nothing to write anyone and brag about.
Powdered milk disappeared long ago.
Typically, the bag of groceries we distribute has cereal, 4-6 miscellaneous cans, beans, rice, pasta, tomato sauce, peanut butter, 2-4 miscelaneous boxed/bag foods (mac and cheese, ramen, etc.) 1 or 2 frozen meat items. Sometimes there is bread for all, sometimes bread for half, sometimes there is no bread.
If people want to bring extra food -- not canned green beans -- that would be fine too. We spend more money on peanut butter than we do any other item. We get 40-60 pounds of ground beef every month from members of the Oklahoma Food Cooperative.
Families of 4 or more get an extra bag filled with whatever we have the most of. Sometimes its families of 5 or more.
At Thanksgiving and Christmas, we would like to add flour, cooking oil, sugar, pumpkin, holiday candy, potatoes, celery, carrots, onions, and a turkey or ham. Realistically, that is $3,000 anyway, depending on the deals we can get.
We are doing grocery deliveries on Saturday Oct 20 and Oct 27. On the 20th, we will do deliveries to the public housing apartments. On the 27th, we will do deliveries on the various routes. (NE OKC 1, 2, 3; Near NW 1,2; Far NW 1,2; North NW; SW 1,2,3,4; SE 1,2,3; Far SE. People have their favorites and often ask for them and that's fine.)
We need more people on the 27th than we do on the 20th. On the 20th we mainly need help making up the grocery bags. It would be helpful to have three or four people go along with the deliveries to the apartments.
On the 27th, we need as many folks as can come. I won't be there, I am speaking in Aledo, Texas to a group of Texas farmers and ranchers interested in holistic agriculture, about the Oklahoma Food Cooperative. But Rev. Lance and Ashley Schmitz will be there and the job will get done. "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, the glory of the Father's only begotten Son, full of grace and truth."
Marcus Evans tells me that a gas grill is being installed at the Dorothy Day Center. So sometime we could make some food while we are sorting groceries and have a bit of a meal in the midst of the "run".
We appreciate everyone's support and prayers, and be assured of ours in return. We can use financial donations too, because all of this activity costs money. And we need volunteers, people who will come and share in the work of distributing 150,000 pounds of food to more than 9,000 people in 12 months.
If you think I personally am driving all this food around, you're wrong. There are a lot of people that help. If there weren't, there wouldn't be a way to deliver 150,000 pounds of food. If somebody didn't get up and go to the Dorothy Day Center and put out the groceries, our work would be more difficult. And then there's those willing to come back and clean up afterwards. Before anything happens, the food has to be ordered. And then paid for.
There's a back story to delivering 150,000 pounds of food to more than 9,000 people. It involves manual labor, so we know how popular it is. The people who do this are specially graced, though, I am confident of that. If you can help with that back story, talk to Marcus Evans at 740-0697. If you can help with the other back story -- retrieving help messages from our phone and entering the information into a spread sheet -- email me at firstname.lastname@example.org . One day a month? Two?
If you want to help with the delivery work, just show up.
You can call ahead if you want or must but it is fine to just show up.
I want to emphasize this: you don't need my permission to show up. Or, if you need my permission, I hereby give you my permission to show up.
We do not have the administrative ability to keep track of reservations or schedules. We can barely remember that the Creighton students always come during Spring Break. So we take the "very uncomplicated approach", and it persistently works.
Trust in the Holy Spirit's guidance that we need help and you should come and help us.
We meet at 9 AM at the Dorothy Day Center, 4909 N. State Street in Oklahoma City, which runs along the eastern boundary of St. Charles Borromeo parish. The Dorothy Day Center is the brick building just south of the parish's clinic.
Isn't that a wonderful example that the Catholic Church of St. Charles Borromeo shows for the whole archdiocese? A center for food distribution AND a clinic for low income folks. And a St. Vincent de Paul Conference. And their school. AND a policy against the use of sweat-shop sourced items in parish fundraising activities. Let your light so shine, Jesus said it. St. Charles Parish heard it. That settled it.
There's a lot of other people out there that make this possible. . . OKC First Church of the Nazarene members are there every delivery day. The St. Francis parish youth group has been there for us for years. . . ever since nobody knew about us and what we were doing. (St. Francis is the parish in which we live.) Epiphany Church, its organizations, pastoral staff, and member volunteers and benefactors, does its part. Sisters of Mercy from the hospital are there for us. Many people from labor unions, the Community Forum, Central Oklahoma Labor Council. All of these people heard the same call as St. Charles, and answer it in their own ways.
The only problem with making a list like this is forgetting someone. So let me also say that there are many others, not necessarily affiliated with a group or organization, who themselves come to the Dorothy Day Center to take personal responsibility for feeding the hungry and comforting the afflicted.
There are those who pray regularly for and with us.
Out there in the world, I couldn't even begin to describe the situation as viewed with Catholic Worker eyes. Where there is hatred, let us so love. Where there is conflict, peace. Where there is injustice, let us make it visible.
God grant me the
Living one day at a
Many thanks to all and may the God of grace and justice give you the peace which passes human understanding, in the midst of these collapsing ruins of the old.
Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House
1524 NW 21
Oklahoma City, OK 73106
405-613-4688, 405-557-0436 (help line)
Donations to the Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House are not tax deductible. But they will do some good for the least and forgotten of Oklahoma City and make our work go easier.
NCR and the Iraq War.
I guess its bad form to criticize someone just after they've devoted two full pages to a really nice story about one of our projects, the Oklahoma Food Cooperative, but "speaking truth" is one of the foundational axioms of our little Catholic Worker house. And we do that especially to those we love and care for.
Which is why I had to read it twice, to make sure I understood what was being said in the "Petraeus offers dose of reality", September 21, 2007 editorial from the National Catholic Reporter. . . "It is with great reluctance that we would argue against a precipitous withdrawal." But that's what they go on to do. "If a politically motivated Democratic call for immediate withdrawal were heeded, it would bring an end to our military presence in Iraq as misguided as its beginning." They don't address the moral issues but instead focus on the "real-politik" - and their editors speak from the viewpoint and class solidarity of the imperialists. The poor have no say in the matter.
I should not be so astonished.
The idea that moral law applies to the Iraq War is as marginal as it gets these days. It is held only by a few religious, the Catholic Worker movement, Pax Christi, the peace churches, the sectarian left, the libertarians, and Bishops Botean and Gumbleton. The Catholic media and commentariat, and the U.S Bishop's Conference, have all abandoned the truth of the Gospel of life as it applies to war in favor of allegiance to the imperialist cause..
It bears repeating again and again: the Iraq War is not a morally neutral affair. It has an objective moral reality. It is not a "both-and" situation, it is "either-or". It cannot be just and unjust at the same time. By the standards of the Catholic Church, the Iraq War was and is today an unjust war. Willing participation in that war is the moral equivalent of willing participation in an abortion. When we praise, cooperate with, and otherwise support such evil, when we refrain from speaking out against it, we gain some measure of responsibility for it. The evil of which we speak is the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, most of whom have been civilians, and the complete destruction of two nations..
Imperialism is a national delusion of superiority. It is the confidence that others cannot manage their affairs without our assistance. It cloaks tawdry grabs for resources in the language of "freedom". The victims don't matter - they are poor, non-white and therefore by definition, not-quite-human, so it is morally licit for us to kill them to prove our point and secure enough gasoline to keep our SUVs on the road. No one would admit this publicly, but in this situation, our actions speak louder than our words.
Our presence in Iraq daily marginalizes the responsibilities of the Iraqi people for their own situation. I want them to be free and safe, but the only way that that will happen is when they do it for themselves. Have we so quickly forgotten history? The United States gave Saddam chemical warfare technology, money and guns. We encouraged and gave material support for the Iraq-Iran war. We maintained a vicious embargo against the Iraqi civilian economy which killed a million people, half of them children! We invaded their country twice, and caused or contributed to a death toll that now numbers in the hundreds of thousands. Millions are now refugees. If we continue to help the Iraqi people in this way, in just a few years there won't be any more Iraqi people left alive.
Mary promised that the proud, the arrogant, and the rich would be thrown down, scattered, and humbled, and there is no one in the modern world who meets those qualifications better than the United States of America. Empire always ends in death and destruction for the imperials, and that will happen to us too. We are in denial if we think we can escape the consequences of our actions. "Sow not in furrows of injustice, lest you reap a seven-fold harvest."
Wars and Rumors of Wars
The article linked here, Red October, from the secular news source Stratfor.com , is troubling. The gist of the Stratfor analysis below is that Russia is making a move to oust the US from its present influence in the former Soviet Union countries like Georgia, Ukraine, and the Baltic republics. This would be in exchange for Russia not providing the Iranians with air defense and nuclear technology. Today's news also has articles about the French warning the Iranians that war may be coming their way. Stratfor.com of course is a "real-politik" news source. They don't ask or answer moral questions about our policy, they just report and comment. But as part of the "being wise as serpents and harmless as doves", I think we need to keep an eye on what they are saying.
And what they are saying is that we may be moving towards an old-fashioned super-power confrontation, US versus Russia, with Iran as a surrogate battlefield. "The more things change, the more they remain the same." See also "those who do not learn from the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them."
If nothing else, read with "Catholic Worker" eyes, it seems to me that the American Empire's "last man standing" strategy seems to be moving to a new stage and may expand to include an "air war" in Iran.
I note that the US bishops haven't had much to say about Iran, and they remain fixated on their "responsible transition" newspeak, even though the whole idea of "transition" in the nationalist conversation about Iraq is passe, "last year's news". We are in Iraq to stay, and even if the Democrats sweep the nationalist elections in 2008, I think we will continue to stay until we are forced to leave (either military force or circumstances such as money/resource constraints). The Empire is "all in", as they say down at the Texas hold-em poker tables. Victory or bust.
It would be nice if the Catholic Church could play a heroic role in a movement for peace, but alas, that ain't happenin'.
Even so, we know which side the Lord Jesus Christ and his most blessed Mother are on. . .
potentiam in brachio suo, dispersit superbos mente
He has shown
strength with his arm and has scattered the proud in
Note that in this equation, the United States is not the "lowly" nor are we the "hungry". We are the mighty who will be cast down, the conceited proud who will be scattered, and the rich who are sent away empty.
Meanwhile, the price of oil hit another all-time high in trading earlier today, and in England, a major bank run continues that has seen $4 billion withdrawn from one banking institution in only 4 days. There are fears that the crisis of confidence in the banking system could spread.
We've spent over a trillion dollars on the Iraq war, as well as an additional trillion on other "war" expenditures since Sept 11, 2001.
So it comes to pass that the rich are getting richer, and everybody else is getting poorer. But note how the financial press regularly blames the mess on "sub-prime loans" made to lower income people with higher credit risks. We're not supposed to think about the 2 trillion dollars squandered on war and destruction. Nor should we focus on the hundreds of billions we pay for our petroleum gluttony. Everyone is clearly instructed to ignore the man behind the curtain. Where is Toto when we need him?
Well, possessed by the spirit of the intrepid Toto, in England, some bank depositors have decided they don't like the looks of the man behind the curtain and they are in "take the money and run" mode. I am not sure where they can run to with it, but they are certainly moving right along with it. They are being blamed by the "Establishment" for their "irrational fears about the banking system". "How dare you lose faith in one of our Fine Honest Banks!"
A bank run here, a few record high prices for oil over there, and a new "splendid little air war" as icing on the cake. This is what it looks like as a great empire edges towards the ash heap of history.
Please pray for peace on all military and economic battlefields.
Please continue to build new structures among these collapsing ruins of the old. The day is coming when we will desperately need them.
Bob Waldrop, picketing St. Joseph in Oklahoma City
A Dark Day for the Church in the United States
"Again I considered all the oppressions that take place under the sun: the tears of the victims with none to comfort them! From the hand of their oppressors comes violence, and there is none to comfort them! And those now dead, I declared more fortunate in death than are the living to be still alive. And better off than both is the yet unborn, who has not seen the wicked work that is done under the sun. Then I saw that all toil and skillful work is the rivalry of one man for another. This also is vanity and a chase after wind. . . Then I saw all those who are to live and move about under the sun with the heir apparent who will succeed to his place. There is no end to all these people, to all over whom he takes precedence; yet the later generations will not applaud him. This also is vanity and a chase after wind. Guard your step when you go to the house of God. Let your approach be obedience, rather than the fools' offering of sacrifice; for they know not how to keep from doing evil." Ecclesiastes 4:1-4, 15-17
Comes now the news that the Archbishop for Military Services, the Most Reverend Edwin O'Brien, has been appointed as the new Archbishop of Baltimore.
Is this a message from Rome to the Catholic peace movement: "Go to hell"?
O'Brien has been an key supporter of the unjust war on the people of Iraq from the beginning. He criticized Bishop Botean for his courageous statement that participation in the war on the people of Iraq was the moral equivalent of willing participation in an abortion.
As the Archbishop for Military Services, O'Brien preached a gospel of moral laxism and relativism, claiming that we should "trust" our leaders instead of judging the war by the criteria of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He gave tacit ecclesiastical permission for Catholic members of the armed forces to participate in a manifestly unjust war. To this day, he continues to call for a "responsible transition" and thus turns his back on the suffering people of Iraq, condemning them to more death, more suffering, more murder.
In his Memorial Day message this year (2007), Archbishop O'Brien says that "at no time has the Holy See or the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops cast doubt on the motives of our national leadership in the Executive or Congressional branches." This is undoubtedly true, but should we trust the opinions of our bishops on issues of such consequence, given the extent that they themselves have embraced the culture of death? Ask the victims of the clergy sexual abuse crisis about the "judgement" of the U.S. Catholic bishops. Plenty of other people have rightfully questioned the motives of President Bush and the members of Congress who voted for this unjust war. But those pro-life opinions don't count to the Archbishop of Baltimore.
In any event, hundreds of thousands of people are dead. Their blood is upon Archbishop O'Brien and upon all the other bishops who preached a false gospel of moral laxism and relativism and thus gave tacit permission to wage this unjust war. We should remember that unjust war is always and in every circumstance an objective evil.
The Catholic members of the Armed Forces of the United States of America, who are brave and generous in offering their lives in service to their country, deserved better than to be sold down the river with honeyed words of religious deceit from their own archbishop.
Now he has been seated upon the cathedra of the "mother church" of this country.
What a dark and dismal day this is for the Church in the United States.
"The road to hell is paved with the bones of priests and lined with the skulls of bishops." St. John Chrysostom, 4th Century AD
"Meanwhile I saw wicked men approach and enter; and as they left the sacred place, they were praised in the city for what they had done. This also is vanity. Because the sentence against evildoers is not promptly executed, therefore the hearts of men are filled with the desire to commit evil - because the sinner does evil a hundred times and survives. Though indeed I know that it shall be well with those who fear God, for their reverence toward him; and that it shall not be well with the wicked man, and he shall not prolong his shadowy days, for his lack of reverence toward God. This is a vanity which occurs on earth: there are just men treated as though they had done evil and wicked men treated as though they had done justly. This, too, I say is vanity." Ecclesiastes 8:10-14.
The Letter from Osama to the US Bishops
The most charitable thing I can say about this latest little "tilting at the windmills of episcopal indifference" essay of mine ( http://www.justpeace.org/osamatobishops.htm ) is that it is "inflammatory religious and political satire." And by "little" I do mean short, for me, this has to be a record of brevity - 240 words. It is available as an html page, plus I have pdf documents of postcard and flyer versions, so it will be easy for people to copy and print them for distribution or mailing. This follows on the heels of last week's "Letters from Osama", which relate more to energy conservation, and are published at http://www.energyconservationinfo.org/osamaletters.htm .
A Dark Day for Oklahoma
Yesterday the Oklahoma Senate passed HB 1804 - the "Oklahoma Citizens and Taxpayer Protection Act of 2007", which criminalizes the Works of Mercy in the State of Oklahoma when the recipient is an "illegal alien". The bill passed with "veto-proof" majorities in both houses and had strong support from both Democrats and Republicans, thus once again proving the old adage that there isn't a dime's worth of difference between the two major parties.
"A. It shall be unlawful for any person to transport, move, or attempt to transport within the United States any alien knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that the alien has come to, entered, or remained in the United States in violation of law, in furtherance of the illegal presence of the alien in the United States. "
"B. It shall be unlawful for any person to conceal, harbor, or shelter from detection any alien in any place, including any building or means of transportation, knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that the alien has come to, entered, or remained in the United States in violation of law."
It's not unusual for me to get a request to give someone a ride - maybe to the hospital, maybe to a doctor's appointment, or to a store. When this law takes effect, that will become a crime if the person is someone the State would call an "illegal alien".
The bill's author, known anti-Catholic bigot Representative Terrill, says it doesn't apply to this kind of "illicit" activity, but the bill doesn't say that. It says "in furtherance of the illegal presence of the alien in the United States" and "in reckless disregard of the fact that the alien has come to, entered, or remained in the United States in violation of law" - these are loopholes big enough to drive a truckload of prosecutors through.
We never ask for ID, and we never will ask for ID, and we will never ever under any circumstances cooperate in any way, shape, manner or form with this wicked, demonic, and evil law - we have said this publicly in the past and we will continue to say this publicly. . . . and that certainly could be construed as "recklessly" disregarding the person's immigration status, and taking someone to the hospital could certainly be construed as "furtherance" of their "illegal presence" in the US of A.
Now that I think about it, I myself am an "illegal alien". I am a citizen of the United States of America, a constitutional republic which protects the rights of citizens to practice their religion. I am obviously not a citizen of whatever government would pass demonic legislation such as this. I guess I should be repatriated, but alas, it seems as though the US of A is no longer in existence, having been replaced by a vicious military empire that uses race to divide and conquer the electorate and thus secure its power and wealth.
I am a native, 4th generation Oklahoman. Oklahoma politics have always had a strong racist theme. Back in the 1920s, there was practically a civil war in this state as the Ku Klux Klan waged a terrorist campaign against Native Americans, African Americans, Catholics, and others it deemed "undesirable". They elected a governor and legislature. Oklahoma fought strongly against the Civil Rights movement. We were as slow as could be to integrate our schools. In revenge for the successes of the Civil Rights movement, Oklahoma City political and economic leaders waged a due process riot against African Americans, and destroyed the historic heart of that community, the Deep Deuce, using "eminent domain" and much bloated rhetoric about "urban renewal" to cover the essentially racist nature of their crusade.
In the 1980s and 1990s, it was no longer possible to be openly racist and get elected, so the targets of our racism were shifted. The demagogues ranted and raved about welfare mothers and trans-generational dependency. It was all dressed up in modern language, but it was the same vicious racism from the same vicious racists (or their kids) of twenty years previously.
Now we have a new scapegoat - "illegal immigrants" - and the white-sheet crowd is howling with joy at their success with criminalizing people by race. The essentially demonic nature of the crusade is self-evident. It makes the Works of Mercy, mandated by Christ in the 25th chapter of the book of Matthew, a crime if the Jesus we seek to help is a foreigner. We should recall his words to those who are condemned to hell - "I was a stranger" - that's XENOS in the original Greek, and it means foreigner - "and YOU DID NOT TAKE ME IN. Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels."
Jesus said it, I believe it, that settles it. But the Oklahoma Legislature obviously doesn't. Drunk with power, derelict in their duty, they ignore pressing and important problems and to cover up for their failures and incompetence, they pass laws like this and think they've done their job. They are blind guides leading the blind, and the only place they can lead us is to the ash heap of history.
God help the state of Oklahoma.
Bishops Destroy the Church's Witness to Life
The Catholic Church's doctrine and praxis regarding the "Gospel of Life" is based on the strict and consistent application of moral principles to all aspects of the human condition. In modern terms, the Catholic Church applies the precautionary principle to all life issues. This principle is usually used in debates about environmental issues, and means that in situations where an action or policy is proposed that may cause great harm but the scientific consensus remains in doubt, the burden of proof is on those advocating the action or policy to prove that no harm will result. Incorporating this principle into the life issues debate - we can say that in situations where we maybe aren't sure about life or the proper moral action, we must resolve the question in favor of life and not death. Fr. Emmanuel McCarthy makes this point, at much greater length and with more theological insight, in his essay on Moral Laxism elsewhere in this issue.
And so it comes to pass that the Church makes heavy moral demands on people. The bishops don't hesitate to apply those principles strictly and consistently when it comes to abortion, contraception, and euthanasia. But when it comes to unjust war, strictness and consistency go out the window, and bishops publicly worry about "laying such heavy moral demands on the faithful."
We certainly agree that the Gospel's teachings on life should be strictly construed and consistently applied. Like Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin who went before us, we defend life from the moment of conception to the time of natural death - and also, all points "between". Thus, the inconsistency - the moral laxism - of the bishops regarding the unjust Iraq War is troubling. It is dangerous to the public witness of the Church to life. And it is a very grave scandal. In the debate on Iraq, the Church stands exposed as merely a member of the crowd. Instead of leading the moral debate, the bishops pander to the demands of the American Empire and provide moral comfort for its worst excesses.
It is my belief that the clergy sexual abuse crisis and the bishops' moral laxism regarding Iraq and Afghanistan, share a common foundation - the inability of the U.S. Catholic bishops to see the poor as human persons. The bishops protest that this is an outrageous accusation, and point to their many statements on solidarity and the charitable works of the Church as evidence of their good faith. While it is true that no person can look into their souls, it is certainly possible for us to judge their actions, and by that standard, it is evident that the bishops do not see the poor who are in the way of the American Empire as human persons. They refuse to use their canonical authority to hinder the Empire's war effort. They try to cover that refusal with florid rhetoric about their solidarity with the "brave Iraqi people", but words are a poor comfort for a people who have been slaughtered by the hundreds of thousands by the American Empire over the last two decades. They show little or no obedience to the call of Pope John Paul II to "ecological conversion", and thus they and their dioceses "take more, so that others - that is, the poor - have less."
The bishops are not leading us towards a civilization of life and love. No, like the rest of the American leadership, they urge us ever onwards towards the ash heap of history. Robert Waldrop
I spent the weekend in Pembroke, Canada, at a workshop sponsored by the Marguerite Center http://margueritecentre.com/Welcome.html . The Marguerite Centre is located in the former Motherhouse of the Grey Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, whose foundress was St.Marguerite of Youville, the first Canadian saint to be canonized by Rome. She founded a series of institutions in service to the poor. More information about her life and ministry is online at http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15736c.htm and http://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/saints/ns_lit_doc_19901209_youville_en.html where she is called "Mother of the Poor".
Some pictures of the weekend are at http://margueritecentre.com/Blog/Blog.html .
It seems to me that I started talking when I got there on Friday afternoon and didn't stop until the workshop was over Sunday afternoon. A great group of people came together for the event. We started on Friday evening with an overview of the present situation - the "New Horsemen of the Apocalypse", which I identified as resource exhaustion, environmental catastrophes, systemic collapse, and economic irrationality - and the importance of the little way of justice and peace, permaculture, and the acceptance of personal responsibility as ways to counter these threats.
On Saturday morning, we convened in the kitchen, where I taught them how to make Oklahoma-style bacon gravy (with milk), bacon and eggs, and then we made bread dough, enough for the entire weekend's meals. Their baker had made herbed biscuits for us, and they were very tasty with the gravy. The Centre's kitchen was a great facility, and the kitchen staff were wonderful to work with. They accepted our invasion of their territory with great grace and enthusiasm and were very helpful to us.
Our discussions that morning continued to look at permaculture design and how it could be applied to their task at hand, which was developing a more local food system for the Ottawa River valley. Paul Swartzentruber, the centre's director, made us a great lentil soup for lunch and we had the first batch of buns baked from our dough-making earlier that day.
In the afternoon we began to look at the specifics of the organizing campaign and operations of the Oklahoma Food Cooperative, and that was the focus for the rest of the weekend. Late that evening I did about an hour in the chapel, alternating between playing the piano and discussing the spirituality of the Catholic Worker movement and the little way of justice and peace, and telling something of my own journeys. I believe that Paul is going to make some of these sessions available as podcasts over the internet, and I will pass long word of that too.
I got to meet a couple of long-time subscribers to several of our listservs, Kathleen of Ottawa and Joy of Hamilton, also Ian who is a student in the online permaculture design course that I am taking. It was good to meet and put faces on these people that I have known in cyber-circles.
Saturday evening we prepared a chicken and dressing casserole, along with some wonderful hubbard squash grown in the area and harvested last fall. We baked it, and it was so sweet it didn't need any of the real maple syrup they had on hand. For our Sunday dinner we prepared a glorious prime rib roast, brought by the same farmer, who's herd is free-ranging and forage fed. At each meal we had more of the rolls made from dough made on the first morning. I sometimes keep dough (covered tightly) in the fridge for up to a week, by the end of the week the rolls have a slight sour-dough taste. Throughout the weekend, we connected the intellectual and spiritual concepts we spoke about with our work in the kitchen and the table fellowship we also shared.
We went to mass at the Pembroke Cathedral, and afterwards I got to meet their director of music and play their historic pipe organ.
Monday morning I spoke to about 60 students at the Catholic high school for the area, the school's principle also attended. Paul's wife is a teacher at the school. That afternoon we went back to Ottawa, where we had lunch in a great working-class Lebanese restaurant named Louie's, and then Kathleen and a friend of hers took we around town a bit. We spent about 45 minutes at the Cathedral of Notre Dame, and I did not see everything there was to see there. It is truly a marvelous church. An attendant kindly let us into the organ loft where I got a close-up look at the massive organ, but no one had a key to the organ itself so I will have to go back to Ottawa some time and make arrangements in advance. We had coffee and a donut at a Tim Horton's, which I was assured was a typical Canadian experience. The coffee at the Motherhouse, however, which was certified organic and fair trade, was better. Earlier, on Friday, after I arrived, Paul had taken me to the Green Door vegetarian restarant in Ottawa, which I would certainly assign a "five pork chop" rating except of course that as a vegetarian restaurant it would be inappropriate to award them pork chops. So maybe for them I will create a new food rating, 'five home-grown organic cherry tomatoes", eh.
Besides the Cathedral, we also visited the Shepherds of Good Hope urban ministry, http://www.shepherdsofgoodhope.com/ , which offers a food ministry that feeds about 1500 people a day, and a shelter for 100-200. They have a locally-painted version of the "Christ of the Breadline" painted over one of the entrances.
One of the persons attending the weekend asked me when i thought the US would invade Canada. Having seen a number of Mcdonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants in both Ottawa and Pembroke, my thought was that "the invasion had already begun". However, if they meant the military, that will probably wait until we are almost out of natural gas. When that happens, and that may be sooner than most folks think, Canadians should worry about the US government, driven by US consumers, casting covetous eyes on Canada's oil and gas wealth.
Even though the weekend was busy, for me it had aspects of a retreat, as I got to take a break from my typical day-to-day routine. It was very cold, -25 degrees F on Monday morning. When I stepped outside after taking a shower, my beard froze. Several people said that if I ever get kicked out of the US, I should come to Pembroke or Ottawa, they would offer me asylum. I've already had an email from Kathleen inquiring about when I could come and do some work at her Ottawa parish.
I had the opportunity to meet and visit with some of the Grey Sisters at their retirement home across the street from the Marguerite Centre, and played a few tunes on the piano for them. They have a shrine to St. Marguerite in the entrance way, and I stopped for a few moments of prayer there on my way out. She must have been a powerful and interesting woman to have gone against the tenor of her times and model such uncompromising love for the poor.
"St. Marguerite, Mother of the Poor, pray for us and all the poor in the hour of our grave need."
Here are our recipes for the weekend:
Our dough recipe for the weekend was:
1 cup warm water
We put the sugar in the warm water, and sprinkled the yeast on top and waited a few moments for it to bloom. We added everything but the flour and mixed it thoroughly. We added the flour, one cup at a time, mixing after each cup was added, and kneaded it. Then we let it rise. We made three batches of this, dividing the group into three groups, so everybody had a chance to learn how to do this.
Chicken and Dressing Casserole
Dried crumbled bread mixed with sage, thyme, parsley
Put a layer of the dried crumbled bread in the bottom of a casserole pan and then layer the carrots, onions, and cooked chicken. Put another layer of dried crumbled bread on top. Heat the broth and thicken it with a mixture of flour and milk (2 tablespoons flour per cup of milk), pour over the casserole until the breadcrumbs are all submerged. Sprinkle some more bread crumbs on top. Cook, uncovered, in a 350 degree oven, for 45 minutes.
January 7, 2007 - The Feast of the Epiphany
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it.
Today at the offertory at Epiphany of the Lord parish in Oklahoma City, my choir sang these words from Handel's Messiah. These words illuminate the mystery of Epiphany, the unveiling of the glory of God. The visit of the Magi. The descent of the Holy Spirit and the voice of God at the Baptism of the Lord. The miracle at Cana. The healing of the blind, the lame, and those possessed with demons. The Transfiguration.
Great stories, immortal, sacred, told from one generation to another. Though we "see through a glass darkly", every so often the glory of the Lord shines so bright that it breaks through the fog and confusion and illuminates all who behold it.
"And there were in the same country shepherds, abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid. The angel said to them, 'Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be for all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."
The narratives we hear at Mass are not all that has been or will be said about this glory.
"Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the LORD shines upon you. See, darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples, but upon you the LORD shines and over you appears his glory. Nations shall walk by your light and kings by your shining radiance. Raise your eyes and look about, they all gather and come to you. Your sons come from afar and your daughters in the arms of their nurses. " From Isaiah 60, the First Reading of Epiphany.
Darkness surely covers the earth in our time. There can be no doubt of that. These days of the death and destruction are not easy to behold or experience. But it is as Gandalf said to Frodo, who wished that he lived in another time. "So do I, and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us."
The shepherds saw the glory of Lord, and they "came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the baby laying in a manger." And when they had seen it, what did they do? "They made known abroad the saying which was told to them concerning this child. All they that heard it wondered at those things which were told to them by the shepherds." As well they might -- why did God gave this manifestation of his glory to poor shepherds? Why didn't he tell the High Priest and the king? Or someone with wealth and credibility?
Well, actually, he did tell some with wealth, but they were foreigners. Maybe they had the proper visa, maybe they didn't. Even so, the Magi saw the glory of the Lord shining as a star in the sky. They followed that glory, and brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
Simeon and Anna recognized the holy Child instantly when brought to the Temple - "A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel."
It's easy to become somewhat complacent about these stories. They happened a very long time ago. We don't think this kind of thing happens anymore. Indeed, angels flying through the sky would hardly fit into the modern world. Someone might shoot at them with anti-aircraft missiles. NORAD would certainly sound the alert if squadrons of angels came flying over the borders. In reality, few would admit to seeing something as extraordinary as an angel in full flight, singing "Gloria in excelsis Deo!"
Well, actually, I have a confession to make. I see these angels all the time, and yes, they are in full flight and singing "Gloria in excelsis Deo!" and no, I am not on drugs nor am I drunk. I see them on our Catholic Worker delivery days, when they show up and in an amazing burst of celestial energy, prepare hundreds of bags of groceries to share with the poor. And then they fly them out the door and deliver them personally. Of course, they are disguised as people and they are driving cars, but they don't fool me.
Curiously, they chant the Nicene Creed when they do this. At least it seems that way. The words seem to come alive or something. . . "He came down from heaven, by the power of the Holy Spirit, he was born of the Virgin Mary and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered, died, and was buried. On the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures. . . He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his Kingdom will have no end."
So it comes to pass that I see angels shining with the Glory of God everywhere I go. Random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty. Works of mercy, justice and peace. Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, comforting the afflicted and yes, also afflicting the comfortable. Making injustice visible, protecting the poor and the powerless, speaking truth to power - celebrating life, goodness, beauty, virtue, and joy - practicing peace, non-violence, servant leadership, harmony, community, voluntary cooperation, and the proper stewardship of God's creation. They pray without ceasing and do what they can to ensure fair distribution, subsidiarity, economic opportunity, justice, and food security for everyone everywhere.
Yes, the world is dark and the news is grim. Turn on any television set and you can see the work of demons on a hundred channels, in technicolor and stereo surround sound. It was just as dark 2,000 years ago, but even so the shepherds went and told all what they had seen and heard. The shepherds found hope in the Epiphany of the Lord that came to them so long ago, a light so bright that it illumines us today, 2000 years and more later, and continues to manifest the glory of God in the lives of men and women across the planet.
"And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing that star, and on entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage."
In this year of grace two thousand and seven, let us be shepherds and Magi, Simeon and Anna, Mary and Joseph for all who cross our paths. Let us announce in word and deed that the Messiah indeed has come, and his glory shines for all to see. Let us help those who are blind to this glory to open their eyes so they can see, and open their ears so they can hear, the angelic vision unveiled for all. Where there is darkness, we will bring the glory of the Lord, and all flesh shall indeed see it, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it.
July 11, 2006, the Feast of St. Benedict
I have finally finished and published to the internet today my essay, Liturgy and War and the US Catholic Bishops. I have been wrestling with this document for quite some time, but it finally came together over the last week. It is at http://www.justpeace.org/liturgyandwar.htm ..
A New Plot Against the Poor in Oklahoma City.
Wealthy medical corporations are casting covetous eyes on the low income neighborhood south and east of the hospital/medical research complex in northeastern Oklahoma City. Below is a comment I sent today to the officers of the Presbyterian Health Foundation in Oklahoma City, as well as to the politicians responsible for approving this injustice. RMW
To whom it may concern at the Presbyterian Health Foundation in Oklahoma City:
The proposal to destroy the neighborhood around the hospital district in northeast Oklahoma City using eminent domain and TIF funding is the latest "reverse Robin Hood" scheme of the rich and politically well connected to steal from the poor and give to the powerful. The constant destruction of housing by government for a wide variety of economic development schemes leads to higher rents and that causes serious economic problems for low income people, who are already suffering because of high energy costs. Economic stress is a well-documented driver of violence against women and children, drug and alcohol abuse, divorce, crime, and abortion. None of these costs will be accounted for by the medical research corporations that will profit from this expansion at the expense of low income housing, but the externalized costs will nevertheless be paid in full, the price will not be cheap, and it will be paid by the weakest and most vulnerable among us.
We are told that the glorious end of medical research justifies this unsavory means. These poor people that have to get out of the way of the medical research expansion are just, you know, collateral damage. It's sad but somebody has to suffer so that the glorious end of big profits through industrialized corporation medicine can prosper. (Notice how it is always poor people who are the collateral damage in these economic development schemes, it is never the wealthy and the prosperous.) In any event, rich white doctors and their medical corporations have a long history of stealing land from the poor (and from African Americans in particular) in Oklahoma City, so we shouldn't be surprised that the best idea they could come up with involved destroying even more low income housing.
Some people believe that economic development trumps all considerations of morality, but if that is true, perhaps we should legalize child prostitution and promote Oklahoma City as the pedophile tour capital of the world! That is a shocking and scandalous thought, but there is no moral difference between promoting sex "for economic development purposes" and destroying the neighborhoods of low income people "for economic development purposes". Both actions are morally wrong, but we destroy low income neighborhoods all the time and don''t even think twice about the consequences. That moral carelessness is a measure of the demonic strength of the culture of death here in central Oklahoma.
The Martyrdom of Romero
The Oscar Romero Catholic Worker Community Opposes the Wicked Immigration Laws!
In recent months, laws have been introduced into the United States Congress and the Oklahoma Legislature that would treat immigrants and refugees with great harshness and cruelty. These laws would make it a crime to offer help to the poor if they are not legal residents.
The Oscar Romero Catholic Worker community condemns these laws. We call upon all people of goodwill to stand together in solidarity against these wicked and evil laws that are based in racism and hatred of other cultures. We encourage everybody to contact their representatives in Congress and the Oklahoma Legislature to show their opposition.
We welcome the migrant and the refugee to our city and state. Our city and state will be better places to live if we offer hope and hospitality to immigrants.
If these laws are passed by Congress and the Legislature, we will meet this culture of death evil with civil disobedience. We will continue to offer hospitality and help to immigrants, even if this becomes a crime. There is no moral obligation to obey an evil and wicked law. There is nothing in the Bible that commands us to obey the government when the government does evil. We will not damn our souls to hell to satisfy corrupt politicians. We will continue to feed the hungry at every opportunity we find. We will never ask anyone to prove that they are a legal resident before offering them help and hope.
We warn all who support these wicked and evil laws that the condemnation of God is upon people who oppress and persecute the poor. Their sins against the poor may send them to hell if they do not repent and seek God's forgiveness for the evil they work at the highest levels of government.
We call upon all the saints of social justice, in particular Our Lady of Guadalupe, Saint Dorothy Day of New York, Saint Peter Maurin of New York, and Saint Oscar Romero of El Salvador, to witness this evil and to stand with us in opposition. Give us strength to resist Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.
Bob Waldrop, Sean Kay, Susan Lee, Marcus and Tresa Evans, Lance and Ashley Schmitz
Senator Tom Coburn
172 Russell Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510
100 North Broadway Suite 1820
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73102
Dear Senator Coburn:
I read with utter horror this morning in the Daily Oklahoman that you had put a procedural hold on the emergency appropriation of funds to assist low income people with high heating bills.
Your spokesperson seemed to think this was not a big deal and that these funds were an appropriate target for the point you wish to make.
With all due respect, Senator, you are not qualified to judge how badly low income people need this assistance money. You are a wealthy man. You have no worries about paying your winter heating bills.
We deliver food to people in need who don't have transportation to get to a regular food bank. We make such deliveries to thousands of people every year in the Oklahoma City area. We know many people are having troubles paying their utility bills this winter. Sure, it has been milder than expected, but the price of energy has been much higher than expected.
Many people who are not low income have this idea that there is a lot of money out there from private charities to help poor people pay their utility bills. Well, that is nothing more than a fantasy. There isn't anywhere near enough money in the private and religious charities of Oklahoma to make up the present shortfall. By delaying these government funds, you are doing nothing but making the lives of low income people more miserable and more harsh and there are no good outcomes that come from such political cruelty.
It is a demonic evil to play these kinds of political games with the lives of poor people. Are you not aware that one of the primary drivers of abortion decisions is the economic desperation of the mother? By putting this additional economic stress on low income households in Oklahoma City, you are encouraging abortion just as surely as if you were out there advertising the locations of abortuaries and giving women rides to the nearest "clinic" for the "procedure".
The question you must answer is this: How many Oklahoma children are you willing to kill by abortion in order to make this political point? You are the one grinding the faces of the poor into the dust by delaying these funds. Their blood is upon your head.
On behalf of the people we serve, I beg you for mercy. And I expect that based on God's Word, you yourself will one day be judged with the judgement you judge these poor people. "Those who shut their ears to the cry of the poor will themselves also call and not be heard." (Proverbs 21, 13)
The Bible clearly teaches that the rich who oppress the poor are going to hell. If you don't believe this, read the 25th chapter of the book of Matthew.
" Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.' Then they will answer and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?' Jesus will answer them, 'Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.' And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." (Matthew 25)
Your brother in Christ,
Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House
I am about to do a very un-Catholic Worker-ish thing. I am going to run for Mayor of Oklahoma City this year. I will file tomorrow (January 30th). Well, I say this is an "un-Catholic Workerish" thing to do, but I don't know that for sure. Dorothy Day did not leave a "Rule" behind for Catholic Workers to follow. She was a personalist, and I think of myself as that too, but politics is also an inescapable fact of modern life. I doubt pretty seriously that I will actually be elected, but by filing I will have an opportunity to "speak truth to power" in a very public way about important issues like social justice and environmental stewardship.. I have a campaign website at http://www.bobwaldrop.net , which has my platform. Municipal elections in Oklahoma are non-partisan, so I am not running on any party's ticket.
As it so happens, January 30th is the feast day of St. Adelelmus, who lived during the 11th century in France. He was a soldier who became a Benedictine monk, and later an abbot. The story is told that one dark and stormy night, he and another monk were on a journey. It was so dark and stormy that they could hardly see their way through the rain. So St. Adelelmus ordered the other monk to light a candle. And behold, not only were they able to light the candle in the pouring rain, but it stayed lit throughout the rest of their journey until they arrived to safety. I pray that my candidacy for mayor of Oklahoma City will be a small but bright candle that will give light in the darkness of modern politics.
And then of course there is the official patron of politicians, St. Thomas More, who was beheaded in the Tower of London because of his refusal to agree to the divorce of the infamous King Henry VIII and to the establishment of the King as head of the church in England. I pray that I will always follow his example and never sacrifice truth for the sake of expediency.
January 2, 2006
I have linked this page to an international blog finder. Never know who might wander in as a result.Technorati Profile
Thanksgiving on NW 21st Street. . .
Cooking the traditional Thanksgiving dinner was a little more complicated than usual this year, being as how our kitchen is still in disarray from our Extreme Green Makeover adventures, and in particular, we are very limited on electrical power and have no stove. At the beginning of those adventures last August the kitchen was packed in a hurry and much of it remains in boxes carefully hidden where I can't find them. But even so we managed turkey with all the trimmings - dressing, hot rolls, pumpkin pie, cooked greens, deviled eggs, cream cheese rollups, mashed potatoes and gravy. Since we had no stove, to prepare our feast we used small electrical appliances: hot plate, skillet, pan roaster, and convection toaster oven. The pan roaster was one of those old fashioned roasters you find in thrift stores. The convection toaster oven was big enough to cook one pie, or a tray of 16 rolls, at a time. The cooking process proceeded through the day assisted by several cups of mulled wine (equal parts wine and apple juice, a dollop of honey, and cinnamon sticks, whole cloves and allspice berries, simmered over a low heat for at least an hour before serving).
I started yesterday by baking the pumpkin (you didn't think we would use canned pumpkin, did you?), making the biscuits for the sage dressing, and boiling the eggs for the deviled egg delights. We got several pie pumpkins from McLemore Farms in October, and they are keeping nicely in a box on the porch lo these many weeks later. One pie pumpkin equals about 3 cups pureed pumpkin which makes 2 ten inch pies (your mileage may vary, depending on your pumpkin). You cut it in half, scoop out the seeds (saving them for roasting later of course) and then cut it in slices. I baked mine at 350 degrees for about an hour in the little convection oven, you want it cooked to the point where it is soft, ovens vary, and a convection oven tends to cook faster than a regular oven. Cut off the rind (it pretty much peels off if the pumpkin is cooked enough) and then use the mixer or a food processor to puree it. Actually, I primarily used a pastry cutter, and then gave it a final finish with the mixer. Add the fresh pumpkin in place of any typical pumpkin pie recipe for two pies.
This Thanksgiving was special in that I finally "after all these years" hit a home run with the pie crust. Long-time readers of my Thanksgiving columns will remember that I have often lamented my inability to make a good pie crust. However, I trusted my grandmother's advice ("Bobby Max, the reason you can't make a good pie crust is because you haven't made enough pies"), and kept at it. Finding "Dorothy's Never Fail Pie Crust" recipe helped, but still my pie crusts lacked that perfect flakiness that my grandmothers' pie crusts possessed. (See http://www.bettertimesinfo.org/2004index.htm for that recipe, on the page for pies, cakes, and desserts.)
Someone sent me a note a year or so ago recommending that I try lard, as that is likely what my grandmothers' used, at least in their early years of baking. Well, that was interesting advice but there was a bit of a problem in that all the lard in the stores reads "hydrogenated", and I am not fond of that, not to mention the fact that lard comes from pigs raised in Confined Animal Feeding Operations and I have made it a point for several years now to avoid CAFO products as much as possible. The pigs we've been getting from Bud Feland of 5F Farms are so lean there isn't much fat left for making lard after the sausage is mixed. After I bemoaned that fact in public, David and Michelle Worley of Paradise Valley Organic Farm out in Adair County took pity on this poor benighted soul stuck in the middle of Oklahoma City without any decent lard to make a pie crust, and sent me a whole pail of lard from the pigs raised on their certified organic farm. It arrived in late August, which isn't really a pie-making time and I didn't have a stove anyway (we had just started the Extreme Green Makeover), so today was my first time to make pie crust with lard and thus it came to pass that Bobby Max finally made a decent pie crust worthy to serve to company. (I had to sample both pies of course to make sure the first one wasn't just a fluke.)
As usual, Sean was in charge of making deviled eggs and cream cheese rollups. First thing this morning he roasted some garlic, and used that plus some of our infamous habanero salsa to make the rollups, also making some with chopped green olives. Some of the roasted garlic also ended up in the deviled eggs. If the Oklahoma Food Cooperative ever opens a store with a certified kitchen, Sean should sell deviled eggs. The eggs were from Charles Horn Organic Farm in Cordell. The rolls were half white flour and half certified organic whole wheat flour from Springhill Farms in Kiowa county. Gravy was made with drippings from the turkey, and also I simmered the gizzard, heart, and neck all day in a crock pot to make a flavorful broth for gravy. The dogs got those treats when the simmering was done and we got great gravy makings.
The turkey came from Walters Hatchery, also in Adair County, via the Oklahoma Food Cooperative and at 17 pounds it was almost too big for the pan roaster. I was thinking "oops", but managed to get the lid to close. I sauteed celery, onions, garlic, sage, rosemary, parsley, and thyme and mixed that with crumbled biscuits and stuffed the turkey with it.
We had no fresh green beans, only canned, so we decided to skip the green bean casserole in favor of cooked greens from our garden. The chard is still doing great, growing new leaves faster than I can pick them. I cooked it with sliced onions, garlic, rosemary, sage, oregano, and chipotle peppers, and used a bit of buffalo stock from the freezer. Oven time was also an issue in that decision, as the convection oven was big enough for one pie, or one tray of rolls, at a time. Usually getting towards the end of the cooking for Thanksgiving Day our oven is stuffed with a trays of dressing, green bean casserole, and hot rolls, but today called for a different way of bringing things together at the right time.
Speaking of chipotle peppers, we got a great last harvest of hot peppers just before our first freeze, lots of beautiful bright red jalapeno and scotch bonnet peppers and a few cayennes (our cayennes this year were not very hot, must do better next year). So we have been working our clay pot smoker overtime to turn them into flavorful chipotle peppers. We had the smoker going all day today. It's amazing to me how much flavor and character (not to mention heat) one of these little chipotle scotch bonnet peppers can add to a dish of food. Here again we find a simple, traditional peasant food, that rivals the best haute cuisine.
At first I thought this feast preparing was going to be a hassle, I had never attempted Thanksgiving dinner without a stove, but it was actually surprisingly easy once I had thought about it a bit and did some planning. Note that this is a good idea in general whenever you are preparing a big feast -- make a list of everything that needs to be done and then stage your process, taking into account the ingredients and tools you have available.
One of the criticisms of "slow food for the poor" is that the poor often lack stoves. Thus, bringing today's Thanksgiving dinner to the table without using a stove shows what can be done even with limited cooking facilities, and suggests ideas for building capacities in households and communities where people are in need of assistance. It shows how we can do more with less. The connection between cooking meals with basic ingredients, obtained from local producers, and social justice may not be clear to everyone, but there is no doubt in our minds that this is one of the basic aspects of the little way of justice and peace we aim to follow. If those who have more would take less, there would be more available for others who have less.
Early this morning I built a small fire in the wood burning stove with two logs and some bark, this heated up two kettles of water, so we had hot or warm water to wash dishes with all morning, and long after the fire died there was residual heat from the stove and the brick hearth that helped the dough for the rolls to rise. And yes, scraps from the cooking process were collected all day and have already gone to the compost piles. Waste not, want not. Nothing should go to waste in the kitchen, if not eaten by the humans or the animals, then all food waste should go to compost piles or worm bins. God did not create the bounty of the earth to be wrapped up in black plastic and buried deep in the ground. There is a natural process established by God whereby organic materials are recycled -- from death comes life, over and over. The presently popular madness and delusion of crowds that wraps useful organic materials in black plastic and buries them in land fills is contrary to God's will for Creation. It is an artifact of cultural arrogance and ignorance that feeds the culture of death and its demonic desire to frustrate God's will in every way possible.
There wasn't much sun today to fill our sunspace with extra BTUs, but the cooking produced enough heat to keep the house warm now into the night. We really like our superinsulated walls, and know that things will be even better when the electricians complete their work and we can finish insulating the attic. As near as I can tell, the official local recommendations for wall insulation are based on how much insulation you can get into a standard 2 x 4 wall. Additional insulation for attics is justified with the phrase, "heat rises". Heat does rise, but heat will move in all directions where there is cold. So if R-whatever is recommended for attics, it is good for walls too. For retrofits of existing housing, most people would have to do as we did and put up a new interior frame 5.5" inside of the existing exterior walls, to create a second wall cavity for insulation. (We are using cellulose.)
Another thing that's helped is extensive caulking and using foam to seal off air leaks. We thought we were in good shape with that, we've been using caulk for several years, but since beginning this Extreme Green Makeover we have used 3 cases of caulk (30 tubes per case) and a dozen cans of foam. We'll use another four cans of foam before we finish the attic. We hadn't done any attic caulking, and after reading up on the subject, I realized our seemingly solid ceiling was actually a sieve leaking heat upwards through all kinds of places that I hadn't even thought about. A good resource is Insulate and Weatherize, by Bruce Harley, part of the Build it Like a Pro series from Taunton Press, possibly available at your local library, http://www.taunton.com/store/pages/070649.asp or by inter-library loan.)
Thus it comes to pass that we haven't used one BTU of natural gas or electricity for heat this year thus far and we don't anticipate using any for the rest of the winter. In fact, we don't have natural gas service anymore, and even though we are cooking with electricity, our most recent electrical bill was the smallest kilowatt hour usage since we came to this place. Long time readers of my columns will know how I feel about Oklahoma Natural Gas company, newcomers can check out these pages at Justpeace: http://www.justpeace.org/ongletters.htm and http://www.justpeace.org/ongupdate.htm . So I am very thankful tonight that I was able to tell them "good riddance and come get your meter".
We have many things to be thankful for here at NW 21st and McKinley, but that can't be said for everybody tonight, and so that has to put a certain coloration on the emotions of the day for all who love justice and strive to practice mercy. I bet the thousands of GM workers who are losing their jobs are having a more somber holiday. And then there are the hundreds of millions of people out there who will go to bed hungry tonight; there are too many throughout the world who are at risk of war and violence. Before morning comes they may be forced to drink of a bitter and sorrowful cup.
Last Sunday, Fr. Bird at Epiphany Church asked us to remember the song from the musical Camelot, "I wonder what the king is doing tonight." He said, I'll tell you what the King is doing tonight, he is dying of starvation in the Sudan. He is wandering homeless and hungry and experiencing abuse and abandonment. He is born under a viaduct, with a chill wind blowing, and lays his head to rest on a mattress of newspapers and trash bags. He is an illegal immigrant being cheated of his wages and a factory worker who has just lost his job. He is the one who comes to us in distressing disguises, and at inconvenient times.
As I write this, I am struck by the word "inconvenient", because it is so true. There is never a convenient time for the poor to come before us and claim our help and mercy and justice. We are all busy, we are all doing stuff that is important to us, and very few of us write in on our day planners "Help a poor person at 3 PM". So any time the poor come to us, it forces us to break from our normal daily bidness. And if we don't break from our normal daily bidness to hear the cry of the poor, then we are in danger of becoming like Pharaoh of old -- men and women with hard, stone cold hearts and ears that are deaf to anything other than the special pleadings and sour singings of those who feed our lusts and gluttonies and greeds. From this grave evil, good Lord deliver us we pray.
Jesus calls us for help all the time, and one thing I am grateful for is all of the work, energy, creativity, and resources that came together this month to answer His holy call for help. Between St. Charles parish and Catholic Worker volunteers this month, a total of 16,795 pounds of food was delivered to 397 households, serving 1229 people (697 adults, 532 children). This brings the total amount of food delivered in this year of grace 2005 to 81,837 pounds, 2638 deliveries involving 6,384 people(4015 adults, 2369 children).
May God bless us this night with a full and complete thanksgiving that flows from hearts that are open and anxious to hear the cry of the poor and then to respond with mercy and a willingness to walk the little way of justice and peace into the future, whatever it may bring.
Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House in Oklahoma City
PS . Here's some Catholic trivia. Thanksgiving is often associated with the rather stern Protestant Pilgrims of Massachusetts. But actually, the first Thanksgiving in the Americas predates the Pilgrims by 55 years, and it was a Catholic feast, in St. Augustine. Following a Mass of Thanksgiving, a communal meal was shared between the Spanish and the Native Americans of the area. The menu that day likely included cocido,a stew made from salted pork and garbanzo beans laced with garlic seasoning, hard sea biscuits, and red wine. wild turkey, venison, gopher-tortoise, mullet, corn, beans, and squash.
November 22, 2005
We at the Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House share in solidarity the grief and concern y'all are experiencing now because of the announced shut-down of the General Motors plant where your members work. We promise to do whatever we can to help you in this time of economic catastrophe.
Grave times should be met with nothing less than boldness and courage in the face of adversity. When I read the newspaper, I see politicians and business leaders talk about enticing another industry to come here and take over the GM plant. We Catholic Workers wish to say to you that we think a better idea would be for the workers at the GM plant to organize a worker-owned cooperative to take over the plant and manufacture a new line of fuel efficient vehicles designed to meet the realities of the 21st century marketplace.
There can be no doubt that considerable assistance in such an endeavor would be forthcoming from local and state government, and you can count on the solidarity and assistance of the people of Oklahoma too. Bonds to provide financing could be sold directly to the public. There could be a variable interest rate on the bonds depending on the financial performance of the cooperative. Tax concessions would likely be forthcoming from government and maybe even some actual cash to help buy the plant. Oklahoma City has provided capital and benefits for many other industries that opened or relocated here. The workers would be more secure in their jobs -- worker-owned jobs are not exported to foreign countries. A strong negotiating team may be able to get the plant from GM under very favorable terms.
In Europe, there is considerable precedent for worker-owned cooperatives operating large industrial enterprises. The Mondragon cooperatives of Spain have tens of thousands of worker owners in more than 100 different enterprises, doing everything from manufacturing heavy industrial machinery to selling newspapers in street kiosks. Since the world-wide cooperative movement believes in and practices solidarity, you could expect considerable technical expertise from European sources in the organization phase.
The labor movement in this country went through hell to build a more secure economic future for American workers. Now is the time for a logical next step in that on-going crusade for workers' rights -- actual ownership of the enterprise by the workers.
Please consider this as a bold step to preserve your members' economic future. You can count on us for support, I am also president of the Oklahoma Food Cooperative, and am more than willing and able to help you connect with the world-wide cooperative movement for assistance and technical advice. We are members of the National Cooperative Business Association, and they have programs to help workers organize cooperatives. In this time of need, you do not stand alone.
Be assured also of our constant and continuous prayers for your members and their families.
Your brother in solidarity,
A PRAYER TO ST. JOSEPH THE WORKER ON BEHALF OF THE GENERAL MOTORS EMPLOYEES AND THEIR FAMILIES
the city, once so full of people,
Mother of God,
August 22, 2005
If you are wondering why there has been so little email from us lately, well, we have embarked on an "extreme green makeover" of our house. Roof, electricity, plumbing, doors, windows, insulation, chimney, kitchen, plus converting our utility room into a passive solar sunspace/heat collector/greenhouse and putting a solar hot water heater on the roof. And also a series of minor repairs (tuckpointing some brick where the mortar is deteriorating, closing up the drafty holes where the floor furnaces used to be, installing soffit vents under the eaves to help ventilate the attic, and doing a bit of repair to those eaves).
Right now everything is pretty much a wreck. We moved a lot of stuff out into the food pantry house next door, gutted the kitchen, I can hardly find anything (I am washing the same 3 shirts and 1 pair of pants and 1 pair of shorts every couple of days because the rest of the clothes are buried somewhere. Hopefully I'll find them when we're finished. Fortunately, washing them is easy because I picked up a "Wonder Clean" hand washer, which does a really good job.
We are doing a lot of work ourselves, Marcus and friends are doing the roof, we've had to look for contractors for re-wiring, the chimney, the windows, and the plumbing. A good friend Tom Temple is helping design the solar sunspace. The utility room has a 120 sq ft wall that faces south and gets good sun in the winter, but is nicely shaded in the summer. We will be putting about 106 sq ft (at least) of glass into that wall, Tom who does this sort of thing for a living is making sure we don't collapse the south end of the house as part of the project. Another solar designer, who lives in Colorado, has calculated that with our size house, our climate, and the amount of insulation we are installing, we should be able to get most of our winter heat from the sun with at least 106 sq ft of windows. It will be a bit of an experiment as it is one thing to have the heat in the sunspace and another thing to move it through the house. We figure we will need to put some vents in at various places, but we will see how that develops as winter comes on.
Plumbing includes re-doing the bathrooms -- one of the things people always complain about here are how scary our bathrooms are. Hehehe, well, wait until we install a COMPOSTING TOILET!!!!!!!!! Actually, one bathroom does have a big hole in the floor. So we're replacing that floor. That's the bathroom that will get the composting toilet. To keep the code folks happy we will put a flush toilet in the other bathroom.
Regarding insulation, we are installing about R-33 in the walls and R 50 in the attic. To get that much insulation in the walls has required that we build a new frame around the inside of the exterior walls. We will fill the cavities in the existing walls with cellulose insulation, then put up sheetrock and fill the new cavities.
Right now we are waiting for the electricians to finish doing their thing. Our wiring is original to our 1929 era house, and we are glad to be able to update it. Sean has finished building the new interior frame, so they are installing the new wiring to that. We've put in four new doors, nicely weatherstripped and sealed. One can of foam per door frame, generally, to seal all the air leaks. Tomorrow we are going to put on storm doors (they have screens and the glass opens, so we can use the doors as ventilation openings in the summer, since we don't use air conditioning, ventilation is really important) and if it isn't raining we'll do the soffit vents. We've already done most of the repair to the eaves. The windows are supposed to be here later this month, the plumber is coming tomorrow to look at everything and develop a plan. I found a great deal on a used solar water heater, it is sitting out back waiting for the roof to get finished. The roof should be done next week. The new chimney liner has been installed, so we can use our wood stove for backup heat. The contractor extended the height of the chimney by leaving a couple of extra feet of liner up top, we need to brick around it (we'll use brick we remove from the utility room/sunspace wall for that). We are also thinking about using the rest of the brick on the floor in the kitchen.
We've got a door roughed out between the kitchen and the new utility room (a former bedroom turned storage space), figured out where to move the stove in the kitchen (our kitchen used to be two kitchens in this duplex, and the stove was right in the middle which was where the natural gas pipeline was), and where to put the refrigerator. Our refrigerator, btw, will be as unconventional as everything else around here. We are converting a chest freezer to run as a refrigerator, using an external thermostat with a sensor wire that runs into the chest to keep the unit at refrigerator temps rather than freezer temps. This creates a super efficient refrigerator at a fraction of the cost of new super efficient fridges.
We have intensely studied the issue of retrofitting older existing dwellings to be more energy efficient for going on five years now and have discussed ideas endlessly in many online forums. Many many people have contributed ideas and expertise and it will be interesting to see how all this works together. One little spinoff is that we seem to have come up with a design for a low thermal mass passive solar heater that can be made out of rolls of plastic, 2 x 4 lumber, and shade cloth, it could be installed on a southern exposure of any dwelling, as long as it encloses a window or a door that can open and let the heat into the house. As if there weren't enough things to do around here, I am thinking we should start a project to build some of these for people this fall, also of course write up the instructions on how to do it and publish it extensively, both online and here at home. It really is as simple as building a box out of 2 x 4s and enclosing it with rolls of plastic, and then hanging the dark colored shade cloth close to the house wall. In this climate, depending on the size we are able to make these, people can get a useful amount of heat out of it, and with the prices we are expecting for natural gas this winter, the poor will need all the extra heat they can get.
Which leads me to some thoughts about why we are doing this project. We have prayed a lot to St. Joseph about this, and over the last year the importance of completing all the "grand plans" has weighed increasingly heavy on me, so much so that I actually went out and borrowed money to do this. Even though we are doing a lot of work ourselves, and have tried to scrounge materials wherever possible, and have shopped wisely (or tried to anyway) for what we needed to buy, it all adds up. But I think its worth it, because while you can talk about retrofitting older buildings to take advantage of solar heating in the winter, nobody really believes you until you actually do it and prove its advantages.
Mother Teresa said that the rich should take less, so that there would be more for the poor. One thing that the rich (which includes most Americans) should really take less of is energy. With less than 6% of the world's population, we Americans use 25 % of the world's oil production. And as everyone has noticed, the price of gasoline and natural gas is climbing, fast. The more energy people use, the more competition there is for energy resources, the higher the price, the more oppressive the situation is for the poor. More economic oppression for the poor will inevitably bring more abortions, more family dissolution, more violence against women and children, more juvenile delinquency and gang involvement, more despair and alienation.
Most of us hardly even think about the amount of energy we use. Very few of us could tell us, e.g., how many kilowatt hours of electricity, dekatherms of natural gas, or gallons of gasoline we use in a month. What we are trying to do, with this "extreme green makeover" of the property over which we hold stewardship, is to be responsible stewards of the goods of this earth, to use less fossil fuel energy, so that there will be more for others. Why pay big bucks to a giant corporation like Oklahoma Natural Gas, which is not a very good corporation anyway, when with some judicious improvements to our existing dwelling, the sun will do most of the heating for us? There are two aspects to the judicious improving: super-insulation, so that we keep the warmth inside, and then, opening up a southern exposure so that enough BTUs will enter the house via sunlight to keep us at a comfortable temperature. It's not rocket science, but it is science, and if we do our homework, this will work, and it will work year after year, as long as the sun shines and this dwelling remains intact, thanks be to God for the natural laws he established that govern such things. And if we use less natural gas, there will be more left for the poor.
Thus far we are grateful to God that the work has gone well, no ugly problems have surfaced, and amazingly we are within $500 of being on budget. Some things are turning out to be more expensive than we projected, but other things are turning out to be less expensive, so that's working out thus far. We have been lighting candles before St. Joseph for this, and we invite others to join us in prayer to St. Joseph for his help in seeing this through to its completion.
This is a real time of building for us. Besides our work here, the work proceeds apace to finish the Dorothy Day Center at St Charles Borromeo parish, which will be the new location of our food pantry. We have done all of our food security work right here from 1999 when we got started until the present, but now that we are distributing two to three tons of food every month, well, we just need a bigger place. I couldn't even imagine distributing one ton of food six years ago, much less two, but now we do that every month. Fortunately, Marcus Evans had a vision of this, and raised the money and is bringing the building project through to its completion. I am thinking there will be a grand opening sometime in Oct or Nov, although I think we will be using the building to do our September deliveries.
And about those deliveries, I have to report that the need continues to increase. It is a constant chase, our resources and the calls for food assistance. Finding a place under the Regional Food Bank umbrella has been a great blessing, but here's some news about that. The food bank folks tell us that all across the country, the governments commodity foods program, which supplies food security organizations throughout the country, is working at 100% capacity and cannot at this time produce any more food. Thus, they can't increase our allocation without taking food away from somebody else, and that's not something we would want to happen. Everywhere the lines at food pantries are growing longer.
We hear a lot of stoopid foolish nonsense in the media about how the economy isn't being hurt by high energy prices, and maybe that is true for the people who shop at Neiman Marcus, but it isn't true for the people who shop at Dollar General. The poor, the working poor, the working class, all are being heavily impacted by the increase in energy prices. And of course, the problem of energy prices is not going to get better, it will only get worse in coming months and years. As the prices rise, the middle class is also going to be feeling the squeeze. There is no solution other than to use less fossil fuel energy, and the longer people wait, the more expensive their own personal household transition is going to be. From last year to this year, the price of cellulose insulation in Oklahoma City increased by about 20%. It will be more expensive next year.
As Christians, it is our responsibility to NOT plunder the planet so that we can prowl the world in expensive cars and build foolishly designed houses that waste energy like it was cheap or something. We should not make the poor think that killing their children with abortion is their best choice, just so that we can be gluttons and live high on the hog without any thought of the consequences of our actions. We should be leaders, the first to step forward and be the change we want to see. When people look at us, do they see the light of Christ? Or is their vision so obscured by the fumes of toxic smoke rising from our houses and automobiles, their sight so blinded by the piles of bling bling and useless stuff we accumulate and think are so very important, that all they see when they look our way is another heathen, worshiping the demonic gods of Money and Gluttony? Are we the light of the world, or the toxic trash dump of the world? Every day we announce our answer to this by the choices we make.
And those choices have consequences, far beyond our ability to foresee them. For good or for evil, we should never forget this.
May God give us the wisdom to choose light and life, rather than money and gluttony. Amen.
Robert Waldrop, Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House
1524 NW 21, Oklahoma City, OK 73106
405-557-0436 (help line)
I could hardly believe my ears when while making peach jam this morning. Major unions are leaving the AFL-CIO and starting a new labor federation that will FOCUS ON ORGANIZING WORKERS!!!!!!!!!!!!
This is amazing and joyful news. It is the best news in a long time for the American labor movement and those of us who long for a labor movement that will make organizing workers its primary priority. We need an economy of solidarity, justice, and participation, and the Democratic Party is not going to give that to us. (Neither are the Republicans of course, but that's another essay.) The labor movement is way overdue for a return to its original principles of solidarity and aggressive organizing movements. Indeed, the labor movement in the United States is on the verge of political irrelevance. It has focused on defending what it has now and put all its eggs in the Democratic Party basket. Organizing new workers, especially low income workers, has not been high on its list of priorities. Having abandoned the essentials of solidarity, and made a Faustian bargain with the culture of death, nobody should be surprised at the steady decline of organized labor.
Consider the unions comprising the new coalition: the Service Employees, UNITE, the Laborers, the Farmworkers, Food and Commercial Workers, the Teamsters and the Carpenters. They represent laborers, garment workers, hospitality industry workers, farm workers. This is a message the rest of the labor movement needs to listen to, but alas, the response of the AFL CIO leadership has been very disappointing. Thus far I haven't heard anything but petty personal ad hominem attacks, negative insinuations, guilt by association. No examination of conscience, no understanding that they have driven these workers from the AFL CIO
I have told this story before, but I will tell it again. In the 1980s, I worked for a mortgage company, in a low paid clerical job. I got a bright idea, "We need a union!" So I picked up the Salt Lake City yellow pages (where I was living at the time), and started calling unions, and I could not find one union interested in organizing our work place! NOT ONE! They said, "It wouldn't be cost effective." I said, "COST EFFECTIVE? WHAT DOES THAT HAVE TO DO WITH IT?" Well, everything it seems. It's not as if Utah was a bastion of organized labor, I would have thought they would have been glad to have every organized work place that they could. And then there is that little value called "solidarity" and I am just not sure how much "cost effectiveness" has to do with solidarity.
The dissenting unions had a simple message today. "We are tired of throwing money at politicians and short-changing our organizing campaigns." Organized labor would be better off giving NOTHING to the corrupt and wicked politicians in Washington DC (in both major parties) and putting every penny they have into organizing campaigns.
The birth of every new baby is a wondrous event. Here is a prayer I have written to St. Joseph for this "American Labor Nativity." Let us all pray it often as we work to create an economy of solidarity, justice, and participation.
We give praise
and thanks to God at this birth of the Change to Win
walk with these workers this day.
We ask this
prayer, trusting in your generous loving-kindness,
July 15, 2005 | Taking the bus to work.
I had fun Thursday..
Do you begin to see what was wrong with this picture?
"My name is Robert, and I am addicted to gasoline."
My name is Robert, and I am addicted to gasoline.
The fear which I had literally been experiencing,
that sinking filling in my gut, was gone.
My name is Robert, and I am addicted to gasoline.
I was excited about the challenge of living in
Oklahoma City without a gasoline vehicle.
for those activities where it makes sense,
like hauling 5,000 pounds of food..
It is interesting the way that the Lord leads us. I can
see all kinds of new doors opening up. My name is Robert,
and I am still addicted to gasoline, but I am
trying to "dry out". Everybody is going to have to do this
eventually, those who start now will find there are many
benefits to being ahead of the crowd.. Thanks
be to God for his great mercy to us.
CONSTRUCTION BEGINS ON
THE DOROTHY DAY CENTER AT ST. CHARLES PARISH!
Depraved United States Supreme Court Declares Open Season on Poor and Working Class Neighborhoods.
There was very grave news today from the United States Supreme Court.
In a decision as unjust as the Dred Scott decision which depersonalized African Americans, the United States Supreme Court has ruled that governments can take property in poor and working class neighborhoods for any reason whatsoever. The Constitution says that property may be taken for "public use", but the activist judges of Supreme Court, has now said that governments can take private property "for any reason whatsoever", including to benefit private businesses and corporations.
I have written extensively here and elsewhere about the injustice of "redevelopment agencies" and the taking of lands from the poor and working class and giving them over to the uses, enjoyment, and profit of those who are not poor and working class.
Oklahoma City destroyed its historic African American business district and residential area. They paid the owners pennies on the dollar for the value of their homes -- and the compliant local courts obediently declared the pitiful prices the city paid to be "just compensation". I spoke with one woman who has been forced to move 3 different times by Oklahoma City, and each time she ended up deeper in debt. Her original property was owned free of a mortgage.
More recently, Midwest City forced World War II veterans and their widows to sell their houses in a very nice working class neighborhood for cheap prices so they could have another big box store in town. Oklahoma County forced people to move that lived around Tinker Air Force Base to increase the "buffer zone". And of course, the I-40 Crosstown Freeway construction is finishing the destruction of the Walnut Grove neighborhood and will take part of the historic Riverside neighborhood.
Here in Oklahoma City, thousands of units of low income housing have been destroyed by various urban renewal scams.. As a result, the lowest tier of rents are much higher than they would have been otherwise. Government has used the power of eminent domain to give a financial advantage to landlords, and to financially punish the working poor. Increasing the financial stress of the poor inevitably leads to increased abortions. These actions by governments are wicked, evil, and unjust and all who promote them and profit from them share in the guilt of these often racially motivated "due process riots" that destroy entire neighborhoods.
In the nation as a whole, millions of units of low income housing have been destroyed by such pogroms. If terrorists had attacked our cities in this manner, we would all be up in arms, yet those who are not impacted by these due process riots are often silent. All of this destruction has happened and as far as I know, the United States Catholic Bishops have never had anything to say about it at all! God only knows how many unborn children have been slaughtered by abortion due to the economic and personal stress such dislocations inevitably bring in their wake. It's not as if there is any mystery about what happens when you destroy neighborhoods. This has been studied and reported on often, but people don't care because they think it won't happen to them. They are drugged into silence by the culture of death.
One of these days this nation is going to really need solidarity, but in that time of our great need, I am afraid it will not be there, because far too many of us are so selfishly wrapped up with our own individual lives that we could care less about what our local government does as long as it doesn't impact our individual neighborhoods.
"Those who shut their ears to the cry of the poor will themselves also call and not be heard."
Robert Waldrop, on the Vigil of the Nativity of John the Baptist
Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House, Oklahoma City
Eternal rest grant to your servant John Paul the Great, the Pope, who this day is buried in Rome.
May his soul, and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God rest in peace.
Lord God of Love and Mercy,
Give grace and strength to those of us who remain behind,
that we may follow the way of justice, peace, and holiness
which he so clearly and lovingly taught us.
Give us faith, hope and love.
Fill us with justice, temperance, fortitude, and prudence.
Teach us the necessity of solidarity.
Help us to practice the works of justice, mercy, and peace.
Fulfill the promise of the Song of Mary.
Cast down the oppressors from their thrones.
Lift up the lowly.
Fill the hungry with good things.
Send the rich who shut their ears and hearts to the cry of the poor away empty.
Come now to the aid of your servant Israel,.
Bless your Church that we may do your will on Earth, as it is in heaven.
Mary, Mother of God, our Most Holy Queen in Heaven,
comfort all of us in this time of our great loss.
Intercede for us before God that we may receive grace to face the times which are to come.
May we remain ever faithful to the Gospel of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior..
Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with Thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is
the fruit of thy womb Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death, Amen!
St. Joseph, hope of the helpless, comfort the sorrowful and strengthen the Church.
O Christ our God, Lord of Glory,
who gave us joy and blessing from your Mother's womb,
have mercy on us and save us.
John Paul the Great, ora pro nobis!
That first Palm Sunday must have been exhilarating. Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna to the king. Yet, only a few days later, the crowds were chanting, "Crucify Him, Crucify Him, Crucify Him!" The liturgy of Palm Sunday, it seems to me, reflects that contradiction. We begin with a procession of palms and glorious singing. Yet, when we stand to hear the Gospel, it is a story of betrayal and death and terrible horror.
It seems to me that this still goes on today. On one hand, we sing Hosanna to the King, but on the other hand, we shout "Crucify Him" with all the energy of the mob in front of Pilate's palace. It was our sin that put Christ on the Cross. Lent of course is a time where we reflect on our sin, but in an age where therapy is the answer to everything, it is all too easy to make excuses for our sin. This happens to me all the time. I find it very easy to justify my own sins. But along comes something like the Passion narratives of the Gospels, and the power of those words has the ability to strip aside my rationalizations and defenses and bring me face to face with Truth. I am such a hard case I think that is why God arranged things so that my "day job" would be director of music in a Catholic Church. Thus, I heard the Passion Gospel four times this weekend, as my duties required my attendance at all the masses this weekend. The first time, Saturday evening, I didn't really hear it. I was busy fussing with the St. Joseph's Table in the gathering space. The second time, at 8 AM, I heard a little bit of it, but I needed a piece of music and it wasn't where it was supposed to be, so I managed to avoid most of it the Gospel. The third time, at 10 AM, I was distracted by thinking about the choir anthem which would come later in the mass at the offertory. Finally, at the 12:30 Mass, I had no more excuses, I had to just listen. Why do I have to hear this? It is not hard for me to entertain this thought. I know this story already, I know how the story ends and the details in between. I have truly heard it a thousand times - one way or another - in my life.
But that is part of the point about liturgy. We hear things that we need to hear, when we think we don't need to hear them.
Another reason for thinking "what's the point?" is that so many people do NOT listen. They are fine with crucifying Christ. Doesn't bother them at all. Their hearts have grown cold and hard, they shut their ears to the cry of the poor and indeed tell enormous lies and slanders against them.
But I am not responsible for them. I am responsible for me. If I use them as an excuse for shutting my own ears to the plain language of the Gospel, well, I am no better than they.
This Holy Week has special meaning for many of us, because on Thursday, March 24th, we observe the 25th anniversary of the martyrdom of Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador. Here was a man whose heart was cold, but by the power of grace and the witness of the poor, he opened his eyes and ears and heart to the cry of the poor, and like Christ, willingly embraced the Cross which was placed before him, for the sake of his people and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I could certainly write a better ending to his story. He is martyred, and because of the power of his witness, the Salvadoran government repents of its iniquity and enacts justice. That of course isn't what happened. Romero was murdered and then the murders continued, intensified, and tens of thousands of innocent human beings were murdered with arms and money and encouragement provided by the United States Government. Yet, his story is far from his end. He is truly resurrected in the Salvadoran people. We see him in their hope, in their witness, in their refusal to accept oppression. Romero, as a martyr, is a powerful intercessor against all the demonic powers of evil which prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.
Across the world, many events have been scheduled to observe this event. On Thursday morning, we will share a Morning Prayer in Remembrance of Romero's Martyrdom in the chapel at Resurrection Cemetery here in Oklahoma City at 9 AM. And on April 16th, we will celebrate a Mass in his memory at Epiphany Church, and serve a banquet to the poor that we deliver groceries to each month. But more important than these liturgies is how we incarnate the message of Romero in our own lives. We who live in rich and powerful countries must understand that it is not enough to give pious lip service to the memory of Romero. As Romero himself said, "a religion of Sunday mass but unjust weeks does not please the Lord." The way we live our lives, the choices we make about lifestyle and economics, may in fact be deadly to the poor. Mother Teresa said that the rich should take less, so that others can have more, but all too often we willingly choose to take more, and we don't care if others have less. As with me and my ability to evade listening to the Passion Gospel, we can be very clever in our justifications and excuses, but the Cross of Christ and the Cross of Romero both call us to account for our material cooperation with evil.
So we begin our journey into the mysteries of Holy Week. No Greater Love, Morning Prayer in Remembrance of the Martyrdom of Romero.
More Romero information can be found in the Lent 2005 edition of the Oklahoma City Catholic Worker newspaper .
Blessing of a St. Joseph's Table
Bless this food,
We had overnight guests last night, 18 folks from the Newman Center at Northwest Missouri State College in Marysville. They were en route to San Antonio where they will spend Holy Week working on a Habitat for Humanity project. They contacted us earlier about spending the night, and they still wanted to visit even after I explained that we had 2 dogs, 4 cats, eccentric plumbing, and a casual attitude about housekeeping. So we moved all the furniture out of the living room and sure enough there was room for all 18 to roll out their bedrolls. I fixed breakfast for them, sausage and eggs from certified organic Oklahoma farms bought through the Oklahoma Food Cooperative. I had cooked for the Friday Lenten Meal at Epiphany parish (vegetarian spaghetti and homemade hot rolls), and there were some leftover rolls, plus Oklahoma-made jams from the same farm the pastured pork sausage came from. They had a long day of driving ahead of them, so I gave them a quick tour of our gardens and we prayed together and they went on their way.
About 5 AM, while we all soundly slept, Marcus Evans delivered a trailer loaded with 5500 pounds of food from the Regional Food Bank. The trailer belongs to our Catholic Worker house, we bought it this month. It was built by a craftsman in Nicoma Park, on the far eastern side of the Oklahoma City metropolitan area. It is a flatbed trailer with stake pockets for side boards, about 18 feet long and 6 feet wide, four wheels. Nearly all of it was paid for with special donations. We are very grateful to our benefactors because this simplifies our delivery process enormously.. It is painted a nice "Our Lady of Fatima" blue, the bed is made of untreated wood (we will use it mostly to haul food).
Marcus Evans (who with his family is a member of our CW community) and his fellow firefighters at his station on NW 23rd built nice 24 inch sideboards for the trailer, and put a coat of linseed oil on the bed and the sideboards. I am not sure where those materials came from, but I know we didn't have to buy them. Their work was to a very high standard of craftsmanship. THANKS MARCUS AND YOUR FELLOW FIRE FIGHTERS!
So anyway when we got up this morning, there it was, sitting in the driveway. 5500 pounds of food. Quite a "St. Joseph's Table", if you ask me. Many of the "usual suspects" showed up to help turn this pile of food into grocery deliveries. Lance and Ashley Schmitz brought a crew from the Nazarene Church. We didn't have quite as many as we have been having, as many people are out of town due to spring break in the local school system. This month the bags had pasta, beans, rice, canned fruit, corn, green beans, rolled oats, powdered milk, walnuts, dried figs, pudding, peanut butter, boxed mac and cheese, spaghetti sauce, "garlic biscuit mix" and some miscellaneous canned goods. Larger families received 2 or 3 bags, which also had cereal, jam or syrup, oranges, and more miscellaneous canned and boxed foods. Some things we have enough for everybody, and then there is the "miscellaneous food" we receive in donations from individuals. Besides the food bank supplies, we also distributed several hundred pounds of other donated food.
I always think of St. Joseph as a practical, no-nonsense sort of guy, who was willing to do the right thing even if people talked. Nazareth was a small town, people could hardly have not noticed that Mary was pregnant and even so Joseph was willing to become her husband. People must have talked, gossiped, pointed fingers, made hasty judgments. Even so, he did what God asked him to do, his response was the same as Mary's, "be it done unto me according to Thy will." How foreign this is in the arrogance of modern life. Responsibility, duty, how quaint these concepts have become. We have new values these days, power, lust, greed and with them we build the structures of the culture of death. Joseph, however, being a carpenter, gives us tools and help by his intercession to build the structures of the culture of life. I brought a pickup load of food home from the St. Joseph's Table at Epiphany Church, several hundred pounds. It might be asked, "Well, if you are getting the food from the food bank, why do you still ask people to donate food? Wouldn't it be more practical to ask them for money?" The answer to that is simple. Every bit of food placed at that St. Joseph Table was given by a person who took the time to think about what to buy. And looking over the choices of the parishioners, it seems to me they did pretty good.
The Catholic Worker movement is not about efficiency or agencies, it is about personal involvement with the poor. It is about helping us all to understand our personal responsibilities towards the poor and creating structures to help people to do this, to make it easy for them to do the right thing. As Peter Maurin said, we want to build a society where it is easier to be good.
This is the example that St. Joseph places before us, and why he is so important to the Catholic Worker movement and to the entire cause of the poor.
earth groans with the sufferings of the people of Iraq.
Soon they will
elect those who will serve in their government.
Disciple of the Lord,
we pray for in the name of the Christ
Do you hear the angels speaking to you tonight? The vigil of Gaudete Sunday, December 18, 2004
It was an early morning today. Six AM, so we could be at the U-Haul place at 7 AM to get a day rental truck. We had 161 food deliveries to the poor to do today, and this was our first monthly food distribution as part of the Regional Food Bank system. So we needed a truck, we had a ton of food to move, I got the 14 ft. model.
We got to St. Charles parish and there were people there waiting for us. Lance Schmitz and his wife (I missed her cello recital last night, <sniff>, as I was making up the route lists for today's delivery, two members of the theological faculty at Southern Nazarene (Lance is a real organizer), Marcus Evans, Sean and I. We prayed and thanked God for this opportunity and then got the truck loaded in no time with all kinds of food, powdered milk, beans, rice, apple sauce, orange juice, cases of miscellaneous "meal helpers", peanut butter, spaghetti sauce, a ton of food, literally. The back of my pickup was filled with boxes of stuffing and cases of mushroom soup which I got at discount stores (they weren't available from the food bank), 210 loaves of bread donated by a certain friend who donates bread every month, and several bags of candy cans and chocolate Christmas candy.. 200 Better Times were in the front seat. I had the delivery routes sorted geographically and typed for the volunteers. We were set. (Many thanks to Marcus Evans who kept the Regional Food Bank initiative going and pushed it right through to a successful beginning.) Well, not quite. We decided we needed more flour, so I gave Lance a hundred dollars and sent him to Buy for Less. The people there asked him as he was loading up the flour, "Are you with that big guy with the beard who comes in here and buys everything in the store?" He said yes, hehehe.
We got to the house and started setting out our bags. We set up 220 bags, with 161 "primary bags" that got at least one of everything, and the other 59 "miscellaneous" bags. The additional bags were for larger households, depending on the size of the family, folks got one, two, or three bags.
Everybody got powdered milk, beans, rice, apple sauce or orange juice or peaches, several "meal helper" boxes, peanut butter, spaghetti sauce, pasta, mushroom soup, boxed stuffing mix, bread, apples, canned corn, several miscellaneous cans ("food lottery"), canned pumpkin, carrots, potatoes, celery, onions, toiletries, sugar, candy canes, chocolate Christmas candy, ramen noodle packages, and most also got flour.. In case you're curious or you need to know the answer (perhaps this will be a Final Jeopardy question), there are about 500 large carrots in 200 lbs of carrots. We also had 100 1 lb packages of grass fed beef hamburger donated by members of the Oklahoma Food Cooperative. We had ten complete turkey dinners from Epiphany parish, and St. Charles parish took 14 names from us and Marcus did those with supplies from St. Charles, so actual total deliveries for the day was 175, with about 404 people all together And each bag had a copy of the 5th edition of the Better Times Almanac. Marcus had a long day too, all of his list were families and St. Charles had gotten gifts for the kids and he had so much stuff he could only take two at a time and then had to go back to St. Charles and re-load. After today I am thinking we need a couple of trailers to go with our pickups. One more thing to talk to St. Joseph about.
A JustFaith group from the Church of the Servant, led by Dan Short of the Mustard Seed ministry, helped us and the Nazarenes (Lance and his crew) and also Lou Ann Baty and her daughter from Epiphany parish, turn all this disorganized food into the bags that went out to the homes. Dan btw looks a lot like me, only his beard is white enough to be Santa Claus without the assistance of white hair color spray. He showed up wearing bright RED Santa-style knicker britches with bright white, green, and red knee socks and red suspenders. I went inside and put on my Santa hat, and so it came to pass that we were a regular bunch of jolly old elves this morning. The JustFaith people were great, they fit right in with our anarchistic management style and did what needed to be done. Lance and the Nazarenes are old hands at this now, they could do the whole operation without my assistance. (For those who don't know, we do all this sorting and bagging outside, on the drive-way and where the old garage used to be.)
After we got the pickup unloaded, Sean went back up to Epiphany parish to get the ten turkey dinners. He got back just as we were finishing the sorting/bagging and the volunteers were loading their cars and pickups. Before we went our separate ways, we prayed together, for strength, for the people we would be visiting, for peace, and we dedicated our work today as reparations for the many sins against life of this age. Our route was to do the deliveries at several downtown public housing apartment complexes, plus the people who were getting the ten turkey dinners from Epiphany in addition to the bags we had prepared. This was about 70 altogether, so we took the U-haul and the pickup. We put the turkey dinners in the pickup and then piled bread and bags of veggies on top, the grocery bags went into the back of the U-haul and off we went, ho ho ho.
Just before we left a man stopped by and introduced himself as the pastor of the Assembly of God church which is just up the street 2 blocks from our house. He said, "What is it you people do here? I see you doing this and I was wondering what was going on." We told him, "We deliver food to people in need who don't have transportation to get to a regular food bank" and talked a bit and then he said, "Well, we'd like to help. If it is raining, or if it is really cold, y'all come on down to the church and use our Fellowship Hall to do this." I gave him a Better Times and wrote my phone number on it and will get together with him soon so we can get to know each other better.
We know most of the people we deliver to at these public housing apartments, they are mostly elderly and disabled. Several of them gave us Christmas cards, one of which had a "widow's mite" offering. I feel like placing it in a golden reliquary and placing it on an altar. They come down to the door and some of them are able to take their groceries themselves, and others we help or take it to the door for them. They help each other.
After the four public housing projects, we set off into southeast Oklahoma City to start the turkey dinner deliveries. For my money, I'd say that southeast Oklahoma City is the most economically distressed part of town. Then we went to Walnut Grove, the neighborhood being destroyed by the new I-40 Crosstown freeway project. All of the people we used to visit there are now gone, their houses destroyed, except for Miz Ellis, her sister, her disabled son, and a couple of nephews that live with them in their duplex. They have even started to chop down the trees, the beautiful groves of walnuts. It is so very sad. The silence of the Catholic community about this war on the poor is also sad, more than sad, it is a scandal. So many people think the demands of justice are met when they toss a five dollar bill when the collection plate is passed for the parish St. Vincent de Paul circle. They don't stop to think about evils like the destruction of poor neighborhoods by "urban renewal" and highway projects. Oklahoma Catholics have been silent in the face of every land grab against the poor here in recent memory. They didn't speak out when Midwest City destroyed a beautiful neighborhood populated mostly by World War II widows so they could build a big box store and git them sales tax dollars. We were silent when Oklahoma City University, my alma mater, got its neighborhood declared "blighted" so they could drive down the property values and buy them cheaply for their new bidness school. Those who didn't want to sell were forced to sell by an obliging Oklahoma City government and its eminent domain powers.
My problem is that I just don't understand how people can be so callous. But they are. So I might as well get used to it. NOT! "Those who shut their ears to the cry of the poor will themselves also call and not be heard."
Miz Ellis asked us to pray with her, and so I did.
And so the day went, we rolled back to the house about 3:30, transferred everything that was left to the pickup, and were at the U-haul center about 4: to turn it in, getting back home after five, then we did seven more deliveries that were in this area. We still have 14 to do, mostly up in the direction of Epiphany parish, so I am taking those bags to church and will find people to help do them. Most people don't realize just how much manual labor is involved with helping the poor in this way. Besides the ton of food from the Regional Food Bank, we had a thousand pounds of vegetables, and a bunch of other miscellaneous groceries, call it 3500 pounds. All of that has to be loaded, then unloaded, sorted and packed into the bags, then those bags have to be loaded again, and then unloaded a final time at their destination. If a vehicle change is necessary, they get shifted again in route. And then there's the cleanup. Any idea how many boxes it takes to load up 3500 pounds of food? Answer, a LOT. Some of the food bank stuff came in boxes that we send back to them, and that's good, but there is still a lot of clean-up afterwards.
I got back and decided it was time for dinner. We had had some bacon early in the morning, but it was time for a real meal. The original plan for the day was that the JustFaith folks were going to come back and then we would have a reflection time and lunch, but there was too much work and thus no time for reflecting so we will do that on another occasion. Anyway, last night I mixed up a whole wheat sponge, and as the dough turned out today, I am sure these are my best whole wheat rolls to date. I used the basic sponge recipe I have written about recently, only I also added mashed potatoes and two eggs, which I often do when making white flour dinner rolls. What's funny about this is that I had no time today to knead the bread. I used the mixer on the sponge ingredients last night, then this morning after the bacon breakfast I added the flour, stirred it in, thinking I had enough time to do it before everybody else arrived from St. Charles, but just as I finished stirring it in, everybody arrived and so I just covered it with a towel and went to work. This evening I just rolled out the rolls and let them rise, and they were great. The full recipe is given below. I baked some potatoes, and made ground buffalo with carrots, onions, garlic, and celery in gravy which we poured over the baked potatoes. Oh yes, I added a chipotle habanero pepper and some Italian herbs, which of course changed the whole character of the meal. (The rolls are pretty good cold too, with peanut butter and peach jam.) The chipotle habaneros are very hard to make. They are easy to grow, and we had a bumper crop of them, but smoking them using charcoal and wood chips is a real fine line to walk. We crisped several trays to the point of charcoal, alas. But towards the end of the season we started to get the way of it and have a bunch to keep us "warm" this winter.
So that was my day, tomorrow is the 4th Sunday of Advent, Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday, and we certainly have much to rejoice about. We will hear the reading, "For behold, a Virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel. It is also a reading in which St. Joseph is prominent, and that is always special for us because St. Joseph is so important to us. Mary, a single woman, pregnant, and Joseph knew for a fact that he was not the father. Yet, he trusted God, believing the word that the angel had brought to him, and he kept his faith with Mary and took her as his wife. "He did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him." If only more people would follow his holy example and do what the angels of the Lord are commanding them to do. Sure, it's not hard to notice that we are surrounded by evil, but we are also surrounded by good. There are angels everywhere, offering help and hope to us, and most importantly, bringing the word of God to us. Do you hear the angels speaking to you tonight? If not, "be still and know that God is Lord", and perhaps you will hear the angels God is sending to help you through the trials and tribulations of your life.
BOB'S MUCH IMPROVED BEST YET WHOLE WHEAT ROLL RECIPE
3 cups milk | 2 cups water | 4 tablespoons yeast | ½ cup honey | 3/4 cup olive oil | 1 teaspoon salt | 1 cup mashed potatoes | 2 eggs, beaten | certified organic, stone ground Oklahoma whole wheat flour
Put the water and milk in a bowl, sprinkle yeast, let it set a minute, add the salt, honey, olive oil, mashed potatoes, and 2 eggs. Beat well (I used a mixer), add flour, 1 cup at a time, while mixing, until it is the consistency of a thick pancake batter. Continue mixing it for ten minutes. Cover with a towel, let it set overnight. In the morning, add flour one cup at a time, mixing each thoroughly, until it is a sticky dough.
The next step should be kneading the dough, but if you don't have time to knead it, just let it rise as usual and this dough will come out just fine. Bake at 400 degrees until done, 10-12 minutes depending on your oven.
Today is the 36th anniversary of the death of Thomas Merton, Trappist Monk.
I mention this because Merton was significant in my own journey to Catholicism. His Seven Story Mountain was really the book that started me on that journey. I remember saying to a friend, who was as much of a non-believer as I was in those days, "I want to become a Catholic monk." He replied, "That's good, Bob, but there is a slight problem. You're not Catholic." I replied, 'Yeah, I guess that is a problem."
As it turns out, my not being Catholic was a problem, for me anyway. Fortunately, it was one that I was able to resolve. I didn't become an actual monk with vows, but as it turns out my journey led me into the Catholic Worker movement. I am grateful to God for His many blessings and to our Blessed Mother for the many graces she has sent me over the years, especially those that came to me before I even knew what they were, and also to St. Joseph and St. Michael for watching over me and keeping me from being destroyed by my own foolishness.
I really was, as many others have described it before me, "surprised by joy."
Eternal rest grant to Thomas Merton, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul and all the souls of the faithful departed who have gone before us marked with the sign of Faith, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
O Christ our God, Lord of Glory, who gave us joy and blessing from your Mother's womb, have mercy on us and save us!
to all the Catholic Worker Houses, December 2, 2004,
On December 2, 2004, I sent this letter to all the Catholic Worker Houses. This day was the memorial of the Martyred Churchwomen of El Salvador, Maura Clarke, Ita Ford, Jean Donovan, and Dorothy Kazel. RMW
Dear fellow Catholic Workers,
Enclosed is a copy of the 5th edition of Better Times, our occasional almanac of useful information. We hope you will find it interesting and helpful. If you would like extra copies to distribute in your area, let us know. The information is kind of culturally appropriate for Oklahoma, and those of you elsewhere, especially in the big urban areas, will have to decide if it is appropriate for your area, but if they would be useful to you, please contact us and we will send you some! We printed 4,000 copies of this edition, we hope to give them all away soon and then find the money to reprint many more.
I know these are pretty terrible times out there, but that's what the Catholic Worker movement is here for. I wish we had more opportunities to gather together as Catholic Workers and visit and share. I'm guessing some of you will think this is terrible, but we do maintain an internet discussion group for Catholic Workers and others interested in the movement, it is email@example.com . It is a poor substitute for face to face contact, but it is a way to send letters and carry on long distance conversations and even clarification of thought.
We are very worried about the direction things are going. As we look ahead, and I know that is problematic because each day has enough trouble for itself, we don't see anything getting much better anytime soon, and in fact we think things are going to get a lot worse. Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin used to talk about creating new structures in the midst of the collapsing ruins of the old, and while that is a nice pious phrase, we are thinking these days that the "collapsing ruins of the old" is fast becoming all too real a reality. To stop beating around the bush (no puns intended), I will just say that I am thinking that the day is coming, maybe sooner than we think, when the only food we will have to give away and share will be that which we grow ourselves. Which is problematic of course because we here at our Catholic Worker house don't have a farm, although we have started "picketing St. Joseph" that the Lord will open a way for us to start as many Catholic Worker farms in Oklahoma as possible.
It seems to us that industrial civilization has about run its course. I don't know if you pay much attention to this, but the word on the street is that world oil production is about to peak and then begin a perpetual decline, and natural gas production in North America is already in decline. This may seem like an esoteric thing to write to Catholic Workers about, but the fact is we are all dependent upon fossil fuels. Every calorie of food in our grocery stores, that we give away to the poor, that we serve in our soup kitchens, incorporates as many as a dozen calories of fossil fuels in its production and distribution. You can plot two graphs - world oil production, starting in 1900, and world population, also starting in 1900, and you will find that they follow each other right up the chart. Well, the question is, what happens to population when the oil chart peaks and begins to decline? If we were writing an ecological study of a wild animal population, we would say that if a population exceeds the carrying capacity of a given territory, it will experience "die-off", that is, members of the species will die of starvation, conflict, and disease until such time as the population is reduced to that which can be supported on its territory. We human beings have been an exception to this in the 20th century, because we have used fossil fuels as a way to increase the carrying capacity of our territory.
So we must ask, what happens to carrying capacity as fossil fuel production declines and thus industrial food production declines?
Many of us live in giant megacities. Even Oklahoma City, which is less dense than many urban areas, has a million and a half people within a 60 mile radius. These urban concentrations are possible because of gigantic inputs of fossil fuels. Electricity, natural gas, petroleum make modern technological civilization possible.
What happens to the poor as these fossil fuels get more expensive, and then even more expensive?
Empires rise and then generally they don't just wither away, they collapse, crash, and burn in great violence and chaos. The Soviet Union never seemed so powerful as it did in 1988, a year later it was in collapse, and now more than a decade later, the price of that collapse is evident. Russian demographers calculate that 10 million Russians have died prematurely as a result of the collapse of the old Soviet Union - and it wasn't the rich and the powerful who died, it has been the poor and the marginalized.
I don't know what to say about all this except that we in Oklahoma City are very concerned about the increasing chaos that surrounds us and what this portends for the future. Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin looked ahead and saw a day when the old structures that sustain the culture of death would collapse, and they wrote and worked early in its process. Now we who follow in their charism must contemplate the reality of that collapse, and find our way through it. It looks to us like we face a "perfect storm" - declining energy production, climate change and instability, the dismantling of social structures and safety nets, economic collapse, grave social injustice, increasing wars for resources, and pandemic diseases like AIDS and the flu.
I didn't intend to write this letter. I was just going to write a note saying, "Hi everyone, how are you doing, we are doing fine, pray for us, we'll pray for you, may your Advent and Christmas be blessed, hope you enjoy our nice almanac" you know, the usual stuff that we say to avoid saying what is really on our minds. Instead, I find myself carrying on about the crash and burn of our civilization. Part of me wants to say, "we should be figuring out a way to flee into the mountains and deserts and make a place of safety for the poor", but I am not persuaded that that is the answer. Intellectually I know that if we Americans would use less energy, and embraced a more just and sustainable economic system, then we would be in a better position to find a "prosperous way down" from the high energy level civilization we presently have. But emotionally I know that this just ain't going to happen. It would take a miracle, and to stake our future on a miracle is to "tempt God" and that isn't something we should do. If God is going to provide a rescue for our civilization, it will be through the actions of people like us.
If we as an entire civilization were going to start preparing for the "energy decline future", then twenty years ago was the time to start. World energy production per capita increased throughout the 20th century up until the 1970s, then the rate of increase leveled off considerably, and in 1979, world energy production per capita peaked and began to decline. Thus far the decline has been fairly slight, but that is only because over the last 30 years a lot of oil and natural gas was brought into production and pumped at a very rapid rate. Now, oil corporation propaganda notwithstanding, we aren't finding much oil and gas anymore. With the peak in world oil production, the decline in available energy per person will accelerate. When I look at the world, and see the meltdowns in places like North Korea, Rwanda, and Zimbabwe, the wars for oil resources in the Middle East, the turn towards legalized abortion and euthanasia, I believe I am seeing the early stages of a Malthusian die-off of the human species, signaled by the peak in world energy production per capita in 1979.
I understand that the world could support its present population using sustainable and organic agriculture techniques, but that isn't the way the world of agriculture works. Feeding the world these days depends upon massive inputs of energy in the form of fertilizers, hybridized seeds, genetically modified organisms, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and very long supply chains. These practices are destroying the fertility of our soils and devastating the biological diversity of our heritage varieties of food plants and livestock. Moreover, the ability to support 6 billion people by organic agriculture is entirely dependent upon a world system of social justice, and that is nowhere in sight. More injustice means less carrying capacity, and that is the present situation of the world. The rich are not taking less so that others may have more, the rich are taking more, and so there is less for everybody else.
We Catholic Workers are a pretty independent and autonomous bunch, that's the way we've evolved from the beginning. But we should also remember that cooperation and solidarity are more important than independence and autonomy, and in the times to come, we may need to discern new ways that we can help each other to meet the challenges of these times, and thus perhaps to find a way of rescue and hope for the poor we are called to serve. Very few people will really care about the poor as the times get worse. Few here in the US care about the fact that people are starving in North Korea - which dropped out of the international energy marketplace with the collapse of the old Soviet Union. Now it is estimated that 90% of their farm machinery is useless, rusting away in the fields. There has been a massive shift of labor from urban areas to rural areas, but even so their food production is in rapid decline and as many as 2 or 3 million people may have starved to death there with hardly even a notice in the western press.
Empires always collapse first at their margins, thus we see the problems in places like North Korea, Africa, and etc., but we also see the beginning of the fall right here at home. Everywhere we read that lines at homeless shelters and soup kitchens are longer than ever, but resources have not expanded to meet the need. And it's not just the traditional homeless, it is working people, people with full time jobs, yet they don't earn enough to have a place to live! The government's social safety net is under continued assault, and that assault will only get worse, and the poor will lose that political battle. Historically, when human societies have been under stress, the first to go are the poor, the vulnerable, the marginalized. Throwing people behind for the wolves to devour is a human practice as ancient as our organized societies. The rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting poorer, and this is going to continue until our entire system crashes and burns, which is a destiny as sure and certain as the sun rising in the east and setting in the west. We are going to be seeing a lot of "newly poor" people in the future, people who had middle class incomes but who will lose everything as our economy collapses. Someone is going to have to teach them how to be poor, and that is an apostolate we are all qualified to fulfill.
The message of this Advent rant is that we should all get ready for the collapse of our industrial just-in-time systems of producing and distributing food and energy, because it is coming at us quicker than all of us realize. A local food system is not created overnight, agriculture does not turn on a dime. Thus, I encourage everybody, I plead with everybody, to plant as many fruit trees, berry bushes, and nut trees as you can and to start as many organic gardens and farms as is possible. If you have no property, pester parishes, monasteries, schools, and convents to plant orchards and gardens on their church and religious properties. Picket St. Joseph that many new Catholic Worker farms will be started. Encourage the poor to plant their own fruit trees and berry bushes and claim empty spaces for community gardens. Organize bulk purchases of bare root plants and garden seeds and make them available at cost, learn what programs may exist in your area to get free fruit trees and take advantage of them. We have considerable experience in gardening and permaculture and if you need advice, we are happy to give it. We should all beware of procrastination, because a fruit tree doesn't grow overnight, and in 3 or 4 years as trees planted this winter come into production, we may all be glad for our foresight.
Do not put your trust in the failing systems and structures and politics of the industrialized culture of death agribidness system! Those who do this will end up hungry and starving. Teach the poor you live with, are in solidarity with, that you accompany on the journey of life, the importance of producing as much food as possible. Help people to move out of the cities and into rural areas. "Back to the land" was once heard a lot in Catholic Worker circles, as we find our way into a troubled future, it may once again be a sign of hope for those who otherwise would have no hope, because the systems our cities depend upon for life are failing.
If you are like us, there are so many details to ordinary "Catholic Worker" life that it is sometimes easy to get lost in those details. But every so often, we should take a break from that and check out the big picture, because none of us are islands, we are all connected, and what happens with the big picture out there will have great impact, for good or for ill, on what we do at our houses and neighborhoods.
My point is not to scare people, although in reality there is plenty to be scared about. Yes, we should be concerned, but all of us as Catholic Workers have experience with the precarity involved with poverty, and also with the grace that is involved with being in solidarity with the poor and embracing the suffering Jesus. Dorothy and Peter both seem very close to us these days, the communion of saints is a blessing in troubled times. Thus, whatever we do, we must do it with a spirit and attitude of prayer, a total dependency upon grace, and a willingness to walk whatever road the Lord sets before us.
On the 2nd Sunday of Advent, we will hear these words in the psalm for that celebration:
O God, give your
judgment to the king, to a king's son your justice,
Even so, come Lord Jesus!
According to the traditions of our religion, no Christians perished in the fall of Jerusalem to the Romans in 70 AD because remembering the prophecies of Jesus, they carefully discerned the signs of those times and sought refuge elsewhere as they saw the doom of Jerusalem approaching. May we share in a portion of their wisdom as we face the doom of our own nation.
Your brother in the Lord,
Robert Waldrop, Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House
We've had a day of cooking, eating, visiting with folks, and writing. The morning was a bit brisk, it was cold and the wind was blowing, but as the day went on the temperature warmed up considerably and the wind went down. Lots of leaves still on the trees, my cayenne, jalapeno, and habanero peppers are putting on new fruit. Not bad for November 25th. The local joke is that one of the consequences of global climate change will be that Oklahoma will get a decent climate. The Clear Creek monks there west of Tahlequah ( www.clearcreekmonks.org ) have been heard to say that they were praying that our climate would be "evangelized".
We're grateful for many things on this feast day, but high on the list is the publication of the 5th print edition of the Better Times (Occasional) Almanac of Useful Information, 32 tabloid pages in its print incarnation. It is also available on the internet at http://www.bettertimesinfo.org/2004index.htm .
This occasional almanac bidness began back in 1997, when I was involved with Catholic campus ministry at Oklahoma City University. For the previous twenty years, I had been living mostly in poverty, generally working on various radical libertarian political causes, doing this and that to make a living and getting a lot of practice in the art of living extremely cheaply. I learned all about dumpster diving, and to this day I am amazed at the good food we found in dumpsters. I was living in Salt Lake City at the time, and winters in particular offered a bounty of throw away food. A group of us worked together, we "gleaned" a lot of food from dumpsters for ourselves and distributed it to many others. For a time we provided food for some people who set up a mobile kitchen under the 400 South viaduct at Pioneer Park in Salt Lake City and served breakfast on Sunday mornings. Alas, that effort fell afoul of the Salt Lake County Health Department, acting at the behest of civic planners who wanted to drive the homeless people out of the area so it could be gentrified. They didn't succeed of course, we were in Salt Lake City earlier this fall and there were still homeless people hanging out and sleeping in Pioneer Park. They did of course succeed in making life harder and meaner for these folks living on the margins of that society.
The hardest thing about dumpster diving was getting into the dumpster for the first time. A lot of things go through your mind on such an occasion, but fortunately that passes quickly and you can get on with the bidness at hand, which was "gleaning the fields" of our urban society.
Anyway, in 1994 I went back to school at Oklahoma City University studying music, religion, and philosophy, and began doing a lot of reading in the social justice teachings of the Catholic Church. I decided to try to compile my experiences in living cheaply and as a public service publish a tabloid newspaper, a cookbook and "almanac of useful information", which would be given away free. I managed to raise enough money and got it printed in 1997. I had done a lot of tabloid publishing during my radical libertarian daze and knew that it was a cheap way to get a lot of information to people in a familiar format.
Later that year I moved to Kansas City, Missouri, and was working as director of music at St. Gabriel's parish there, and volunteering with the Holy Family Catholic Worker House, where I met Brother Louis and Susan Lee. The first edition was long gone, and so in 1999 I produced the 2nd edition, a 36 page tabloid, with larger pages, and crammed even more information into it. By this time I had discovered web pages, starting the www.justpeace.org website in December 1997, and adding pages from the 1st and 2nd editions of the Better Times almanac to that website at http://www.justpeace.org/bettertimes.htm , with the www.bettertimesinfo.org website going live in 1999. .
Later that year I moved back to Oklahoma City, got my job as director of music at Epiphany Church, and started the Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House. In 2001, we published the 3rd edition, a four page tabloid focused on energy conservation. Energy prices were spiking then, we predicted they would be continue to go up and sure enough, with the publication of the 5th edition, energy prices are higher than they were 3 years ago. We make the same prediction now. When the 6th edition is published, energy prices will be even more expensive than they are now. People should act accordingly, and invest now in energy conservation improvements to their housing, transportation, and general lifestyle. The third edition got its own website, www.energyconservationinfo.org .
The fourth edition was published in 2002 and was devoted to Oklahoma food. It was short on recipes, but long on access to Oklahoma food producers who sell direct to the public. This also got its own website, www.oklahomafood.org , and out of that effort grew, organically, the Oklahoma Food Cooperative, founded in 2003. Between November 2003 and the publication of this 5th edition, we have sold more than $90,000 of Oklahoma food products, 290 people have joined the cooperative, and we have developed procedures and systems to operate an order delivery service for Oklahoma food products. Our goal is to establish a business that is socially just, economically viable, and environmentally sustainable.
This fifth edition comes into a world that is troubled and in trouble. Global climate changes, environmental devastation, and waves of violence and destruction are sweeping across the earth. The captains and the kings are marching and shouting, people are dying and there doesn't seem to be much prospect of this changing any time soon. Indeed, the velocity and magnitude of the problems seems to be increasing. Into this world situation comes the specter of sharply increasing energy prices, and the certainty of even more extreme price increases on the horizon. Energy prices are being driven by an "irresistible object" (insatiable demand for ever more fossil fuel energy)" running smack dab up against an "immovable object" (the limits - dictated by the geological facts under the ground and our technology - of fossil fuel production). Everyone in China wants a car now, in fact, they want two cars and a garage to put them in.
Meanwhile, world oil production appears to be nearing its all-time production peak, after which it is all downhill, with things going from bad to worse for energy production, and then they will get even worse. North American natural gas is already in decline, and that decline rate appears to be accelerating. All this is the beginning of sorrows, so nobody should be thinking about bidness as usual, but unfortunately that is pretty much where most people are at. Every calorie of food in a supermarket incorporates many calories of fossil fuel in its manufacture and distribution. Food production in the "developed world" is entirely dependent upon high inputs of fossil fuels, chemical fertilizers, and toxic herbicides and pesticides. Soil fertility is declining, agriculture diversity is being eradicated, thousands of heirloom varieties of food crops and heritage breeds of poultry and livestock have gone extinct. The food industry is increasingly consolidated. A supermarket may look like a competitive marketplace, but in reality most of those brands are owned by five companies.
If people are ready to do something practical about this situation, the Better Times Almanac is for them. It is a tool kit that people can use to learn how to live better with less - less stuff, less energy, less money, less aggravation, less trouble, less hassle. It has ideas on how to do more with less - more wisdom, more beauty, more fun, more satisfaction, more resilience, more security, and more sustainability, with less energy use, less money, less pollution, less impact. It is for people who are ready to accept personal responsibility for their lives, and who understand that they must literally be the change they want to see in the world. We got into this situation one bad decision at a time, and we will get out of it the same way - one good decision at a time. If we can't make the best decisions, we can at least begin making better decisions, and failing that, we must make good decisions. We should stop, or limit, the damage we do to the earth's biosphere and our human communities when we make stupid, imprudent, intemperate, gluttonous, and greedy decisions.
One of the tragedies of this time is that there has been an almost complete breakdown in the cultural transmission of important knowledge, sciences, and arts between generations. My grandparents, William Glen and Dovie Irene Waldrop, and John and Opal Marie Cassidy, lived on self-sufficient homesteads on the southwestern Oklahoma prairie along the Red River and lived much of their lives as farmers who grew and preserved a substantial amount of the food their families ate. They worked six days a week, 12 hours a day, and my grandmothers were among the best cooks that Tillman County ever produced. My grandfather Waldrop was an artisan of curing hams and making sausage. We still have the wagon bows from the wagon that brought my great grandfather Waldrop and his wife Mollie and family from Sherman, Texas to Tillman County, Oklahoma territory, but we have lost much of the knowledge they and their daughters and sons possessed. He lived in a mostly solar economy, and so did my grandparents up until rural electrification. My grandmother used to say that one of the regrets of her life was that her mother had died before they got electricity, and thus "she never lived to see how easy it was to keep house with electricity."
Thus it is important for people to work together to preserve this kind of "solar economy" information and learn how to incorporate it into our lives again. As we walk this journey, we must learn the value of the slow, the traditional, the small, the particular, the locality, the sense of place that used to be a fact of daily life. We must understand that there are limits and boundaries, and we should respect them. These ideas are so alien now they seem almost exotic, but besides being practical, they are also at their heart profoundly spiritual. "Be still and know that I am God", says the scripture, it doesn't say, "Go fast and loud and know that you are a god" which is more or less the philosophy of our present culture of death. It is entirely appropriate that we print "In God we trust" on our money, because our money is our god, and it is in money that we place our trust.
It is of course all well and good to climb up on a watchtower and shout, "Lo the dust of the war chariots of the enemy riseth above the foothills", or to put on your John the Baptist hat and cry repentance, but it is another thing to actually put these high sounding ideals into practice, or praxis as the theologians would say. Thus the regular editions of this Better Times Almanac of Useful Information, each one building upon the previous work, growing organically in response to the signs of these times. If things are going to change for the better, it will only happen because people decide to literally be the change they want to see in the world. And conversely, if things don't change for the better, if things continue to go from bad to worse, it will be because too many people did NOT decide to be the change they want to see in the world. The place for me to start is with the man I see each morning in the mirror. Peter Maurin once said that the world would be a better place if we would all try to be what we want the other fellow to be.
It is as simple as that. Each person is responsible for his or her individual response to the world situation, we are all part of the problem, and we are thus all part of the solution. There is nobody that anyone can blame for not doing their part in the way they lives their lives.. There are many things that many people can do to make a positive difference in the world, and procrastination is the deadly enemy of the loving care and responsible stewardship of Creation. We can do, as the masthead of Better Times proclaims, what we can, with what we have, where we are. And so we should do it. I've been told that this personalism is one of the irritating things about the Catholic Worker movement, but that recognition of the beauty of personal responsibility is an essential aspect of our charism.
From the beginning, if we are talking about ways and manners of living, I have felt that the place to start is in the kitchen. Food First! It is one area where we have a lot of control, and it is a place where changes can be made without spending big piles of extra money. In fact, we can spend less money and have more quality and do less damage to the planet by learning how to be Better Times cooks from the pages of the 5th edition of this Almanac. Food provides instant rewards. Eating is an agricultural act, eating is a moral act, eating is a cultural act. Decisions we make in our kitchens have enormous consequences, for good or for evil. Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin, who founded the Catholic Worker movement, said that one of the things we should work for is a world where it is easier to be good. We hope the Better Times Almanac of Useful Information makes it easier for people to make good, better, and best decisions.
If we want a local food system, where farmers use sustainable, organic production methods, where herds and flocks are free-ranging and naturally managed, where land and resources are conserved and constantly renewed by natural processes, then there must be a market for the products of such a system.
If there is going to be a market for such products, then those of us who are customers must generally change the way we do our food.
We must stop looking for frozen, prepared, manufactured foods and instead purchase basic ingredients (or grow our own) from which we prepare our meals, always looking for products grown here in this region.. It is not as hard to make this transition as it seems at first, and it really is true that there are instant rewards in terms of both the authentic tastes and nutritional value of true food. The Better Times Almanac of Useful Information is designed to help you to stop being a passive consumer of manufactured junk foods and to start becoming a "co-producer" in a local food system where your grocery dollars support local farmers and local economies instead of feeding the appetites of transnational agribidness corporations and driving the destruction of our soils, biological diversity, and rural economies. In this situation, there is no rich or poor, or middle class in between. Everyone has a place at this table, there certainly is plenty good room.
A holiday, by definition, is a break with the ordinary routine of life and in most cultures is connected with feasting and celebration, so I would like to write a bit about the preparation of our Thanksgiving feast. As with much in our lives, there is good and bad co-mingled. The world is such that making the best decisions can be difficult, in some situations impossible. But we shouldn't let the difficulty of some decisions stop us from making other best decisions which are so easy they are practically no-brainers. That's why I talk about these kinds of food preparation happenings, first so that I can reflect on how I can do better next time, and second so that others can learn from our experiences, both the mistakes and the successes.
We like to cook and eat all day on Thanksgiving, ending up in late afternoon with the main feast. We started our day with strong coffee, free trade and organic certified, from Prima Café bought through the cooperative. That's one of those small decisions we all make every morning. Should I support greedy international coffee corporations that are destroying long established local traditions of coffee cultivation in favor of plantation cropping featuring high inputs of fossil fuels, and toxic herbicides and pesticides or should I buy coffee that pays the grower a just return for his product and is grown using traditional, organic production methods? The cheapness of the supermarket coffee reflects my willingness to take advantage of that corporation's ability to cheat small growers by not paying a just price for the coffee. We decided we simply weren't going to do that anymore, and if that means we pay a higher price for our coffee, well, we pay a higher price for the coffee. We pay less for other things and some things we don't buy any more and we don't drink coffee every day. It doesn't hurt of course that the fair trade certified organic coffee tastes better than anything we have ever bought at a supermarket or at a coffee shop. It is as good as the Italian coffee I drank in Rome.
After coffee, we had whole wheat fry breads, made with whole wheat flour ground from Oklahoma grown certified organic wheat (Springhill Farms, Kiowa County), sweetened with Honeyhill Farm honey (Oklahoma County), and Sean made his "Should Be Famous" onion rings (recipe in this edition of Better Times), he also made his cream cheese and green olive and habanero pepper salsa tortilla rollups, which we only make on big feast days. The tortillas were supposed to be from our favorite local tortilleria, but alas they were closed yesterday, so we got store bought tortillas, at least they were from Texas. The basic recipe for the fry bread was my whole wheat biscuit recipe, only I doubled the amount of honey and reduced the milk by an amount equivalent to the extra honey.
Meanwhile the turkey went into the oven, alas again, here we fell back a bit as we were not able to get a locally grown turkey for Thanksgiving. There is a serious unmet demand in the Oklahoma marketplace for locally grown, pastured turkeys. The cooperative has 3 growers who had turkeys but they all sold out before the cooperative monthly order came up. I stuffed the bird with carrots, celery, onions, and from our garden a bundle of sage, oregano, thyme, and rosemary. I cooked the turkey at 325 degrees, covered, and I don't fuss with it. Before putting it into the oven I rubbed the skin with olive oil.
As the afternoon passed, I worked a bit on the web edition of Better Times 5th edition, and Sean made his "Also Should Be Famous" deviled eggs with more of that habanero salsa, which we make from habaneros we grow in our garden. All of the eggs in this feast were from local producers, PDH Farms in Okemah and Horne Organic Farm in Cordell. Besides making great deviled eggs, farm eggs help make perfect baked goods.
I make my dressing in a cast iron skillet. We combined chopped onions and celery, shredded carrots, garlic (from our garden), and sauteed them in olive oil, added crumbled sage, thyme, and rosemary, and when the turkey was done, we dowsed this bread and vegetable mixture with broth from the turkey, and into the oven it went at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. I made the stuffing from biscuits I had made earlier in the week, half white flour biscuits, half whole wheat biscuits (more of our local flour), and this time, contrary to my usual practice, I didn't use any cornbread. It may have been my best dressing to date. The biscuits weren't quite stale enough yesterday so I crumbled them onto a cookie sheet and put them in the oven for about 90 minutes at 200 degrees and they were perfect for dressing. I didn't use all of them, so I put the rest in a jar and they will be fine for "stove top stuffing" two weeks from now.
We feasted on the traditional green bean casserole as a side dish, only we used our own onion rings, and it was very good. Homemade onion rings add a nice touch to this festive dish. There's no point in buying those canned "french fried" onion rings. God only knows how many weeks old they are. We had frozen some green beans earlier in the summer, but they didn't last until Thanksgiving - memo for 2005 garden plan: grow more green beans!
I didn't make any rolls this year, as last night at church somebody gave me a nice loaf of homemade sourdough bread, very chewy. I made gravy from the turkey broth, cooking the roux until it was light brown. Making gravy from scratch is easier than making gravy from a mix and homemade gravy tastes much better than gravy from a mix. Gravy making is so important I put a whole page in this edition of the Better Times Almanac on that subject..
For dessert we had cushaw squash pie, and it looked just like any pumpkin pie I have ever seen. I am not sure that people could tell in a blind cushaw/pumpkin pie taste test which was the cushaw squash pie and which was the pumpkin pie. I cooked the cushaw squash 2 weeks ago (baked) and put it in the freezer. We took it out early this morning and let it thaw. I used the "Dorothy's Never Fail Pie Crust" recipe (bless you Dorothy, whoever you are) from Better Times, and for the recipe for the pie filling I used the recipe from a can of pumpkin. It's been on my shelf for so long it is out of date, but I keep it around so I have the pumpkin pie recipe ready when I need it. It has been I think 3 years since I made a pie on Thanksgiving from canned pumpkin. I am glad I bought several cushaw squash from the McLemore family while they were in season. They seem to be keeping very well. I noticed one of them had a soft spot yesterday so tomorrow I will go ahead and bake that squash, first cutting out the soft spot, and freeze it in portions for eating later, either as baked squash or as more pies.) It's been said that most commercial pumpkin in a can is actually cushaw squash, and having now made 2 cushaw squash pies, I believe it. The pumpkins we have stored are also doing fine. They aren't stored in a fancy way, they are sitting on a shelf.
The leftovers are safely tucked in the refrigerator (within the 2 hour limit), and the dogs and cats all got treats too. The compost bucket has a feast for the worms. The mache (corn salad), carrots, and chard in the cold frame are coming up strong, and the chard in the yard is still going strong. Even the basil is still green, so we really are blessed with kind weather this fall thus far. It has rained so much this past week the ground is super-saturated. I heard from a friend whose dad is farming that it has been so wet in his area his dad hasn't been able to plant his wheat.
So it goes this Thanksgiving here at Northwest 21st Street and McKinley Avenue in Oklahoma City. As this season of holiday feasting unfolds around us, I pray that everyone will be conscious of the impact for good or for evil of the decisions you make as you observe this season. Discover for yourself the wisdom, beauty, and satisfaction that making better choices about food and lifestyle can bring to your life.
PS. In a sense, Better Times is a secular publication, in that it speaks of sustainable, simple, and frugal ways and manners of living which is something that people can do irrespective of whether or not they believe in God. But "on the other hand", Better Times is also a work of practical theology, of an orthopraxis which flows I believe from beauty and wisdom and universality of orthodoxy. It is a description of a little way of justice and peace, which we hope will be for the healing of nations. It is under the patronage of St. Martha, sister of Lazarus and Mary, the Gospels clearly describe her as a practical woman, attentive to hospitality and tradition. It is my own pious belief that she must have been with Mary, the mother of Jesus, at the Last Supper where Our Lord instituted the Eucharist, helping her to prepare the meal and bake that loaf which Jesus broke and gave to his disciples saying, "This is my Body."
This holy day of Thanksgiving opens onto the beginning of Advent, a season of preparation as we await the birth of the Child Jesus, born in a cattle shed, laid in a manger, his attendants ranging from donkey and ox to shepherds, angels, and kings, the eyes of all fixed upon a young couple and a tiny child, whose name would be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Prince of Peace, born of an oppressed people in a marginalized land, yet King of Kings and Lord of Lords, incarnate, en-fleshed, Emmanuel, God-with-us. Sure it all happened long long ago and far far away, but in a sense it is still happening, each year, as we reflect liturgically upon those historical events and experience sacramental grace, a contemplation in action that, brings new hope of peace, beauty, joy, and wisdom "which shall be for all people, for unto you is born this day in the city of David a child who is Christ the Lord.
Even so, come Lord Jesus. Let us be like the wise virgins, who kept their lamps trimmed and burning, waiting for the coming of the Bridegroom. Let us live in the knowledge that He is already here among us, "the Kingdom is within us", in the Eucharist, in the proclaimed Word, in the gathered Assembly, we meet him on the road to Emmaus and in the breaking of bread, we see him in many distressing disguises in the face of the poor, "lo, I am with you always, even until the end of the world." Thanks be to God for his great mercy.
Here begins the Letter
of Paul the Apostle to the Agrarians
Paul, a slave of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised previously through his prophets in the holy scriptures, the gospel about his Son, descended from David according to the flesh, but established as Son of God in power according to the spirit of holiness through resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord. Through him we have received the grace of apostleship, to bring about the obedience of faith, for the sake of his name, among all the Gentiles, among whom are you also, who are called to belong to Jesus Christ; to all the beloved of God who are Agrarians, called to be holy.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. First, I give thanks to my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is heralded throughout the world. God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in proclaiming the gospel of his Son, that I remember you constantly. I give thanks to my God always on your account for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus, that in him you were enriched in every way, with all discourse and all knowledge, as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you, so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will keep you firm to the end, irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. That is why I am eager to preach the gospel also to you in Oklahoma City.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and God of all encouragement, who encourages us in our every affliction, so that we may be able to encourage those who are in any affliction with the encouragement with which we ourselves are encouraged by God. For as Christ's sufferings overflow to us, so through Christ does our encouragement also overflow. If we are afflicted, it is for your encouragement and salvation; if we are encouraged, it is for your encouragement, which enables you to endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is firm, for we know that as you share in the sufferings, you also share in the encouragement.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel. It is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. For in it is revealed the righteousness of God from faith to faith; as it is written, "The one who is righteous by faith will live." Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us. For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, rather, serve one another through love. For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
Therefore from the day we heard of your situation, we do not cease praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding, to live in a manner worthy of the Lord, so as to be fully pleasing, in every good work bearing fruit and growing in the knowledge of God, strengthened with every power, in accord with his glorious might, for all endurance and patience, with joy giving thanks to the Father who has made you fit to share in the inheritance of the holy ones in light. He delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins.
For many, as I have often told you and now tell you even in tears, conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction. Their God is their stomach, their glory is in their shame. Their minds are occupied with earthly things. Over all these things put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. Let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, as indeed you do.
I urge you, brothers and sisters -- admonish the idle, cheer the fainthearted, support the weak, be patient with all. See that no one returns evil for evil, rather, always seek what is good both for each other and for all. Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. For we brought nothing into the world, just as we shall not be able to take anything out of it. If we have food and clothing, we shall be content with that. Those who want to be rich are falling into temptation and into a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils, and some people in their desire for it have strayed from the faith and have pierced themselves with many pains. Tell the rich in the present age not to be proud and not to rely on so uncertain a thing as wealth but rather on God, who richly provides us with all things for our enjoyment. Tell them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, ready to share, thus accumulating as treasure a good foundation for the future, so as to win the life that is true life.
Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory, rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but also everyone for those of others. Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped, rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness, and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's. For this is why Christ died and came to life, that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living. Why then do you judge your brother or sister? Or you, why do you look down on your brother or sister? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God.
Consider this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work. As it is written, He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor, his righteousness endures forever. The one who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness
I urge you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourself to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect. Watch carefully then how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise, making the most of the opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not continue in ignorance, but try to understand what is the will of the Lord.
Be on your guard, stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong. Your every act should be done with love. Let love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold on to what is good, love one another with mutual affection, anticipate one another in showing honor. Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer, exercise hospitality. Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Have the same regard for one another; do not be haughty but associate with the lowly;' do not be wise in your own estimation. Do not repay anyone evil for evil; be concerned for what is noble in the sight of all. If possible, on your part, live at peace with all.
Therefore, I, Paul, hearing of your faith in the Lord Jesus and of your love for all the holy ones, do not cease giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of him. May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe, in accord with the exercise of his great might, which he worked in Christ, raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens, far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion, and every name that is named not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things beneath his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.
For this reason, I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that God may grant you in accord with the riches of his glory to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner self, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. To the One who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine, by the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever, amen!
Rejoice in the Lord always, I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you.
Now to the One who can strengthen you, according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret for long ages, but now manifested through the prophetic writings and, according to the command of the eternal God, made known to all nations to bring about the obedience of faith, to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ be glory forever and ever. [O my agrarian sisters and brothers], do not be conquered by evil, but overcome evil with good. Amen.
From Oklahoma City, on Thanksgiving Day in the year of our Lord 2004,
Robert Waldrop, Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House
To receive a printed copy of the 5th Edition of the Better Times Almanac of Useful Information: Please send a stamped, self-addressed 9" x 12" envelope with $1.06 postage on it to: Better Times, 1524 NW 21st, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73106. There is no charge for the publication, although we do accept donations to help with our work. We also deliver food to people in need in the Oklahoma City area who don't have transportation to get to a regular food bank. Donation checks should be made payable to the Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House. Donations of $15 or more will receive a copy of the CD, Venite Adoremus, improvisational piano meditations on Advent, Nativity, and Epiphany melodies, recorded live at Epiphany Church by Robert Waldrop.
What does the Saturday before Thanksgiving look like at our house?
500 pounds of potatoes, 150 pounds of onions, 144 bunches of celery, 150 boxes of dressing, 150 cans of cream of mushroom soup, 150 cans of French cut green beans, 150 cans of carrots, 300 pounds of rice, 150 pounds of pasta, 450 8 ounce cans of tomato sauce, 450 packages of ramen noodles, 150 boxes of mac and cheese, 150 cans of pumpkin, 150 cans of evaporated milk, 40 bags of dried milk, 150 jars of peanut butter, 25 turkeys plus dinner fixin's and food boxes provided by St. Charles and Epiphany parishes, 4 lambs from the Clear Creek Monastery bought by a benefactor for us to give away, and about 300 other miscellaneous "food lottery" items (in kind miscellaneous food donations from St. Charles and Epiphany parishes and anonymous benefactors who leave bags of food on our porch), 60 loaves of bread, 175 deliveries altogether. There are still about 25 deliveries to do Sunday and Monday, but things seem to be in good shape for this Thanksgiving. This particular delivery day cost us nearly a thousand dollars in checks to grocery stores and producer brokers plus the value of the food donations. Thanks be to God and St. Joseph for those who made this possible - you know who you are.
We were holding our breaths on the weather, 40% chance of rain today, but despite early morning clouds the sun came out for the occasion. This is important because while we have a small house for the food pantry, there isn't enough room in there to make up all the bags (we store possessions for people who get evicted and etc).. So each delivery day we line up our paper bags on the driveway and fill 'em up. It's always kind of a riot. The primary sorting rule is that each particular item is placed in the bags by one person or by a team of two. That way we are reasonably certain that e.g. each bag will get a jar of peanut butter. At least that's the theory, the practice is somewhat more anarchistic but somehow it manages to get done. It was our usual crew, Lance and Mindy representing the Nazarenes who have been helping us a LOT this year, Lou Ann Baty and her daughter (Epiphany parish), Oisin Fagan (our Irish connection, that first name is pronounced O Shane, in case you are ever in the neighborhood on Delivery Day), Elizabeth Chamberlain from the Cathedral parish, and a new couple from Christ the King Parish who stopped to help us bag groceries while on their way
I saw Marcus Evans at Buy for Less this morning about 7 AM, on my way to get the rest of the stuff we needed. He of course was driving his fire truck (he was on duty today). I told him I hoped he had a very boring duty, nothing to do but sit around, watch TV, cook, and clean the firehouse. I hope that's the way it turned out for them today.
Marcus is working hard on raising money for St. Charles Parish to build a food pantry building and then together with us becoming part of the Regional Food Bank system. This would be a great help to us, as then we could get out of the bidness of paying retail prices to supermarkets for groceries. Please keep that fund-raising effort in your prayers. They've just received a $10,000 challenge grant for the project, meaning that each of the first $10,000 in donations will be matched by a local foundation. They're not going to build a Taj Mahal, just a good serviceable building to store food to be given to the poor. (They have to meet city codes, though.)
Meanwhile, we spend a lot of money at grocery stores. I had always hoped that we wouldn't have to buy food, that people would buy food and bring that but things just haven't worked out that way. So we are grateful that people will give money so that we can buy what we need to help those the Lord sends our way. The folks at Buy for Less always kind of roll their eyes when they see me coming on a Saturday morning. Today I ended up maneuvering 5 shopping carts. I would fill one, roll it up by a vacant spot close to the cash registers, go fill another one, park it there, and so on until I had $650 worth of groceries. There have been some real comical incidents at Buy for Less early on a Saturday morning. There was the day when, for some reason, the management had taken the quantity keys off all the registers, so every thing had to be rung up one at a time. Fine for the ordinary basket of groceries, but when I show up with my three baskets including such things as 20 cases of ramen noodles at 24 to a pack, well, it took an hour and a half for me to get through the checkout line. They had also installed an upper limit on how many items could be rung at a single time, so I had to write three different checks for that order, each one having to go through all the typical rigamarole to be cleared. It wasn't funny at the time but in retrospect it seems quite hilarious..I could tell from management's reaction at the time that nobody in their management had really thought of the implications of their decision. Dilbert is alive and well it seems. The cashier on the other hand was great, and was a perfect example of competent employee suffering under incompetent management. As they say, "folks, I am not making this up."
Anyway, throwing all these groceries around is a lot of work. Besides making up the bags for distribution, people had to load and unload those hmmm 800 pounds of veggies and eight hundred dollars of other miscellaneous groceries plus the in kind donations. More than a ton of food, easy. More than I could haul in one pickup load, that's for sure. If this keeps up, we may need to think about getting a truck. Getting everything here took hmmm, four trips with my pickup plus some people brought stuff via cars.
In the middle of the morning, I had to take a break to play for a funeral at Epiphany, then did some deliveries of the Epiphany boxes on the way home. Epiphany was a riot of activity too. This was the SHARE pickup day (a group grocery buying program), the Women's Club were making their Should Be Famous Cheese Rolls, which they sell for a fundraiser. We had the funeral, and the Community Service board was distributing the Thanksgiving baskets it prepares to Catholic Charities, St. Vincent de Paul, the Jesus House, Catholic Worker House and other groups they provide Thanksgiving baskets to. Fortunately the crew was fully capable of carrying on without me for a couple of hours.
When I got home (2 PM), Lance was there and he and Sean loaded up the pickup and his car, then he called two friends who showed up with their cars, and when they were completely loaded (77 bags of groceries total) we were off to Wesley Village, the Belle Aire, and the Towers, which are public housing developments close to downtown that where we know a lot of people. Afterwards, a very good time being had by all, we went to a local diner (Jeff's Country Kitchen, located on the edge of the "Asian District" close by our house, run by a guy from Lebanon). We drank coffee, ate a very late lunch, and talked about stuff. We were joined by Lance's wife who will graduate as a nurse this coming May and one of her friends. They had been at the Red Cup (local coffee house).
Ironically, they had been studying about the side effects of drugs like Vioxx and Bextra, which Sean just stopped taking. Bextra had been prescribed for him by his worker's compensation doctor last month, he had just gotten it refilled, but as it so happens he has developed three of the bad side effects of that drug and has stopped taking it. Now if his doctor would only return his calls. His doctor really isn't a doctor in the traditional sense (imho), he's more of a medical corporation, with a customer/vendor business relationship with his patients, not a traditional doctor-patient relationship. God only knows how much the state paid him for Sean's back operation, yet he doesn't return calls about negative side effects for a drug he's prescribed, especially something like Bextra, which is Vioxx's first cousin apparently, from what I can find out by searching the web. So Sean could do with some prayers.
These Thanksgiving festivities capped a busy week. I finally finished the 5th edition of the Better Times and took it to the printer Wednesday. That involved two late night visits to Kinkos to use their 11" x 17" printer to print the camera ready copy. (Late night - 3 AM - at Kinkos All Night Copy Shop is a whole 'nother story.) We'll have it back to distribute in time for Christmas, 4000 copies of a 32 page tabloid loaded with recipes and information on living more simply, sustainably, and frugally. I tried to put as much of what I have learned on this subject into it as I had room for, it could easily be 64 pages or even 128. Oops, that's right, I forgot, I added "Write Better Times: the Book" to my to-do list a while back It's right there beside "Finish the social justice book". You'd think with 80,000+ words I'd be finished with everything I have to say on the subject of social justice, both its orthodoxy and its orthopraxis, but somehow it just doesn't feel finished yet. I've been working on it for three years, each summer I say to myself, "I will finish the social justice book this summer."
Our fall has been very wet, lots of rain, not much cold thus far. Which is good because we are behind on our weatherization. No plastic over the windows, the brick needs some tuckpointing and windows need some caulk and our new (well, its factory reconditioned but with the same warranty as the new ones) tankless water heater is sitting in the utility room patiently waiting for installation. It only arrived last Thursday, however, which was this month's Oklahoma Food Cooperative delivery day, so it won't have too much longer to wait. Our old fashioned boiler water heater died during the summer and we've been getting along without hot water on demand. This was fine for August but in November the tap water is colder.
The Oklahoma Food Co-op did a land office business this month too. We had to buy more ice chests, so much meat was sold. It was good to see Brother Joseph from the Clear Creek monastery who brought in the ten lambs sold through the cooperative this month, including the 4 lambs bought for us to distribute. Brother Joseph makes an impressive sight as a monk, he is very tall, he could have been in the NBA but fortunately for us he decided to become a holy Benedictine monk and has become an expert on the raising of sheep. They are working on an agro-forestry project at the monastery. He brought me some brochures and also a beautiful poster they have made for their capital campaign. It has a picture of the monks praying in the unfinished crypt of their new monastery, an exterior picture of the work, and then a picture of the monks at the abbey of Fontgombeault in France. Their website is http://www.clearcreekmonks.org/ , the Monastery of our Lady of the Annunciation of Clear Creek.
I did the deliveries to Walnut Grove today. Walnut Grove is a neighborhood about which we have had a lot to say these past four years. It is directly in the path of the new I-40 cross town freeway, and every time I go there more houses have been torn down. The old trees are beautiful, but they may yet be replaced with ten thundering lanes of freeway. I visited with Miz Ellis, she says they are getting serious pressures to move, but they aren't being offered enough to buy another house without a mortgage. What an evil thing to do to an elderly woman who has lived there all of her life, with her sisters. Oklahoma State Government at work, a culture of death running amok. Please continue to pray against this project. See http://www.justpeace.org/i40.htm for my prayer against this evil which comes upon these poor people who do not deserve this to happen to them in their last years.
Conversation about the election seems to be continuing pretty strong in the various online discussion groups I participate in. I am undoubtedly guilty of pouring some gasoline on that fire, but fortunately I have been too busy doing work lately to even read much of those threads. We continue to vote every day by doing works of justice and peace, a practice I certainly recommend to everyone.
This is a time here in the United States which we observe as Thanksgiving, and I would certainly like to give thanks for all the prayers we have received and for all those who contribute in one way or another to our various little works of justice and peace. I am grateful to God for all the opportunities and blessings and yes even the challenges He has given us. I am not always grateful at the time when some of those "opportunities" and "challenges" occur, but in the long run everything does seem to work out so obviously Somebody knows what's going on, even if I personally am all too often clueless.
I'd like to ask for prayers on behalf of my father, Max Waldrop, who has been diagnosed with lung cancer, he had an operation last week and is starting chemotherapy right away. And let us also remember all those who during this week of Thanksgiving must live in danger and fear and hunger. Let us remember that this world brings forth enough bounty that all could be fed if it was justly distributed, hunger in the modern world is at its heart a political problem. I don't know if there is a political solution to it, though, so we must all continue the work we are doing to recreate local food systems, communities, and structures. Perhaps creating such alternative structures to replace the ones that are failing all around us is the most effective "political" work that can be done right now.
So it goes at NW 21st street and McKinley. Keep praying for us, we'll keep praying for all y'all, and somehow we will get through this together. Pray that America will turn its back on Merciless, and embrace Beauty once more.
"Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you!" (St. Augustine, Confessions)
Without the Eucharist, I would be lost. RMW
Today in the liturgical calendar is the Feast of the Dedication of St. John Lateran Basilica in Rome. This is the cathedral church of Rome, and was the seat of the papacy until after the Avignon Captivity, when the Vatican became the home of the popes. The land, originally belonging to the Laterani family, was given to the Church by Constantine and the first basilica was erected in 312 AD. It is one of the four traditional pilgrimage churches, and one of the four patriarchal basilicas. The original basilica was destroyed by fire in the 14th century, and the present building dates to that era, although there were major reconstructions in the 17th and 19th centuries.
The first reading is part of Ezekial's vision of the heavenly temple (from Ezekial 47), and the "river of living water" which flows therefrom to nourish the earth:
"Wherever the river flows,
Consider the impact of this vision on people in Biblical Israel. They had no Wal Marts to bring food from thousands of miles away for their convenience. What they had to eat was what they could grow, and that was it. If the harvest failed, some people would starve before the next harvest. In such an agrarian economy, fruit is of the utmost importance. It is a perennial crop that once established does not require a lot of work. Before the age of fossil fuels, tractors, and other such inventions, farm work was manual labor. Annual crops were energy intensive activities, and the energies available to them were human work, animal traction, the sun, rains, and soils. Tree crops, on the other hand, gave fruit freely, without the intensive labor involved with the planting, cultivation, and harvest of annual crops like grain and vegetables. We are so used to downing several ounces of sugar whenever we guzzle a soft drink, that we don't understand how precious sweetness can be. This river that flows from God's Temple thus promises a steady supply of water to grow food, and in particular, fruit trees that bear fresh fruit every month - not just once a year - and their leaves are for the "healing of the nations". Abundance, beauty, wisdom.
The psalm for the day (46th) sings of God as a refuge and protector -
God is our refuge and our strength,
"Therefore, we fear not" seem to be an important concept here.
In the second reading , from 1 Corinthians 3, we learn that - surprise - we the human beings are the Temple of God.
Do you not know that you are the temple of God,
"If anyone destroys God's temple." Hmmm, what can this mean? If we as human beings are God's temple, what does this say about war and its associated killings, maimings, destructions, genocides and etc, all of which involve the "destruction of God's temple", the human person?.
Curiously, the Gospel reading today is from John chapter 2, and it chronicles Jesus driving the moneychangers out of the Temple, and Christ's first prophecy of his death and resurrection.
"He made a whip out of cords
I heard these readings proclaimed this evening at Holy Family Church in Lawton, Oklahoma, where we had gone for the day. This is the part of Oklahoma that I am from, my home town is 45 miles southwest of Lawton, and I remember a time when I thought that Lawton, population 80,000, was a really big town, maybe it was the biggest town in the whole world. The downtown area was a densely packed 8 blocks or so of early 20th century period architecture, almost entirely given over to entertaining the thousands of soldiers at Ft. Sill. There were bars and pinball arcades and houses of prostitution (hotels on the 2nd floors of bars, mostly)), stores selling jewelry, military surplus, oh yes and even more bars. It was quite a place to wander around when you were 16 years old and had just received your driver's license and had gone to Lawton for a Friday night out of town. Alas, all that was torn down in the 1970s and urban renewalled into a mall.
We had gone there to participate in a day of vigils highlighting the incarceration of Camilo Mejia at Ft. Sill. Who is he you may ask?
"On May 21, 2004, 28-year-old Sgt. Camilo Mejia was sentenced to one year in prison for refusing to return to fight in Iraq. Camilo spent six months in combat in Iraq, then returned for a 2-week furlough to the US. There he reflected on what he had seen, including the abuse of prisoners and the killing of civilians. He concluded that the war was illegal and immoral, and decided that he would not return. In March 2004 he turned himself in to the US military and filed an application for conscientious objector status." www.freecamilo.org .
Several people came together from around the country to these several days of vigils, organized by Voices in the Wilderness, www.vitw.org , which for years has been sending delegations to Iraq to be with and accompany the Iraqi people through the violence that has afflicted them for so long. They walked with victims of torture under Saddam, and with victims of the US war of aggression against their country. They have been fined by the US government for taking medicine to sick people in Iraq.
We got to Lawton about 1 PM and called the cell phone of one of the vigilers to find out where they were. They had found a great place to vigil. There is a street running along the north side of downtown which gets a lot of traffic, it has a wide, grassy, park-like center median that the city of Lawton is decorating for Christmas. They were at an intersection where 99 large toy soldiers were set up (referencing the Nutcracker Suite, presumably), and were standing there with large pictures of Iraqi children and a "free Camilo" sign. We parked across the street and joined the group. People driving by stopped, got out of their cars and talked with us. Workers on the city decorating project came over to say hi and see what we were up to. Only one car while I was there screamed an obscenity. One young woman with a baby came up and said her husband was a soldier, and they were worried about him getting orders for Iraq. We talked with her for quite some time about their options.
After a couple of hours, we went to a local Latino restaurant, Galinda's on Ft. Sill Blvd., for a late lunch, although some of the group were fasting and only had juice. Then we went to Holy Family parish, where the group is staying, and prayed the Rosary for peace with parishioners and then attended mass. Afterwards, we went to another local restaurant. The group had been inviting people to come that evening to the restaurant and talk with us, and amazingly some people showed up.
There were some really great people who came to Lawton this week for this public witness. The delegation was headed by Voices in the Wilderness founder Kathy Kelly. I asked her to comment about her experience thus far. She said, " Voices in the Wilderness has worked for years to get people to go to Iraq. During all of those delegations, we never experienced any 'we hate America and Americans' experiences, even though the people had gone through terrible violence at our hands. Now we hear stories from soldiers coming home about people screaming obscenities at Americans and vowing revenge for the violence we have brought there. Now we must work to keep Americans from going to Iraq. This is why the witness of Camilo Mejia is so important. He went there, he saw what was happening, and he refused to go back."
A second member of the delegate is Burt Sacks of Seattle, who has been 9 times to Iraq. I spoke with him quite a bit this evening about rhetoric and how easy it is to demonize our opposition - and how counter-productive it is because it always comes back to haunt us. "For me, when I leave, the most important thing is that I have been meeting young soldiers face to face. The breaking down of the demonization of soldiers by the peace movement is important. We must see the humanity of all people. The harder task is to expand that awareness to include President Bush."
Farah Mokktareizadeh is 21 years old and from Philadelphia. She lives in an international community, the Simple Way, which is "homesteading" a building in a very poor neighborhood and introducing urban agriculture. They have a rooftop container garden where they have taken modern appliances like televisions and microwave ovens and turned them into plant containers. She said she came to Lawton because she wanted to see the war in Iraq from a different angle (she has been on 2 peace delegations to Iraq), by speaking with the families, mothers, daughters, and sons in the military.
Bob Abplanalp drove from Illinois with a large van to be the chauffeur. He has been affiliated with the Nicarauguan Medical Alliance for 20 years. He told me that Camilo was the son of one of the foremost musicians in Nicaragua. He said, "I expect a more negative reaction than we have received. People have been very supportive."
Fr. Jerry Zawada is a Franciscan priest, who just got out of jail for crossing the line at the School of the Americas in Georgia, and also for Plowshares actions he has been involved with. He was very interesting to talk to, he said, "Camilo's situation has spoken to me. I have found strength and solidarity among the local people here in Lawton. I am hoping the message gets to him, that he is not alone. Depression and feelings of abandonment are a big problem in prison. Contact helps. I hope he can gain some encouragement and hope from what we do on his behalf."
Also present was Phil Runkel, the renowned archivist of the Catholic Worker movement, kept at the library of the University of Marquette. He took the bus to Lawton, and we picked him up at the Lawton bus station on our way to the vigil. When you open a Catholic Worker house, the most official thing you get when you send out your announcement is a letter from Phil which basically says, "please send us a copy of everything you do for the archives".
David Smith-Frerri is a poet from Ukiah, California, who had written a poem earlier in the day about Camillo. He gave me copies of letters of support that he had collected from people to bring. A member of Amnesty International from Washington state writes, "Your search for peace while accepting the consequences of your stand is exemplary." And, "Power to the Peaceful."
Fr. Steve Kelly is a Jesuit priest from the Bay Area in California, who has also done quite a bit of jail time resulting from his work for peace. He said he was here to learn from the people of Lawton, and had been touched by his experiences thus far. At the end of our last conversation, he said, echoing the Gospel reading of the day, "We are going to drive the Empire right out of the Church."
Sean Kay, who went with me for the day, summed it up by saying, "Never lose heart when you know your right.
Also present today from Oklahoma City were Lyddia Polley and Chris Haulk.
Some of the group are leaving on Wednesday, and the rest will depart on Thursday. Voices in the Wilderness hopes to bring Camilo's mother to Lawton for a visit. Camilo's address is listed below, and I encourage folks to write him notes of support. They may not be giving him his mail, instead, sending it to his mother who can then send it back to him, but sooner or later it will get to him. Visit http://www.freecamilo.org and read his statements. He writes, "Behind these bars I sit a free man because I listened to a higher power, the voice of my conscience".
Today was also my 52nd birthday, and I really couldn't think of a better way to spend it. Earlier this morning we planted the cold frame we just built, with Swiss chard, rhubarb chard, corn flower (mache), and carrots. It's actually a bit late, but we just got it finished (we made it out of lumber left over from tearing down the garage, plus a glass door we had in said former garage). I spoke with Brother Joseph Marie from the Clear Creek Monastery earlier today about some lambs they are selling through the Oklahoma Food Cooperative.
There was one bit of very sad news today, though, from Lawton. We learned about a captain who just returned from a tour in Iraq and was stationed at Ft. Sill. Two weeks ago he committed suicide. Eternal rest grant to him, and to all the other victims of this evil and unjust war. Lord, give strength to Camilo and to all who stand for life in this terrible time when the culture of death stands so strong. Give us strength to stand against the demonic powers which prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Where there is violence and terror, help us to create beauty and wisdom. Amen.
I have spent the last 2 weeks in Italy, first in Turin as a delegate to the meeting of world food communities sponsored by Slow Food International, and then on my own in Rome on kind of a self-directed Roman pilgrimage. It was my first visit ever to Europe and Italy and it was a tremendous time. I spent 8 days wandering around Rome, seeing the sites, and praying in churches and at the tombs of apostles and saints.
Reflecting on the experience returning home yesterday on the airplane, I remembered what Dorothy Day used to say about "picketing St. Joseph". When they had a special need, Catholic Workers would go to a church and keep a round the clock prayer vigil going at a statue of St. Joseph. They called this "picketing St. Joseph". I realized that what I had been doing in Rome, at least in part, was picketing St. Peter. No, I didn't wander around with picket signs, but I did wander about with Rosary beads and every time I found a church, and believe me, there are a lot of churches in Rome, I would go in and pray for all the special intentions I brought with me to Rome. If the church was locked, I prayed at its door. I kissed a lot of church doors, especially at the major pilgrimage churches, not sure why, it just seemed to me to be the thing to do. On Monday night, I ended up back at St. Peters, it was my fifth visit, just before the evening vespers service. During the day I had made my final visits to the other patriarchal basilicas (Mary Maggiorie, St Paul outside the walls, St. John Lateran) The high altar at the crossing, under the great dome and the beautiful bronze baldachino, had been decorated for All Saints Day with a huge number of reliquaries. I kneeled at the rope that kept people from the altar, below which of course is the tomb of St. Peter, and spent quite a bit of time just pouring out my heart there at his tomb.
The vespers service that evening was grand as only it could be at a place like St. Peters. Perhaps 40 clergy, mostly bishops and cardinals, incense, full choir and organ. Towards the end they put on all the lights of St. Peters, and processed down into the grotto before the high altar and prayed at the tomb of Peter. St. Peters is generally dim, not much lighting is turned on, but the lights they put on made it bright as day inside. Someone told me that part of the service was televised throughout Italy, as All Saints Day is a major Italian holiday.
After that I took the subway back to the main Roman station - "Roma Termini" - and then got a bus to the Transtavere district where the Community of St. Egidio meets each night at the Church of Santa Maria in Transtavere for prayer. This basilica is actually the oldest Roman basilica, thought to be the first place where Mass was celebrated openly and legally in Rome, founded by St. Calixtus in the year 221, rebuilt a bit in the 12th century. The facade is decorated with a mosaic illustrating the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, and the interior is decorated with frescos and mosaics telling the story of Mary. The community of St. Egidio sings its evening prayer each night at this basilica, and I was fortunate to be able to attend this prayer on five different nights, it begins at 8:30 PM and is preceded by a half hour of organ music in the darkened basilica. As the prayer begins, the lights are brought up. The community provides translation in several languages, on the last night I was able to hear an English translation. On this evening among other prayers we sang the Litany of the Saints.
The theme for my pilgrimage? Well, I didn't do anything so organized as plan a theme, but some primary themes emerged nevertheless.
One is the fragility and loneliness of being a stranger in a strange land. I was traveling on my own, not with a group, and of course the primary language in Italy is Italian. Sure, many people spoke some English, but even so communication could be a challenge. There is a certain helplessness inherent in being in a land where you don't speak the language fluently. Also, customs and practices are different, in almost every aspect of life, from how you order and pay for your food to how you get around from place to place. This can be disorienting.
The second theme was the need for sanctity and holiness. This was made obvious on my first full day in Rome. I stayed at a hostel, Casa Olmata, located a half block from the basilica of St. Maria Maggiorie, one of the four primary pilgrimage churches of Rome. I went to Mass and then to confession. The confessor was actually an elderly Vietnamese Dominican priest, he heard confessions in about five languages. It was a remarkable experience, he basically preached me my own personal sermon based on my confession that went on for about 20 minutes or so, its theme was the need for personal holiness and sanctity.
That was the first day in Rome. On the last day, at the Community of St. Egidio prayer, the prayer leader preached a short sermon on the need for all of us to pray and work to become saints, because sanctity is a primary prerequisite for social justice. He spoke of the importance of saints to the cause of justice throughout history, and said that our work today in this world is being upheld and strengthened by the prayers of saints and martyrs on our behalf.
The third theme of my pilgrimage was "pray without ceasing." Also, "when in doubt, pray." Here our treasury of Catholic prayers was particularly helpful. In my life here in the US, I am generally very busy. Getting separated from all that was quite a challenge, and the weeks leading up to my departure for Italy were hectic at their slowest moments. Suddenly I found myself with nothing to do in regard to that regular life, no email to check, no food to deliver, no music to prepare for mass, no work to be done for the Oklahoma Food Cooperative, no letters to write about social justice issues. All of that suddenly went away. The first few days were busy with the Slow Food meeting in Rome, about which more will be said in a day or two, but once I got to Rome, the sudden "slowness" of my life was almost disorienting. The Rosary, and my other favorite prayers (Lord's Prayer, O Christ our God, Jesus Prayer, and St. Michael's Prayer), were a great comfort and helped me to kind of re-center my life and examine my activities and renew my strength. I realized after just a couple of days that I had come to Rome just on the edge of burn-out - physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
I did the tourist thing of course, I got a guidebook, "Rome in 11 itineraries" and I completed ten of them, and visited many churches and tombs for prayer. At the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, I prayed at the tomb of St. Paul. The first church was built there in the 4th century, it was rebuilt over the years, destroyed in the 19th century by fire, and then rebuilt using the original plans for the Constantinean basilica. http://roma.katolsk.no/paolofuori.htm
At. St. Maria Maggiorie, (which means it is the primary church of Mary in Rome), I prayed often before the Altar of the Madonna, and also at the tomb of St. Matthias which is under its high altar (the apostle chosen to replace Judas Iscariot). That basilica was founded in 350 AD. St. Jerome is buried there, the church also preserves relics of the Manger in Bethlehem. There is an icon of Mary which may be 1500 years old, referred to as the Salus Popoli Romani - "well being of the Roman People". It is traditionally carried during epidemics in processions through the city. For more info, see http://roma.katolsk.no/mariamaggiore.htm .
At St. John Lateran Church, which is the Cathedral church of Rome, founded in 312, I prayed at the tomb of Leo XIII, author of Rerum Novarum. http://roma.katolsk.no/giovannilaterano.htm .
At Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, http://roma.katolsk.no/mariaminerva.htm , I prayed before the tomb of St. Catherine of Sienna.
The Church of St. Maria ad Martyrs (St. Mary of the Martyrs) is Roman times was known as the Pantheon. It is the only building remaining from Roman times that isn't a ruin and is still in use. There I prayed before a beautiful altar with a statue of St. Joseph and the Child Jesus. http://roma.katolsk.no/mariamartyres_pantheon.htm .
I visited two catacombs, and prayed at the tombs of St. Cecilia and St. Sebastian.
And of course, at St. Peters in the Vatican, I prayed several times at the tomb of Peter, and also at the tombs of Pope John XXIII, and Paul VI. http://roma.katolsk.no/pietrovaticano.htm . 99 oil lamps burn day and night before the Tomb of Peter, and even though there are always hundreds, perhaps thousands of people wandering around "touristing", it is even so a marvelous place for intercessory prayer, as is the Chapel with the Blessed Sacrament is exposed for prayer day and night.
Meanwhile, here in the United States, the election campaign raged, and the Italian newspapers were full of the stories, but I avoided it. It was a blessing not to have a dog in that race. I did not vote for Bush or Kerry and continue to think that this was the most moral choice. Neither candidate celebrated life, both embraced the ethos of the culture of death. The Catholic Worker movement has always stressed purity of means as part of its charism, and voting for candidates with the blood of the innocent flowing from their hands just did not seem to be a very pure means to desired ends. Now that the election is over, I am hoping that people will begin to see the importance of walking the little way of justice and peace as a way to build the kingdom of God right here right now, irrespective of what is or isn't done in Washington. It is certainly not the grandiose way of pomp and circumstance, but the little way of justice and peace is a true and certain way to both personal holiness and social justice in our larger community.
A fourth theme would have to be the importance of the community at prayer. During my pilgrimage I had plenty of time for personal and private prayer, but I also had the experience of the community in prayer, in the sacrifice of the Holy Mass, the celebration of vespers, and other forms of community prayer such as is practiced by the Community of St. Egidio. http://www.santegidio.org/en/ . I learned that you don't have to understand the language to participate in the prayer. The St. Egidio prayer was quite meaningful to me, even though it was all in Italian and there was an English translation only on the last night of the sermon.
The great mass events, such as the papal audience on Wednesday and the Sunday papal blessing reminded me of the true universality of the Church. People of every race and many countries and languages came together for these events. The solemn glory of high mass at St. Peter's on Sunday morning, or at St. Maria Maggiorie on All Saints Day, with organ, brass, choir, and cardinal archpriest, were tremendous experiences of liturgical prayer. Both of those celebrations were in Latin, with the readings in Italian. The work of social justice can be lonely at times, it is therefore important to come together regularly for prayer with others who walk the same paths. Hundreds of people attended the St. Egidio prayer every night, the church would be completely filled with people lining the walls and sitting on the floor. The unity in the group was tremendous, and they sang the prayer with deep devotion and spiritual understanding. One of the things about the Roman experience that really is evident is the universality, the catholicity, of the Church. Having walked in their steps, and prayed at their tombs, I have a renewed appreciation and I think understanding of those who gave gone before us marked with the sign of faith.
A fifth theme would have to be the transitory nature of earthly glory and the certainty of God's judgment upon the wicked. I spent quite a bit of time wandering about the ruins of the Roman Forum, contemplating the transition from Village to City to Republic to Empire. This place, the Roman Forum, was once the center of civilization for the Mediterranean area, Europe, Africa, and the Near East. The Temple of Saturn, where Rome kept its money, was enlarged over and over to store the ever increasing riches of Empire. Now it is a ruin, only a few walls and columns remain, the gold and silver is all gone. Columns and arches record the destruction of war, the genocide of peoples - I saw the bas relief commemorating the destruction of Jerusalem, and saw the carving of the Menorah from that Temple carried in the triumphant victory procession. I walked the stones where Roman senators and tribunes, knights and praestors, merchants and slaves once walked. The glory that was Imperial Rome is now a ruin, its fine temples and basilicas deconstructed and used to build other buildings elsewhere in Rome. Where once the people of Rome gathered to make decisions, tourists wander about taking pictures. Weeds, grass, and wild flowers grow where the Temple of the Vestal Virgins once stood, with its eternal flames providing a service to the Roman people of always having fire ready if it was needed. I remember thinking, "as went Rome, so will go Washington."
The Romans thought their Empire would stand forever, but it fell because of their own sins, and that will be the fate of our Empire too. Even as the Church, once scorned and persecuted, not only survived the fall of Rome, but triumphed over the pagan wickedness, lust for power, and greed for money that was Rome, so the Church, so often scorned in our own day, will survive the coming collapse and fall of the American Empire. Today that Empire celebrates itself, the re-election of its Emperor, a man who lusts for power, whose hands drip with the blood of the innocent poor he has so ruthlessly murdered.. The crowds gloat over the riches they will loot, the power they will wield, the innocent they will murder, even as they did in ancient the coliseums and circuses of ancient Rome.. As God judged Rome for its sins, so will God judge the United States of America, and just as the judgment upon was Rome was certain and thorough, so will it be upon the United States of America. God does not tolerate wickedness forever, but rather raises up the lowly and casts down the mighty. God confuses the proud, impoverishes the wealthy, and exalts the poor. Two thousand years after the reign of Caesar Augustus, his temples and monuments are ruins visited by tourists, while the Temple of the Child born under his watch, in a manger in a rural town, in an oppressed province, far from the glory which was Rome, is a living place, thronged with multitudes of every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. Senators and crowds praised Caesar in those days, and scorned the shepherds who came as witnesses of the Nativity glory. Today, Caesar Augustus is irrelevant, while the Christ Child is the center of our devotion.
Great, dreadful, and terrible events are upon us. Already the signs of our collapse and fall are evident to those with eyes to see and ears to hear and hearts to understand. Now is a time of grace given to us to prepare, to work carefully and with creativity, to walk the little way of justice and peace with a sure certainty in our hearts that this is the way that leads to salvation, both here on this earth and in the life to come. We are like Peter and the Apostles, adrift in a storm on the Sea of Galilee, and as we look out we see Jesus walking on the water. What's more, he beckons us to come out to him, to get out of our boats of safety and walk right straight into the storm which surrounds us. Peter does so, immediately, he leaps out of the boat and walks confidently above the waves towards Christ. But then he looks about him, sees the storm, thinks something like, "MY GOD WHAT AM I DOING OUT HERE" and of course then he begins to sink. He cries out, "Lord save me" and the Lord reaches out to him and brings him to safety. The lesson here is clear. As long as we keep our eyes on Jesus, God Eternal, we can walk confidently and safely through the storm that is upon us, but if we look away from Jesus, and trust in our physical abilities, then we will be overcome by the storm and swept into the depths and drowned. I think that this is a very hard lesson to really learn, learn in a way that is not just some kind of pious acceptance, but learn as the very foundation for our daily lives.
There was a final lesson of my Roman pilgrimage. Casa Olmata, where I stayed, is a hostel, and I was in a dormitory room with six beds (three sets of bunk beds) in a room about the size of a large closet, hehehe. It was six floors up and down, no elevator,, and at the top there is a rooftop terrace. Every night there was a bowl of sangria up there and residents at the Casa Olmata would gather, drink, discuss. Every other night they would serve pasta for one euro (which was a great deal). On several nights, the talk turned in spiritual directions, and often I would be the only practicing Catholic so I did a lot of question and answer and sometimes that went in the direction of "why are you a Catholic?". Most of the people were young, 20 somethings backpacking about Europe, a few older folks like myself. People were from all over - US, New Zealand, England, Australia, Germany, Hungary, Romania, Ireland, Scotland. So the final theme would have to be, as the Apostle Paul advised, that we should always be ready to give reasons for the hope that is within us. Most of these folks were entirely secular, yet it was obvious that there was a spiritual hunger within them, and whatever one may say about the Roman experience, it was causing them to ask deep questions within about spirituality and what God may be calling them to. This "work of apologetics" was a theme of my prayer at the tombs of St. Paul and also St. Catherine of Sienna, which were among the most special moments of my Roman pilgrimage. There were some precious moments on that rooftop terrace, I invite all to keep in their prayers those tourists who were becoming pilgrims without even realizing what was happening to them.
So now I am back at home, while I was gone, the garlic sprouted in my garlic, and the weather has apparently been so nice that I have an entire new crop of habanero, jalapeno, and cayenne peppers on the bushes. The chard, which was looking a bit bedraggled before I left has flushed out with new growth. From the long term forecast it looks like a freeze remains a while in the future, so this weekend we are going to try to get the cold frame built and planted.
Tonight I will have choir practice, and tomorrow try to finish the layouts for the fourth edition of the Better Times Almanac. I checked and there were 30 messages waiting on the phone, plus about 20 or so that were taken down and written in the house journal while I was gone. So the work of justice and peace continues. Hopefully my little part of it can go forward with a better focus and renewed strength because of these experiences in Rome.
All you holy martyrs and saints, bring justice to this world! Amen.
O Christ our God, Lord of Glory, who gave us joy and blessing from your Mother's womb, have mercy on us and save us! Salve Regina!
An essay on the eve of the 2004 presidential election
"How far people are today -- especially those who torture and kill and value their investments more than human beings -- from realizing that all the earth's millions are good for nothing, are worthless, compared to a human being." Oscar Romero of El Salvador
Over the last few months, a tremendous debate has raged in the Catholic community regarding the 2004 presidential election. Church leaders have taught with plain language regarding the importance of the protection of human life, from the moment of conception to the time of natural death, and the duty of Christians to support a civilization of life and love. One important contribution to the debate is the document, Catholics in Public Life, published by the Catholic Bishops of these United States earlier this summer..
Speaking of abortion, the Bishops said: "To make such intrinsically evil actions legal is itself wrong. . . Those who formulate law therefore have an obligation in conscience to work toward correcting morally defective laws, lest they be guilty of cooperating in evil and in sinning against the common good. . . As bishops, we do not endorse or oppose candidates. Rather, we seek to form the consciences of our people so that they can examine the positions of candidates and make choices based on Catholic moral and social teaching." I believe they speak in unity with the whole Church and with great religious and moral authority on this subject. I think Catholics have a duty to listen carefully to their words on this subject and to obey them.
"For the church, the many abuses of human life, liberty, and dignity are a heartfelt suffering. The church, entrusted with the earth's glory, believes that in each person is the Creator's image and that everyone who tramples it offends God. As holy defender of God's rights and of his images, the church must cry out. It takes as spittle in its face, as lashes on its back, as the cross in its passion, all that human beings suffer, even though they be unbelievers. They suffer as God's images. There is no dichotomy between man and God's image. Whoever tortures a human being, whoever abuses a human being, whoever outrages a human being, abuses God's image, and the church takes as its own that cross, that martyrdom." Oscar Romero of El Salvador
During this election season, we have heard many Catholic voices claiming that we must vote Republican because they are allegedly pro-life. Others have strongly argued that the Democratic party better exemplifies the social teachings of the Church, and that abortion is only one issue among many that must be considered.
There is, however, a third possibility, and that is that there is no pro-life vote in the 2004 presidential race because both candidates are supporting objective evil..
I cannot in good conscience vote for John Kerry because he is willing to murder unborn children for the sake of political expediency. In the name of power politics, he abandons the weakest, poorest, and most vulnerable members of this society, unborn children. He willingly participates in and supports their depersonalization as human beings. If it is so easy for him to compromise on this crucial life and death issue, how can we trust him to do anything at all for the poor, for labor unions, for the environment, or for any of the many other concerns that the Democrats address in their platform? On the issue of war and peace, Kerry is clearly in favor of war, there is little if any substantive difference between Kerry and Bush on Iraq. He will continue to wage war and reject peace and will shed an ocean of blood in pursuit of the bi-partisan dream of a Greater American Empire.
Catholic Democrats must bear some share of the blame for their party's record.. They have been too silent while their party supports the legal depersonalization of unborn human persons. They make excuses for the evil their party does to human life because of the disordered priorities of its policies. In the rough and tumble world of American politics, they have sold their support for too cheap of a price.
is the sign of sin, and sin produces death right in
our midst: violence, murder, torture (which leaves
so many dead), hacking with machetes,
throwing into the sea -- people discarded! All this
is the reign of hell. Oscar Romero of El Salvador
But I also cannot in good conscience vote for George Bush. His commitment to life is too much rhetoric, not enough reality. Like John Kerry, he willingly sacrifices unborn children upon the Molechian altar of political expediency. The Republicans have excellent writers who can craft elegant speeches that extol life, but their deeds do not come anywhere close to matching the needs of this time. "Faith without works is dead."
Four years of total Republican dominance of the federal government, and NOT ONE VOTE on an amendment to the Constitution to protect the lives of all human beings in this country from the moment of conception to the time of natural death! George Bush and the Republicans in Congress have put every possible issue ahead of abortion. They distract our attention from failure by crying "the judges, the judges", but they know full well that the only lasting protection for unborn children will be an amendment to the Constitution clarifying that all human beings resident here are indeed human beings and worthy of legal protection and social recognition. They passed the partial birth abortion ban, which they knew would be immediately declared unconstitutional. They featured pro-abortion speakers at their National Convention. They cut a pittance of spending for UN population programs - and that spending was immediately replaced by other governments. Their domestic policies encourage abortions driven by economic desperation among families of low to medium incomes. In some states, abortion rates have risen after Republicans have secured passage of "family cap" policies limiting additional welfare payments for additional children. Like the Democrats, the Republican record shows they are a party of disordered priorities.
The voices of 5 million children dead by surgical violence on this Republican watch cry out for justice and remembrance, but nobody seems to be listening. Catholic Republicans must bear some of the blame for the moral cowardice of their leaders. They have evidently also sold their support for too cheap of a price and thus their party places a higher value on political expediency than life.
De facto or de jure, hypocrisy or ideology, both George Bush and John Kerry embrace objective evil. Thus, in obedience to my duty as a Catholic to support life, I do not intend to vote for either George Bush or John Kerry for president of the United States. As long as we vote for objective evil, we materially support the culture of death, and as long as we materially support the culture of death, it will grow stronger and deadlier.
"I will not tire of declaring that if we really want an effective end to violence we must remove the violence that lies at the root of all violence: structural violence, social injustice, exclusion of citizens from the management of the country, repression. All this is what constitutes the primal cause, from which the rest flows naturally. Oscar Romero of El Salvador, September 23, 1979.
What then should Catholics do? The Bishops say: "Catholics need to act in support of these principles and policies in public life. It is the particular vocation of the laity to transform the world. We have to encourage this vocation and do more to bring all believers to this mission."
I believe these words of our Bishops to be God's own honest truth. The place to start is with the man or woman in the mirror, this is self-evident. If we want a nation that respects life, we ourselves must respect life in the way that we live our lives. One reason our leaders in both the Democratic and Republican parties embrace violence, greed, immorality, selfishness, and the lust for power is because We the People embody violence, greed, immorality, selfishness, and the lust for power in the way we live our daily lives. If we want better leadership, We the People must be better people.
Instead of wasting our time arguing about presidential candidates who will never do anything substantive to protect unborn children, let us nurture blessings and hope in our lives and in the lives of our communities. It is time to do something real about the violence that is so often perpetrated against women and which is a major driver of abortion, both actual physical coercion and the oppressive political and economic structures that so often make abortion seem to be a desirable economic benefit. We can no longer afford to wait on the government to get its act together. One thing that is within our power to do, and which can in fact actually reduce the number of abortions, is to create alternative social and economic structures that support and empower women to participate fully in their own lives.
To be pro-life is to actually build the civilization of life and love, not to just talk about it, or promise that we will eventually get around to it, but rather to do it right now, right here, wherever we are. All the way to heaven is heaven, as St. Catherine of Sienna wrote, often quoted by Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker movement. This is a time to celebrate life, goodness, beauty, virtue, responsibility, and joy and to practice peace, non-violence, servant leadership, harmony, community, voluntary cooperation, and the proper stewardship of God's creation. We can do what we can, with what we have, where we are.
"Let's not be afraid to be left alone if it's for the sake of the truth. Let's be afraid to be demagogs, coveting the people's sham flattery. If we don't tell them the truth, we commit the worst sin: betraying the truth and betraying the people. Christ would rather be left alone, but able to say before the world figured in Pilate: Everyone who hears my voice belongs to the truth. Oscar Romero of El Salvador, Feast of Christ the King, 1979.
George Bush or John Kerry, the sad truth is that the presidential election in this year of Grace 2004 promises nothing but more betrayal, tragedy, violence, greed and a bigger and stronger culture of death. In the face of this terrible and tragic prospect, and knowing that whatever happens on election day, the situation of the poor will be much worse in 2008 than it is in 2004, let us nevertheless not yield to despair. Instead, let us choose a little way of justice and peace and begin now to cultivate a civilization of life and love. We can effectively resist the culture of death by creating "new structures in the midst of the collapsing ruins of the old." Let us turn a deaf ear to those who call us to willingly cooperate with objective evil in the voting booth and thus give strength and victory to darkness and injustice.
"Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. " So the Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans, 2000 years ago, and so he also writes to us today.
"Let us not be disheartened, even when the horizon of history grows dim and closes in, as though human realities made impossible the accomplishment of God's plans. God makes use even of human errors, even of human sins, so as to make rise over the darkness what Isaiah spoke of. One day prophets will sing not only the return from Babylon but our full liberation. "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light. They walk in lands of shadows, but a light has shone forth. . . To believe, to hope: this is the Christian's grace in our time. When many give up hope, when it seems to them the nation has nowhere to go, as though it were all over, the Christian says: No, we have not yet begun. We are still awaiting God's grace. With certainty, it is just beginning to be built on this earth, and we will be a blessed nation and will escape from so much evil. " Oscar Romero of El Salvador
Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House in Oklahoma City
Ad majorem Dei gloriam!
Today was Tear
Down the Garage Day.
Our Annual Appeal
Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House + 1524 NW 21st + Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73106
www.justpeace.org + www.energyconservationinfo.org + www.bettertimesinfo.org + www.oklahomafood.org + 557-0436 - help line
Our primary ministry is to deliver food to people in need who don't have transportation to get to a regular food bank. Thus far this year we have made nearly 2000 such deliveries, mostly to the elderly, the disabled, and to single mothers with children. Once each year we make a formal appeal for support for this ministry to the poorest and least among us. We occasionally do other things for the poor, as we have resources available, but over the years we have had to steadily reduce the help we provide as we try to balance our resources with the requests for help we receive.
Our only support for this ministry is voluntary donations. We do not receive any food from the Regional Food Bank. We are unable to meet their service standards, primarily because the place we store our food has no gas or electrical service. Bringing our food pantry house up to code would be a major undertaking and we just simply do not have that kind of money. Every food item we give away is either given to us by somebody, or we buy it at Buy for Less or other stores with low prices. Nobody gives us discounts.
Each year we have seen an increase in the number of people contacting us for help. We do what we can, with what we have, in the place the Lord has called us, but it seems like that each year we fall a little further behind. Things were so bad this year that we ended up spending a donation designated for printing another edition of our Better Times Almanac for food.
We call upon all Catholics to bring food to donate to the poor every time they go to Mass, all 52 weeks of the year. The primary items we buy to give to the poor are listed with the calendar on the other side of this page. Food can be left anytime on the porch at 2120 N. McKinley. This is our "food pantry house", and it is right behind our residence whose address is 1524 NW 21st, the corner of North McKinley and NW 21st. There aren't any house numbers on the food pantry house, but it will be obvious which one it is. If you are a catechist, we encourage you to have regular food drives on our behalf with your religious education students.
We can also use donations of money to buy food. Checks should be made payable to Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House and mailed to 1524 NW 21st, Oklahoma City, 73106.
We can always use help in delivering these groceries. Contact me at 405-613-4688 if you want to help. We usually do this the 2nd and 4th Saturdays of each month, but in October and November we will have only one delivery day each month, dates are listed on the calendar.
We give thanks for the support that we have received in the past, and we pray God's blessings upon all of our benefactors. Every year more and more poor people get left behind for the wolves to devour. Please help us do our little part to reach out to those who are "Left Behind" and are falling through the cracks of our society's safety net. In particular, we urge parishes, especially those referring people to us, to make a regular monthly commitment, large or small, to support our ministry.
Your brother in Christ,
UPCOMING CATHOLIC WORKER HOUSE EVENTS
+ Saturday, October 9th, 9 AM, "Tear down the garage day". We have an old garage on our property that needs to be torn down before it falls down either against our house or the food pantry house.
+ Saturday, October 16th, 9 AM, Food Deliveries. Instead of 2 deliveries in October, we will do one delivery.
+ Saturday, November 20th, this will be our Thanksgiving delivery, which is usually our 2nd largest delivery day of the year, the largest delivery day is the Christmas delivery.
Food Items Needed for Distribution to the Poor
Spaghetti sauce (28 oz) | Powdered milk | Pasta | Grits | Cookies | Peanut butter (18 oz) Canned soup | Canned meats | Cereal | Candy | Ramen noodle packages | Beans and Rice | Canned vegetables | Baby food | Cooking oil | Cornbread mix | Flour | Sugar | Baby formula | diapers
This year we have made nearly 2000 deliveries of food, without any support from the Regional Food Bank. Your donation of food or money is the only support we receive.
September 4, 2004, We pray for the people of Beslan in Russia
Yuri V. Ushakov
Via fax to 202-298-5735
Dear Ambassador Ushakov:
I write to extend our sympathies to the people of Beslan who have suffered this grievous and tragic terrorist attack. I wish I could find the words to comfort those who mourn, but sometimes words cannot express the sorrows of our hearts.
On April 19, 1995, at 9:02 in the morning, I, and everyone else in this area, heard a giant explosion, the destruction of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Over the next few days and weeks, the sorrow of the tragedy intensified as the cost and consequences were made manifest to the entire community. We here in Oklahoma City, who have also suffered terrorism, have a special understanding of the pain of this terrible event for the people of Beslan. If there is anything that we can do to help with the process of healing, please do not hesitate to contact us.
In the meantime, we commend the people of Beslan to the loving care of Mary Theotokis. We pray for them, and for the rescuers who have come to their assistance. "Holy Mary, Mother of God, help the helpless, strengthen the fearful, comfort the sorrowful, bring justice and peace to all nations, and solidarity among all peoples. Give us strength to stand against the demonic powers which prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls."
Your brother in sorrow,
Robert M. Waldrop, on behalf of the Oscar Romero Catholic Worker Community
August 24, 2004 , The Monks of Clear Creek: Finding the "monk within".
I got back earlier this evening from a day trip to the Monastery of Our Lady of the Annunciation of Clear Creek. Was up early this morning (5:45!) and on the road by 6:30, headed into the rising sun. It was a beautiful morning for a drive. Oklahoma has had a very kind summer weatherwise, and everything was as green as spring. Wild flowers were blooming radically, riotously, everywhere, there were reds, pinks, blues, yellows, the pastures and meadows and forests of Oklahoma were loudly proclaiming this day the glory of God. It has been several months since I've been out that way for a visit. Too long. I am going to have to work on that.
The route to Clear Creek from Oklahoma City, since I was in a hurry this morning and wanted to get there by the 10 AM High Mass, led me east on I-40 to US 69 going north to Muskogee, thence to Waggoner, then east on 51 to the turnoff to the monastery. Then you wander around a bit in kind of a Shire-like area, well, there aren't any round doors, and I didn't see any actual hobbits, but the landscape is a mixture of trees, farms, and pasture meadows. Up this way to a stop sign, turn right there, past the rural volunteer fire department is the actual road to the monastery, which I overshot and had to back up. No traffic, so it wasn't a problem. Then after some more driving, literally across the creek, you turn up a gravel road and start gaining a bit of elevation, meander a bit through the woods, and you come to the monastery gate, then down into a valley to the monastery pro tempore. I always make the sign of the Cross as I go in (that's in lieu of getting out and kissing the ground because that's always what I think I should do).
I arrived just as the bells were ringing to call the monks to prayer. I entered the Oratory and picked up a missal and the booklet for Terce, Sext, and None. Since the monk's liturgy is all in Latin, what I like to do is read through the English translation before the ceremony begins, and then participate by simply being there. Generally when I go to mass I am busy, playing the organ and the piano, singing, conducting the choir, etc. So it is a great blessing to go there and just be there. It's very quiet at Clear Creek, you can hear the breeze. The monks' chanted prayer is like, well, it's like the breath of God hidden away there in a valley in the Cherokee nation, a precious, contemplative secret, where good overcomes evil.
The monks began promptly with the monastic liturgy for Terce. There is rising, bowing, standing, and through it all is the chanted prayer, in unity with the whole church. At such times I always think about all the other monasteries and convents throughout the world, each lifting its common voice in prayer, Latin and all the languages of Earth, a perpetual song of praise, adoration, and intercession. It is a very powerful concept, and I think it is not well understood in this day and age.
Today was the feast of St. Bartholomew, and it was his mass that we heard today. The organist accompanied the Ordinary of the Mass, and the uniting of the monks' chanted prayer with the organ seemed perfect. Yes of course there was incense, lots of it, but then there's a lot of prayer too, and so the incense seems fitting, "that's what its for". I am not a fan of dumbing down the Liturgy, whether it be in Latin or the vernacular. Dorothy Day and the early Catholic Workers, who were nourished by the Latin Mass, drew close connections between the liturgy of the Church and the cause of social justice. They knew that the work of social justice is not merely politics, but rather the incarnation in daily life of the truths and spiritual realities we experience and witness to in the holy sacrifice of the Mass. You are what you eat, after all. The vestments were red signifying martyrdom, another important truth of our religion. As we remember ancient martyrs, we cannot fail also to think of those in our own day who have been martyred. The book of those names is very thick, and it grows with each passing year as the culture of death continues its relentless war against Beauty, Wisdom, and Truth.
Afterwards I visited with Fr. Bethel the guest master a bit, and at greater length with Father Prior. The monks are producing some beautiful furniture these days, made with oak and walnut from their forests, crafted in the mission style. They have a table, a bench, a kneeler, and a coffee table for sale, and the love and care that has gone into this work is evident in the craftsmanship. Hopefully we will be able to sell some of their furniture through the Oklahoma Food Cooperative (also we hope to sell some of their lamb as it is in season - and thus supply - again, we brought back the meat of two lambs to distribute to the poor).
I then had some time to myself, and did some reading, until the bells rang for Sext, the next monastic liturgy of the hours. The monks came from the four corners of the monastery and we once again prayed in unity with the Church throughout the world. I joined the monks and the other male guests in the monastic refrectory for lunch - vegetable soup, shepherd's pie, cooked whole carrots, very delicious and chewy bread, their own homemade yogurt for dessert, and a small cup of strong coffee at the end.
After lunch I spoke with Fr. Fideo about their woodworking possibilities, and was brought up to date by Father Prior on their construction project. They finished the first phase in the spring (that being the crypt of the church and the foundation for the other wing of the monastery, at least that's what it looked like to me when I went up later and looked at it), and are working on a capital campaign for later in the year which they hope will bring enough response so that they can commence the next phase of the project. He said they occasionally go up there and celebrate mass, and lately the cicadas have been joining in with their song as kind of a counterpoint to the chanted prayer. (Well, it is a monastery in Oklahoma after all, so there will be cicadas.) I left that afternoon after the None liturgy and a visit with Brother Joseph Marie about the lambs, their sustainable forest project, and my upcoming trip to Rome. I also spoke with one of the brothers about the trees and bushes we had sent them from our bare root bulk order last winter (American plum, Manchurian apricots, black cherry, Nanking cherry, chokecherry, Siberian pea tree). Their orchard looks like it is flourishing, and I noticed they had built some trellises and planted some grape vines. Picked up one interesting trivia note. When their new monastery is completed, it will be heated with a wood-burning furnace. As they have said, they intend this building to last for 1,000 years. I doubt that a thousand years from now anyone will be selling propane. But the trees will still grow. It is interesting to see what happens when people think trans-generationally, and consider the impact of their decisions on those who will come a thousand years after them. That's a lesson our entire society needs to learn from these monks.
The trip from the monastery to the Greenwoods custom butcher in Pryor (to pick up the lamb meat) takes you out of the monastery a different way, down a little narrow road which would certainly be impassable during and after a major rain (and maybe a minor rain too, it looks like there is a seasonal creek alongside it which wouldn't take much to overflow it). You meander along, and then meander some more, up hills, down hills, around blind corners (there was a SCHOOL BUS barreling down the road towards me when I came around one such blind corner; fortunately there also was a grassy not-very-deep ditch right there so I was able to NOT have a head on collision and thus lived to write this tale), and then you come to a paved road and its up some miles and over some miles and there you are.
There are many lessons we can learn from these monks. Their lives in a sense are sermons in action. They have a society that is built on truly Catholic principles. It may not be the ordinary way for most people, but it nevertheless shows what can be done.
The monks' charism is also to remind us of the importance of contemplative prayer even to those of us in the active life. Dorothy Day and the early Catholic Workers were devoted to the Liturgy of the Hours. By immersing themselves in this liturgy of word, adoration, and intercession, they received the strength they needed to do the things they did. Work and prayer, ora et labora, the Catholic Worker charism is to live our active lives in the world in the same spirit of work and prayer that monks aim for in their oratories.
We should not think that this is easy, but the fact that it isn't easy shouldn't make us think it is somehow unnecessary. All are called to holiness in whatever vocation we have received. And we need to do what needs to be done so that we can be the holiness that is needed to overcome the evil that we encounter.
In our conversation today, Father Prior mentioned that all Catholics actively engaged in their Faith needed to have "a bit of a monk" within them, and I think he is right about that. It's not a bad goal, to get in touch with the "monk within". Deus in adjutorium meum intende.
Today is Juneteenth, the anniversary of the promulgation of the Emancipation Proclamation in Texas in 1865, which freed the slaves of that state. It is one of the oldest African American celebrations. In the 1950s, much of the farm work in Tillman County where I grew up was done by African Americans, and it was understood that if Juneteenth fell on a work day, it was a holiday. One hundred thirty-nine years later, it seems we are still trying to understand the true implications of the end of slavery. Indeed, new slaveries have arisen to replace what the world once new as slavery, perhaps these forms of slavery that are so characteristic of the culture of death are more insidious because many of them rest on claims to freedom and liberty.
The institution of traditional slavery in the United States rested on the depersonalization of human beings of African origin or descent. We would like to think that we have learned something since then, but I am dubious. I remember the "Colored Only" and "White Only" signs on restrooms and other public accommodations. I remember our family dentist had two chairs - one bright, shiny, and new for the white people, and one that was old and tattered in a room in back for people who weren't white. I remember getting our family getting a letter from the school district, I was in about the 4th grade so this would have been in 1962 or so, inviting us to choose which school we wanted to go to. There was a family gathering, and I asked what it meant. Someone said to me, "Does Bobby want to go to the nigger school?" and everybody had a grand laugh. I didn't ask a stupid question like that for many years. Such are the ways the culture of death is passed on to each generation.
In those days, there were laws and ordinances restricting where people could live based on race. This was mostly, we white people believed, for the benefit of the "colored", for reasons which to this day seemed very obscure at the time. "They don't want to go to school with us." We had only one theater in town - the Ramona - white people on the ground floor, African Americans in the balcony. I can remember my mother reminding me, when dropping us off for a Saturday show (25 cents for the movie and 15 cents for a Coca Cola), "Sit underneath the balcony because you know they like to throw things and spit on the white people." I never actually talked to someone who had been spit on or hit by something thrown from the balcony, but we all new it must be happening all the time. Given the way we were treating African Americans in those days, one could hardly blame them for throwing a spitwad or two, but mostly I think we were projecting our own fears and attitudes on them.
White people in this nation should be grateful to God that African Americans were a Christian people who more often than not responded to our hate and discrimination with love and mercy. I recall stories about young white teenagers riding around in pickups, whacking black people walking by the roadside with boards as they drove by. But I never heard any stories about African Americans fighting back against such racial terrorism. Or rather, responding with violence to the provocations. They always fought back with dignity and justice and mercy, even in the face of the most outrageous defamations, crimes, and terrorist acts against them. One of my great grandfathers was a Klansman, I've seen the Klan role of Tillman County with his name on it (it was found in the 1960s in a boarded up closet in the Odd Fellows Hall, together with other Klan paraphernalia and a human skeleton.)
Have we really learned anything since then? Or have we simply transferred the practice of depersonalization onto other targets. In the 1960s, discrimination based on race was outlawed, but in the year of our Lord two thousand and four, it is perfectly legal to discriminate against people based on economic class, and indeed, nearly every American city is BY LAW segregated by economic class. Of course, the culture of death doesn't do anything so brazen as to spell this out in the laws. A person making minimum wage can live in Gaillardia (one of the more exclusive Oklahoma City are neighborhoods) so long of course as they can afford a house there. The new Jim Crow Regime is based on zoning regulations and building codes. Poor people used to be able to build their own housing, now that is practically illegal. Our homeless problem is largely an artifact of zoning, building codes, and urban renewal programs. Over the last 30 years we have very nearly wiped out the very bottom tier of housing, where the poorest of the poor used to live. Now we wonder, "why are so many people homeless?" Duh, we bulldozed their neighborhoods to create new freeways and shopping centers, and turned their single room occupancy hotels into gentrified housing. Very little of this has been a true market endeavor, it has entirely been a matter of public policy. Local governments declare neighborhoods as "blighted", thus driving down property values, and if someone who is rich and powerful covets a neighborhood, he can get it cheap with the assistance of the local redevelopment agency. Anyone who doesn't want to move is simply driven out by the courts.
In Oklahoma City, the white establishment got even with the African American community over the civil rights movement by simply destroying the traditional heart of the African American community, the "Deep Deuce", one of the historic beginning places of jazz, a place of homes, churches, and perhaps most importantly, economic enterprises owned and operated by African Americans. In Tulsa, they were very crude about their destruction of the African American business community, the whites simply came in and burned down the African American business district, killing perhaps hundreds. Then they acted to cover up the crime - police records were destroyed, library and archive copies of newspapers were clipped of their contemporary accounts, and a conspiracy of silence descended over the events.
But in Oklahoma City, the leadership was a lot smarter. First they decided to route a freeway through the heart of the African American community so that whites fleeing to the suburbs could commute quicker to downtown Oklahoma City, and then they took the rest of the land for a grand business development. Unfortunately, their plans for the business development came to nothing as the oil industry crashed and the Oklahoma City economy practically went into a depression. (What does the Bible say? Something about "don't sow in furrows of injustice lest you reap a sevenfold harvest"? For 20 years the Deep Deuce was a weedy expanse of empty lots, a ghost of its former self. Now, some housing is being built, the neighboring "Bricktown" area is being developed as an entertainment and dining area (liberal amounts of public money are funding this), and of course, most everybody moving into the area is white.
So white people in Oklahoma City did their ethnic cleansing by due process of law. And this "riot" was legal because it is just fine in this country to discriminate against people based on economic class.
We'll know we're approaching a just society when zoning regulations and building codes are no longer used to discriminate against the poor. Minimum lot sizes, prohibitions against rental properties, duplexes, "mother in law"/basement/garage apartments, restrictions on building materials and facade decoration (such as requiring brick), laws limiting home building by owners, laws restricting the siting of trailer houses and manufactured housing, all of these are structures of sin that not only permit, they DEMAND discrimination against the poor.
If you want to know how far this corruption extends, just consider how most people respond to my comments on zoning regs and building codes. "I wouldn't want to live next door to a trailer house, it would hurt my property values." Forty years ago, white people said, "I wouldn't want to live next door to a nigger, it would hurt my property values." And, "we don't want THOSE kind of people in our neighborhood." People drive in their new cars to wealthy churches on Sunday, but any proposal that would allow Jesus to actually live in their neighborhoods will be met with outcries of outrage and legal, due process violence.
There is a place for building codes, in terms of requiring a minimum safety standard in the construction of public buildings, but building codes have gone far beyond that these days. Mostly they are backed by associations of contractors and building supply industries, and require many things that simply drive up the cost of housing and have little or nothing to do with safety. We need to get our house rewired, for example, it has the original 1930s era wiring and fuse boxes. But the cost of doing that is way more than it should be because Oklahoma city ordinances require us to bring the our 1929 era working class house wiring up to 2004 upper middle class building code standards. This requires an electrical outlet every 6 feet all the way around every wall in every room, electrical outlets all over the place outside, more electricity than we will ever use. If someone wants to install that much electricity, that is certainly their right, but to require us - who already get along fine with one or two outlets per room - to install all that extra wiring simply drives the price up for no good reason, AND THUS it comes to pass that we don't get our house rewired because we don't have the money to install upper middle class wiring in our working class house with our working class incomes. Somehow, in the minds of the city authorities, this makes us safer I guess, but personally I think it is simply evidence of their corruption and evil.
That's the way things are these days. Big city newspapers will publicize Juneteenth celebrations, while at the same time supporting the segregation of our cities by economic class. We ask ourselves "What would Jesus do?," but the idea of living next door to Jesus fills us with dread, fear, and loathing. We are a nation of hypocrites, liars, and thieves, adulterers, fornicators, and whores. We practice a politics of ruthless covetousness, and the life, liberty, and property of no poor person is safe or guaranteed as a matter of law. Anytime a rich person wants a property that belongs to the poor, he can get it cheap with the assistance of his local government. We have no shame about this, no sense of the injustice of it, indeed,, we justify our America the Merciless Empire with appeals to America the Beautiful virtues and truths. Let us pray that our hearts, which are harder than Pharaoh's towards the poor, are softened and that we can open our eyes, our hearts, and our minds to the cry of the poor for justice.
PS. Oklahoma City is even as we speak destroying two poor neighborhoods to make way for a new location for the I-40 Crosstown Freeway. Please pray that this project will collapse, that it will not be funded by Congress, that the engineers and planners will make serious mistakes, and that this effort by the rich to steal the property of the poor will fail:
God of justice
See how the
wicked attack your holy poor.
Rise up, Lord
God, lift up your hands!
holy poor from the evil which comes in the broad light
This we ask in
the name of the One who himself was a victim of the
plots of the wicked,
Oscar Romero of El Salvador,
the Archangel, defend us in battle.
Mother of God,
O Christ God,
Lord of Glory,
prayer, O Fountain of Grace,
Malcolm Berko on morality in investing, June 6, 2004
"In this business of investing, it's the bottom line that counts while kindness and goodness isn't worth a pickled herring. . . If you and your broker want to be socially conscious people, donate money to a charity or various charities of your choice. Investing is for making money not for appeasing your soul by making feel-good choices. "
My response via email to firstname.lastname@example.org :
I have a conversation going elsewhere about the news that the Church is edging towards disciplining Catholic politicians that embrace abortion.
These comments are taken from my responses in that discussion thread, and I am redacting them for here and elsewhere because I think it is time to speak with clarity and without ambiguity about what is going on in our nation. I have also added some material about other challenges to life, especially the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I think it bears repeating, for Catholics and others, that at the root of the problem of Catholic politicians embracing abortion is that it is the wilful dehumanization of the human person for the sake of political advantage -- for power and all of the perks that come with it.. Unborn children are in fact human persons, the entire legalized abortion issue rests on the depersonalizing of the unborn person as a piece of tissue. When the church calls Kerry and other Catholics to refrain from supporting abortion, they are defending the human person which Kerry et al are attacking. In effect, Kerry is saying, "I don't believe that unborn children are human persons, therefore it is fine with me if you want to murder them." What Kerry -- and others who support abortion are saying is the equivalent of what the Nazis said about the Jews: "We don't really think that Jews are human persons, therefore it is fine to murder them. You shouldn't disagree with our choice because, after all, believing that Jews are human persons is a matter of personal conscience, and the Church shouldn't get involved."
But the Church must get involved with this. The Church is called to protect all human beings, even though they are unpopular, poor, defenseless, and in a place of social disfavor with powerful people -- all of which are characteristics of unborn children. Pro-abortion Catholics and others deny the human personhood of these defenseless persons! They have no voice, they have no status, and if the Church doesn't speak in their defense, the Church betrays Christ. Every abortion is another crucifixion, another murder of the innocent Christ. It is a tragedy that the women's movement claims that the right to murder unborn children is an essential human right. Defense and advocacy of abortion contributes to the near total lack of respect for life we see throughout the world. The roots of our willingness to murder Iraqi civilians are found in our indifference to the screams of terror and pain of the unborn children we rip from their mother's wombs and flush down the toilet.
Both Bush and Kerry are equally anti-life. The Bush administration opposition to abortion is feeble and entirely politicized. They have not made any kind of a serious move to protect unborn children, Bush no more understands the humanity of the unborn human person than Kerry does, that is obvious in the way he addresses -- and prioritizes -- the subject. Nothing happens until just an election year. Always too little, too late, and yet we hear no end to the praise of these feeble gestures, the praise is so loud it drowns out the screams of all those children who are still being aborted. This orgy of self-congratulation among Catholic Republicans distracts us from the weakness of the Republican position -- and political performance -- vis a vis abortion. George Bush and the Republican majorities in both houses of Congress have not managed to save the life of even one unborn child in four years. The best thing I can think of to say about that is "pathetic".
There are no pro-life votes on the American ballot this year, only a choice between two evil, wealthy, and powerful politicians who will murder, burn, and destroy their way through their term. Clinton murdered and burned and destroyed his way through his term. Bush the first, Reagan, and Carter did the same in the 1970s and 1980s. Kerry will do the same as will George Bush. Many innocent people will die for their grandiose schemes.
The blood of their innocent victims is upon the heads of all who vote for these evil men and their allies in Congress. And it will also be on our children's heads, and the heads of our grandchildren and great grandchildren. The bipartisan foreign and economic policies of this nation are sowing evil seeds of injustice that will ripen into horrors that will attack us in the very heartland of our nation. Do not sow in furrows of injustice, the Bible advises, lest you reap a seven-fold harvest.
My advice is that we should all open our hearts and minds to the screams of the innocent victims of the Republicans and the Democrats and do not consent to four more years of death and evil. It will happen anyway, Bush or Kerry, but why should it happen with the support of any Christian? Americans who vote for Bush and Kerry are like the Germans who voted for Hitler. They are enabling evil on a global scale because down deep they believe they will personally benefit from "four more years" or from "Bushwacking bush". Americans are a selfish people, we generally don't see a problem with betraying the common good so we can better our own personal circumstances. In this, we are exactly like the Germans who voted for Hitler. Ordinary German people profited -- a lot -- from the prosperity and "order" that Hitler brought. That is, of course, until their whole system was destroyed. When it was all over said and done, I think they realized they had made a bad choice. Too bad we can't learn from their experience, but we won't, we probably can't, and so we are doomed to the same fate that befell them and all other great and evil oppressors throughout history.
In discussing this on line, someone replied, "You make it sound so simple, so black and white" and then went on to enumerate all the hard cases: rape, incest, teen pregnancy, endangerment of the mother. I reply:
I say that killing an unborn human person does nothing to rectify the original injustices you speak of. If that is simple, what part of "thou shalt not kill" do you not understand? Should children die because we Christians are selfish and do not open our hearts to these women in crisis to support and help them?
This is also a lesson of history as well as faith. Once we start down the road of dehumanization of human persons, it does not stop. That's what happened in Germany with the Germans, and that's what is happening with us.
There is no lawful reason to murder a human person. And unborn children are human persons. It is that simple. People are people, they may not be killed. Just because a great number of people say "these people are not people", does not mean that they are not people. They remain people, but now they are also victims, because the purpose of denying their human personhood is to allow us to be predators upon them.
Given our embrace of abortion, it's not surprising that we so easily depersonalize the Iraqi and Afghan peoples. A leading Catholic archbishop even blessed the slaughter of innocents in Afghanistan as "regrettable, but necessary". I was not surprised to later learn that this Cardinal Archbishop Law of Boston was guilty of the most egregious failures of judgment regarding pedophile priests and their victims. Once you start believing that some people aren't human, it is really easy to expand your vision and conclude that other people aren't people too. It becomes a convenient way to evade responsibility and do evil. This is the voice that the Catholic bishops of this country listened to when they blessed the slaughter of the innocent in Afghanistan as just. We wrote, in conjunction with 3 other Catholic Worker Houses, to all the US bishops about their error of judgment regarding Afghanistan. Not one single bishop replied to us. Only one bishop has had the courage to tell the truth about the Iraq war, the Most Reverend Michael Botean of the Rumanian Catholics. The rest are silent, and then they wonder why people do not listen to them on abortion. Are people human persons or not? Maybe, the bishops say. It depends on how scared we are, or how much we need their oil, or how unpopular "those people" are. Our need for cheap oil obviously trumps the rights of Iraqi citizens to life. This is the real meaning of the waffling of the US bishops on the justice of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. And so it has come to pass that the bishops' trumpet has given an uncertain sound, so no one goes to battle. Our bishops praise the ministry of John Paul II, but then they undermine his teachings by their selective obedience to what he has to say to us.
But not Bishop Botean. Here is what he said about the Iraq war:
"Any direct participation and support of this war against the people of Iraq is objectively grave evil, a matter of mortal sin. Beyond a reasonable doubt this war is morally incompatible with the Person and Way of Jesus Christ. With moral certainty I say to you it does not meet even the minimal standards of the Catholic just war theory. Thus, any killing associated with it is unjustified and, in consequence, unequivocally murder. Direct participation in this war is the moral equivalent of direct participation in an abortion. For the Catholics of the Eparchy of St. George, I hereby authoritatively state that such direct participation is intrinsically and gravely evil and therefore absolutely forbidden. My people, it is an incontestable Biblical truth that a sin left unnamed will propagate itself with lavish zeal. We must call murder by its right name: murder. God and conscience require nothing less if the face of the earth is to be renewed and if the salvation offered by Our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ is to reach all people, including us. We have no choice before the face of God but to speak unambiguously to the moral situation with which we are confronted and to live according to the Will of Him who gazes at us from the Cross (Catechism 1785). "
Thank God for the courage of this bishop.
To be silent while the murder of human persons is praised and advocated by Christians is to consent to that murder. It is no kindness to anyone to pretend that it is anything other than what it is, the taking of an innocent human life. Regarding abortion, women should not want to make those kinds of decisions, and those who encourage them to do so are not doing them or the common good any favors. Regarding war, we should reject all politicians who would sacrifice the lives of the innocent poor to their grandiose schemes of conquest and glory. No actions are without consequences, none of us are islands, when one is injured, all are hurt. No person's ownership of their own body gives them power over another. That kind of radical selfish autonomy is antithetical to the demands of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who was a human person who gave up life in a very cruel and unjust way, for the sake of love for us.
Some say this concern for human life -- from the moment of conception to the time of natural death -- is a doctrine of Catholic men, but it is not only Catholic men who speak of the importance of life, it is also many Catholic women. Some, like Mother Teresa, are world renowned, others aren't, but their witness is no less a true and authentic voice of their gender, even though there are those who would deny that too.
There is presently a serious propaganda campaign operation being carried out within the Catholic community, which is trying to frame the political discussion to say that voting for Kerry is a sin. Well, I think that voting for Kerry is indeed a sin, but I also think that voting for Bush is a sin. Both show flagrant and public disrespect for life. Both are guilty of the murder of the innocent. Neither one is worthy of the vote of any Catholic, or any person of good will who is concerned about a future of justice and peace. Votes for either one are votes for murdering the innocent. Catholics should not vote for politicians who will murder the innocent. There is no good reason to do so.
Discussing this online, one person said that as long as there was a sliver of difference between the two, even if it was Hitler and Stalin, you should still make a choice. I reply
To vote for Hitler or Stalin is to consent to mass murder. What would the point be of making such a choice? Where would the sliver of daylight be? Certainly there is none between Kerry and Bush. As long as we consent to mass murder, we will get mass murder. You do get what you vote for. Anti-abortion Catholics in the Republican Party have betrayed the unborn by consenting to the feeble and politicized Bush program, while turning a blind eye to the anti-life policies he is pursuing in Iraq and elsewhere. Catholic Democrats, or "progressive Christian Democrats" have done the same with the Democratic Party. They have surrendered their ideals and traded their votes for not very much. Catholic Democrats and Republicans alike have sacrificed the common good and the lives of the innocent in the womb and on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan for their own special interests.
It is a tragedy of historical proportions that at this critical time in our history, these are our choices: Bush or Kerry. And it is sad that the Catholic people of this nation are such a large part of the problem. We of all people should know better, but for most of us, our Americanism is a lot more important than our Catholicism. Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings was told that he could either rise to the heights of glory and triumph or perish in the abyss of surrender and defeat. Instead of being the city set on a hill, American Catholics -- led by our bishops and clergy -- are rejecting the splendor of truth and are embracing and profiting from the culture of death in all of its selfishness, greed, and worship of materialistic consumption. We think the Bible says "Woe to the poor and blessed are the rich," but what Jesus said was "Blessed are the poor, and woe to the rich."
In a discussion in yet another internet forum, my friend Christopher Zehnder, commenting on our American love affair with the culture of death, wrote, "Instead of fleeing Sodom, we linger in its suburbs." My advice to Catholics and to everyone else during this election year is to get out of the Sodom and Gomorrah that we call the Democratic and Republican parties. If that means that for a time we must flee into the political wilderness, well, that is a better place to be than consorting with Baal and Ashteroth in the halls of power of a nation that does the things that our nation is doing right now, and the even worse things we will do in the future.
Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House in Oklahoma City
There is an email going around asking people to wear red on Fridays as a sign of opposition to the present policies of the US government. It's not completely clear what its author's politics are, but the idea sure appeals to me.
Red is the liturgical color of martyrdom, and wearing red on Fridays is kind of a "liturgy in life" way to remember all of the martyrs of justice and peace of the present age. The news these days is so evil, the public discourse so demonic, it is almost unbearable. I cringe at the headlines and the escalating violence and chaos which spawn the news stories of this day. When I hear our leaders speak, I am filled with despair and foreboding.
Even so, I am trying to remember, "In the midst of death, we are in life."
Next Sunday my choir is singing at Epiphany Church the anthem "Jerusalem, Jerusalem", the chorus for the third verse is: "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, sing for the night is over, hosanna in the highest, hosanna to the King." It's not a particularly difficult arrangement, but I told the choir that it was important that we sing these words with great belief and devotion, because the news these days is so evil: "The gates are open wide, and all who will may enter and no one is denied, no need for sun to light the day, nor moon to light the night! It is the new Jerusalem that does not pass away." I told them that we all needed to see that hope in the midst of these terrible times, and then I asked everybody to look at the copyright date of the anthem, which was 1944, first published in 1945.
I will wear red on Fridays, the color of blood and martyrdom. I may even hang a red flag on the porch.
I do this in memory of all whose innocent blood is shed during this present time of grave wickedness and world-wide evil. I remember the children whose lives are ended by abortion, the civilian noncombatants killed in war, and all of the military personnel who have given their lives. I will not forget the families and children left behind.
I grieve for the betrayal of our constitutional order by the Democratic and the Republican parties and the gangs of organized special interests who control them. I grieve for the absence of leaders of national stature who will defend life and champion the common good. I grieve for the deterioration of our governing institutions into a wild zero sum power game that divides up the loot, rewards friends, and punishes enemies. Our nation is doomed, the great American Republic is dying, right before our eyes, drowning in lust and arrogance and greed and violence and selfishness, a culture of death armed with powerful weapons and a voracious appetite for blood and treasure. What terrible visions the future portends.
With Mary, Mother of God, and St. Joseph, defender of the poor, I pray that the mighty will be brought low into the dust and that the proud will be scattered, the arrogant confused, and the violent disarmed. I pray that the lowly will be exalted and that at the hour of their need the poor will receive help, hope, and salvation. I pray for all at risk of violence and terror from others who are stronger than they and have no sense of mercy or justice, for the dead today and those who will die in terror and violence tomorrow. I pray for those who commit war crimes and atrocities against civilian non-combatants, hostages, and prisoners, and for all who support these wars, terrorist crimes, and attacks on human life, for those who conspire to commit these evils, who pay for them, benefit from them, praise them, and cooperate with them.
I will wear red on Fridays, lest we forget.
"Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." Paul the Apostle to the Romans. And also to the Americans.
A PRAYER FOR THOSE ABOUT TO BE KILLED IN WAR OR ECONOMIC CHAOS
Our Lady of Sorrows,
Hear our prayer for all those who will die today because of war and economic oppression, especially the children.
Prepare them for the agony, despair, and terror of the violence that is upon them. Comfort them and hold them close to the bosom of your most Immaculate Heart as they drink deeply of the bitter cup which is forced upon them. Wipe their tears, calm their fears, welcome them to peace and safety. Eternal rest grant to them, and may perpetual light shine upon them.
Overturn the thrones of tyranny, scatter the unjust, cast down the bloody rulers who make the cry of the widow and orphan rise to heaven. Give us your grace and strength to stand against the demonic powers which prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. May all rise in judgment against the wickedness that brings this violence upon the world. Grant that peace with justice will come to all the world. Amen.
PRAYER TO ST. MICHAEL THE ARCHANGEL
St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our shield against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.
O Christ our God, Lord of Glory, who gave us joy and blessing from your Mother's womb, have mercy on us and save us.
Ash Wednesday ushers in a time of hope in the liturgical calendar. At Mass earlier today, Father Mollan told what seemed to me to be the perfect Lenten story. A bird sees a carcass on an ice flow in a river, and flies down to feed. He is so hungry he doesn't notice the growing roar of the waterfall just ahead. When he does hear the noise, and tries to fly away to safety, his claws have become frozen to the ice, and he can't fly.
This seems to me to be a perfect metaphor for our sin. We need to escape the destruction our sins move us towards, but all too often they hang onto us, not letting us fly away, and thus they carry us onward to our destruction. I think this is true for us as individuals, and also true for us as communities and nations.
So each year, the church gives us a whole season to reflect upon our sin. We don't like to do this, it is not convenient, such an examination may make demands upon us. And we're all too busy anyway, so the temptation is always to just simply skip the reality. My prayer for Lent is that we will break through the chains which bind us down to our doom, and thus be able to soar away "on eagles' wings" to safety, healing, hope, and wholeness.
The disciplines of Lent can help us to achieve this goal, when in doubt, we certainly should "go through the motions", as the "motions" themselves can be a way to access grace. If your heart is cold, give food to the poor. If it remains cold and unresponsive, give more food. To help us all this Lent, enclosed with this mailing is something I have updated from an essay we sent out a couple of years ago, Alms for the Poor and Alms for the Environment.
I would also like to make an appeal for volunteers to help with our work. It is not easy to be a volunteer with the Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House. The way you volunteer is to "just show up". We rarely have too many people show up for the work that is at hand. The upcoming food delivery days are Saturday February 28th, and March 13th and 27th. We meet at 9 AM at 2120 North McKinley. On Friday March 12th, we will be setting up the St. Joseph's Table in the gathering space at Epiphany Church. This is an important devotion for us and we invite all people to come and view the table, place food upon it to give to the poor, and pray to St. Joseph on behalf of the poor, and to attend the Blessing of the Table at the 8 AM Mass on March 19th. St. Joseph's Bread will be distributed that day.
On Monday March 8, we are providing dinner to 115 or so Immokalee tomato workers who are coming through town on another one of their public efforts to encourage the boycott of Taco Bell until such time as they agree to pay a better price for their tomatoes so that these workers can earn a more just wage. I will probably start cooking about 4 PM, and they are tentatively scheduled to arrive about 6:30 PM, if you want to help with this contact me closer to the 8th when I will know more about the time.
We also have volunteer work that can be done by anyone with a telephone. We need help handling the phone calls. We can easily receive 100 phone calls in a week, and sometimes the same person will call back several times because I am so busy we can't get every call returned promptly. I would like to recruit seven people who would check our messages each day, take them down and delete them from our Call Notes system, return calls as necessary, and then get us that information. If you have internet service, that is a bonus, if not, we need volunteers who live close enough to Epiphany Parish or our house so that they could easily drop by the information. This is an important aspect of our hospitality which we are not doing a good job with presently. People who call us for help often are pretty desperate, and they may simply need someone to reassure them that we will be there on Saturday for them. People also may need referrals to other agencies. I will train the volunteers who do this, what I would like is for someone to commit to taking messages say every Sunday, or every Monday, one day a week, "most of the time" (recognizing that people go out of town and etc and that people may not be able to do this every week).
Finally, on Sunday March 14th at 2:30 PM there will be a reception in the Patio Room at Epiphany Church, my father and step-mother are visiting, and so we are having a party with light refreshments. If I can find some time to practice, I will also do a short organ concert in conjunction with this event. All are welcome, but please let me know if you are coming so we know how much food to prepare.
So there's plenty to do, and never enough time or people or money to do everything, so we continue to do what we can, with what we have, where we are. We pray God's blessings on you during these days of Lenten journey.
Your brother in the Lord,
In November, the lectionary turns our thoughts to the last things, to the great and terrible day of the Lord, when history ceases, and a new eternal age will dawn. This is one of the greater mysteries of our Faith. These days there are any number of people who think they have this figured out. Popular novels built on scraps of biblical information develop in great detail how their authors think the "End Time" will play out. Many people believe that these days that we live in are the "Last Days", and that people now living will see the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
Yet, our Lord today reminds us that nobody knows the day nor the hour, that these events are hidden in mystery and wonder. Our vocation, as Christians, is to be ready and watchful, to keep our lamps "trimmed and burning," so that when the Bridegroom comes, we are there. The readings for these days prepare us for the coming season of Advent, where in anticipation of the Nativity of Jesus, we think about his Second Coming in the context of his first Advent.
The liturgy is not simply a historical re-enactment. Liturgy is a work of sacramental grace, by which over time our lives are formed in accordance with God's will for us. The basic elements of the Mass are very ancient, as are the readings themselves. Sometimes, as the centuries have passed, words which had great meaning and immediacy for their original hearers become a bit muddled in translation.
For example, we no longer have to fill lamps with oil and carefully trim the wicks so that we have light. Now we simply flip on a switch. Electricity has made many things much easier. I remember my grandmother Dovie Waldrop saying that one of the things she always regretted in her life was that they didn't get electricity until after her mother had died. "She never got to see how easy it was to keep house with electricity."
But the point of these words - the need to be ready for the coming of the Lord - remains important for us, even if the way we live our lives is much different from the lifestyles of our great grandparents. The end of history remains shrouded in mystery, but none of us know when our own personal histories will be transformed into eternity. Thus, the need is ever present for us to live as though we were already in the Kingdom of God.
How then can we be watchful and ready? That these are
tragic times cannot be doubted. The troubles of this world
are almost overwhelming if we try to
contemplate them in their totality. And it seems that even
worse things are on the horizon. Well, when in doubt, do
your duty and live the Gospel, then you are
ready for anything and everything that may come your way.
We are opening a season of Thanksgiving and rejoicing, the "holy days" of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany are upon us. Most of us reading this will celebrate in peace, safety, and abundance, but we should not forget that many people in this world experience war, danger, and scarcity. Thus, our call as Christians is - in the midst of our abundance - to remember those who are in scarcity and want. You don't have to go far, I could drive a few blocks from our house and show you the face of poverty in Oklahoma City.
It almost overwhelms me, sometimes. On the 8th, we had 60 requests for food assistance, but we only had food enough for 3 families. Since then, the calls have continued to come in, and we presently have over 100 requests for help in our house journal but we have no resources too respond. Epiphany parish has pledged 10 Thanksgiving baskets, and so has St. Charles parish, and we have enough money to buy food for maybe another 15 or so. We are not doing Christmas presents this year, in order to concentrate on our basic ministry of food security. Throughout the past year, we have focused more on that basic ministry. We used to help occasionally with rent and utilities, medical bills and etc., but that hasn't been possible this year. It is a constant challenge to look at our situation and balance the requests for help with the resources available.
This year for the first time we are doing a fund raising "activity". Thanks to the generosity of a parishioner family at Epiphany Church, I have recorded a CD of improvisational piano meditations on Advent, Nativity, and Epiphany hymn tunes, performed live on the Yamaha conservatory grand piano at Epiphany Church. I have called the album Venite Adoremus, the first two words of the Latin refrain for O Come, all ye faithful. They should be back from the production company during the first week of Advent. We will be selling them for $15, with all of the proceeds benefitting the work of the Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House. Basically, one CD equals one bag of groceries, with beans, rice, pasta, spaghetti sauce, flour, cooking oil, cans of soup and vegetables, cornbread mix, peanut butter. If all 1,000 CDs are sold, we would have the resources necessary for 1,000 bags of groceries. Over the last year, we have delivered more than 2,000 bags of groceries to people in need who don't have transportation, and have had about 6 weeks where we had no food to distribute, so you can see what a tremendous benefit this would be to the poor that we serve.
We thank you for your help in the past, and we ask your prayers as we go forward into the future. For 2,000 years the Church has been keeping its lamps trimmed and ready, and an essential aspect of that work is the apostolate of justice and mercy. Be assured of our prayers for each of you during this holy day season.
+ We will be distributing the food that we have for Thanksgiving on Saturday, November 22nd. In December our delivery dates will be December 6th and 20th.
+ The feast of St. Lucy is December 13th, so the following Wednesday (17th) , Friday (19th), and Saturday (20th) are the Ember Days of Advent. We invite all to join us in fasting and prayer on these days, that we may learn moderation and wisdom in our use of the goods of Creation, and thus be prepared spiritually for the holy days of Advent, Nativity, and Epiphany.
+ Our newest long-term work of justice, the Oklahoma Food Cooperative, got off to a great start this month. We had a banquet at Epiphany Church with nearly 100 in attendance, and about $3,000 in food was ordered during the first order week. Several people ordered food for us to give to the poor, so we will have fresh greens and hamburger, bought directly from farmers, to include with our food distributions this month.
10 improvisational meditations on the music of Christmas.
By Robert Waldrop, director of music at the Catholic Church
of the Epiphany of the Lord in Oklahoma City
To order one or more copies of the Venite Adoremus CD,
please fill out the information below and include $15 for
each copy ordered. This price includes
shipping, and if you would like to have copies sent to
others, simply include their information on the back of
this page. We expect them back from the
production company in the first week of December, and they
will be shipped out promptly.
CD Track list:
Advent: On Jordan's Banks, Sing of Mary, O Come O Come Emmanuel.
Nativity: Angels we have heard on high, Joy to the world, O come all ye faithful, Silent night/Away in a manger medley, O little town of Bethlehem/It came upon a midnight clear medley, Lo, how a rose e'er blooming.
Epiphany: We three kings/What child is this medley, with reprise of O come all ye faithful, Joy to the world, and Angels we have heard on high.
# Ordered: ___________________________
Coming soon: a website page for the CD at http://www.justpeace.org/venite.htm .
All proceeds from the sale of this CD benefit Oklahoma City Catholic Worker ministries. Each CD purchase buys about one grocery bag of food to distribute to the poor.
For more information about the Oscar Romero Catholic Worker House:
www.justpeace.org Access to Catholic Social Justice Teachings
www.bettertimesinfo.org Access to sustainable, simple, and frugal living resources
www.energyconservationinfo.org energy issues
www.oklahomafood.org Oklahoma Food Cooperative
Mailing: 1524 NW 21, Oklahoma City 73106
Telephone: 405-557-0436 or 405-613-4688
at Epiphany Parish: 405-722-2110 ext 115
Winter is coming, yet fall remains mild here in Oklahoma City, even as the ducks and geese migrate overhead towards warmer territories. Our tomatoes are producing better than they did in the summer, especially the heirloom Cherokee tomatoes. The chards, turnips, purple hulled peas, and mustards are all flourishing. We are grateful to God for the bounty He gives us from the earth, a beautiful planet created for us and for all creatures to enjoy and love. How sad that so often people treat the earth with contempt; instead of gardens, we create trash dumps. We could cultivate and cherish the earth, yet so many choose instead to rape and poison it. The psalmist sang, "the earth is the LORD's and the fullness thereof, let us rejoice and be glad in it." And be thankful for the blessings we receive.
On these two days of solemnity, the Church calls us to remember those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith. We are here because our ancestors gave us life. They bequeathed to us not only DNA and physical bodies, but also gifts of culture, language, family, ideas, and faith. We are who we are in part because of who they were. Our children, in their turn, receive from us a similar inheritance, which they will also pass on to those who come after them.
We should also reflect on our lives in the present. Brother Lawrence, a humble medieval monk, is nevertheless remembered today for what he taught us about practicing the presence of God. He told us that when he was washing dishes, he was as much in the presence of God as he was when he knelt in adoration before the altar in the sanctuary. I don't know about you, but I don't often feel that close to God when I am washing dishes. Typically, I am thinking about how much I dislike washing dishes. It is easy for me to be in the presence of God, for example, when I go out to the Clear Creek Monastery and kneel in the oratory listening to the monks' Latin chant. But that is not very common, I don't go there very often, I don't need to practice the presence of God when I go there. My daily life is another story. That of course is the point of Brother Lawrence's teaching, the gift he continues to give to us so many years after he went to his grave.
On All Saints we remember and reflect on great heroes of our history and present, women and men who walked with God and who lived that faith in their daily lives. Some were famous, others so obscure we hardly know anything about them. They all have important lessons to teach us. Our job is to open our hearts to what they have to say to us today. Saints are not just dusty images in the corners of churches with candles flickering before them, no, they are living beings, every bit as real as you or I. We may not ordinarily see them, or hear them speak to us with our physical ears, but that does not mean they are no longer real. On the contrary, the work they did while on this earth, on this side of the veil of temporality, continues now that they have passed into God's presence.
I'm sure we all have favorite saints, I talk to Dorothy Day all the time, and often complain quite bitterly to her about this or that that I feel is not going right. Oscar Romero of El Salvador is another saint who is very close to our work, also Peter Maurin, St. Joseph, St. Maximilian Kolbe, Sts. Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac, the Martyrs of Acteal, the Adorers of the Blood of Christ Martyrs of Liberia, Charles Foucauld, St. Catherine Drexel, St. Therese the Little Flower, Stanley Rother of Oklahoma, Matthew Talbot, and last but not least, Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mother of our Lord. Not all of these men and women have been formally recognized as saints by the Church, but since ancient times the faithful have honored "holy helpers of the poor" and indeed it was out of that simple grassroots process that our modern methods of canonization developed.
Saints are important to our faith, when I am feeling weak and discouraged, I reflect on Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin feeding the poor, or Oscar Romero preaching fearlessly in his Cathedral, or St. Maximilian Kolbe, celebrating mass while locked in a cage, starving to death in a concentration camp. Their experiences give some perspective to the little problems I have to contend with here and now. The saints are full of love for us, they are here to help us, most of us I suspect really do not appreciate all they can do for us and the cause of justice and peace. It's not for nothing that I talk so much about the "Holy Helpers of the Poor."
The ties which connect us with saints also unite us with our ancestors of the body that we remember on All Souls. Death divides us from them, but one day we will all find out just how fragile and tenuous that division is. Death seems so irrevocable and hard to understand from our viewpoint. Yet, we read, "Where O death is thy sting? Where O grave is thy victory?" Indeed, death is not the extinction of our being, but rather a transition from one kind of life to another. Thus, just as we pray for our loved ones who are alive and with us today, we pray for our ancestors who have gone before us, and I am confident that they also pray for us and are "there" for us in our times of need. We may think we sit and cry in an empty room, but we are surrounded by beings of love and light who cry with us and share our sorrow and if, as Jesus said, we could only open our eyes to see and our ears to hear we would understand that the loneliness can be healed and our alienation made whole by, at least in part, our understanding that we never walk alone, we never bear any burden alone, we do not have to figure every single thing out for ourselves.
Our ancestors and the saints are for us who are alive today witnesses, examples, and guides. On these holy days of remembrance and awe, may their memories and lives be for us a source of hope, strength, and wisdom. May we all learn from them how to live in justice and peace today, and join together to create structures of healing and wisdom, joy and peace, justice and mercy, to replace the collapsing ruins of the structure of oppression, hatred, sorrow, and death which have afflicted us so long. Pray for the poor - and work with fortitude and prudence for justice and peace - during these terrible times.
In November, we will deliver food to the poor on the 2nd and 4th Saturday's of November (the 8thand the 22nd ). The 22nd will be when we distribute what we have for Thanksgiving meals. During the winter, we also have need of coats, gloves, hats, socks, blankets and towels, which are mostly given to the homeless. Our needs are very great this time of year, utility bills will be high this winter and often the only place poor people have to get extra money is their grocery budget. Food can be dropped off at my office at Epiphany Church, or you can leave it on the porch at 2120 N McKinley (which is the small house behind 1524 NW 21st, which is where we live.) Food can also be brought on the Saturday mornings where we are delivering food.
FOOD COOP UPDATE
The food coop we helped start is beginning operations
this month, the first orders are due November 13th
for delivery the following Thursday, November 20th,
which is one week in advance of Thanksgiving. We presently
have 71 members, 28 of which are farmers and ranchers. On
November 6th, we are having an
inaugural banquet at Epiphany Church, and the food is
going to be really good. If you would like to attend to
see what this is all about, call me right away at
The glorious fall weather continues here in Oklahoma City. The fall garden I wrote about at Labor Day is growing nicely. I've been planting shallots and multiplying onions (although the cats are trying to dig some of them up!), and am about ready to start planting garlic.
The Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride came into town yesterday (Sept 26th), and the lunch we prepared for them went really well. Rich Roman, Marcus Evans, Susan Lee, and Lou Ann Batey came on Thursday and helped with some of the prep, and then on Friday Marcus and Lou Ann came back and helped cook, together with Mary Bishop of Epiphany Parish and Art Mertens, who also baked the bread for the meal. I wasn't able to find enough tomatoes for spaghetti sauce (sometimes I forget my own lectures about "eat with the season"), so our menu ended up: meat loaf, rosemary garlic mashed potatoes, baked butternut squash, apple cobbler, homemade bread, and the vegan entre was a meatless shepherd's pie. Enclosed is the flyer we gave to the attendees. Many of them were from El Salvador, and they were surprised to find that people in Oklahoma City not only knew, but respected, the work of Oscar Romero of El Salvador. The folks from Catholic Charities and the Central Labor Council also seemed appreciative of our efforts. I told one of the labor guys, "I want to cook for the labor unions." He said he would work on that. The cost to feed about 120 was $307, of which $65 was spent at Buy for Less, the rest was spent directly with Oklahoma farmers.
We may be able to have a fund-raising dinner for our Catholic Worker ministries in November. More will be forthcoming once we get a date, but it will be another all-Oklahoma dinner. If you have an organization or group, I would be happy to come and cook y'all a local food dinner some time. You buy the food, I'll cook the dinner.
We now have 36 members of our Oklahoma Food cooperative, and we are thinking we will start doing a once a month order delivery cycle for the members in November, so there will be two such opportunities prior to Christmas. There is still plenty of time to sign up.
I have written before about the Benedictine monks of the monastery of Our Lady of the Annunciation of Clear Creek in Hulbert, Oklahoma. They will have lamb available from the first of October until about November 10th. These lambs are a Dorper cross, which is a high quality breed whose meat does not have a muttony taste. The lambs were raised on natural pastures (no herbicides or pesticides) and have received no artificial hormones. The Clear Creek monastery was founded by the monastic community of Fontgombault, a medieval abbey in central France, and the animal management practices used by the Oklahoma monks derive from the rural French peasant shepherd tradition, so this is a premium product. The price is $1/pound live weight, plus $45 processing charge. The lambs will weigh about 60 pounds, and will produce about 27 pounds of meat. You can have the meat cut and wrapped to your specifications. They will be processed at Greenwoods in Pryor To place your order, contact Brother Joseph at 918-772-2454 or via fax at 918-772-1044 (the monks do not have email, although friends of the monastery maintain a website for them at www.clearcreekmonks.org.)
A friend from New York has contacted the monks and bought a lamb for us to give to the poor, so I will be going out there in October to pick it up. If anybody on this list wants to help the monks by ordering some of the lamb, I can bring it back to Oklahoma City for you. Also, we invite you to consider buying a lamb and donating it to us to give to the poor. This will help the monks, and it will also help the poor.
The permaculture weekend I wrote about in my last letter has been moved to Saturday and Sunday, October 11th and 12th, with an introductory evening on Friday the 10th. I strongly encourage folks to go to this, enclosed is a flyer with the details.
During September we edged right up to the crisis point in terms of getting food delivered. We weren't able to complete all deliveries on either of our two delivery weekends because of lack of people to help deliver. The second delivery weekend only one other person showed up. When we don't make our deliveries, people go hungry. I know this is so because I get their phone calls wondering what has happened to us, "Why was I passed over?"
We invite people to help with this work of mercy. In October, we will deliver the 1st and the 4thSaturdays. Please call me and make a commitment to be there on one of those Saturday mornings. Also, if you can't do Saturday deliveries, we occasionally get calls about emergencies during the week, could you do a delivery then? Even if you can only come once every three months, that would help.
Thanks to everybody for your support and help. As you can see, our emphasis is on food: growing it, celebrating it, cooking it, and delivering it to those who are in need. Before we started cooking Friday morning, we prayed together and ended with the Hail Mary. We often forget that among many other things, Mary was the cook for her household, and throughout her life she prepared food for her Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Food was important then, and it remains so today. It is something that we can do, and we should continue to do so.
Today is the Feast of St. Vincent, a man who loved the poor and gave his life for them. When you study his life, you quickly learn that for his time he was creative and innovative in his approach and most of all, he loved and respected the poor as human persons and involved them in his work. May his life and ministry be an example for us, and may his prayers and intercessions bring hope and health to the poor and all those who serve them.
PS. Thanksgiving and Christmas are coming, these are peak effort times for us. Pray for us that we will remain strong in this work.
PSS. In October I am spending a couple of afternoons over
at Seminole, parked outside of the Wrangler jeans plant,
with a big sign, "If you need a job, talk to
me", to promote our project of helping them start market
gardens as a way of creating their own jobs. Please pray
earnestly for this project.
Summer has fled, the August heat has broken, and the State Fair rains are coming a bit early, for which my fall garden is very grateful. This year I've planted parsnips, purple hulled peas, collard greens, green beans, trail of tears beans, and 2 varieties each of turnips, chard, carrots, and mustard, most of which are already sprouting. We've been picking the chard I planted in the spring, also some self seeded turnip greens and mizuna to make mixed greens throughout July and August. I tear them in pieces, saute them in a bit of olive oil until they wilt, and then add water (with bouillon or stock), crushed red pepper, dried rosemary, thyme, and oregano, and then cook for about a half hour. As my grandmother would say, "them are some good eats, Bobby Max."
In September there are a number of important activities coming on. On Friday, September 25th, the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride will come through Oklahoma City to highlight issues involving undocumented workers. We are providing lunch for them that day, at Mayflower Congregational Church. I am going to start cooking the day before, Thursday afternoon, at Epiphany church, and am looking for volunteers to help both Thursday afternoon and Friday morning. The meal will be pasta and a cooked tomato sauce, and I am getting as much of the ingredients as possible directly from local farmers. We will hopefully be making the sauce from fresh tomatoes, and the bread of course from home ground wheat. We are feeding 100, so it isn't a small task. Please help if you can. That evening at 7 there will be a forum at Mayflower Congregational with the workers, open to the public; that afternoon at 2:30 there is a press conference with the workers at the Latino Community Development Center.
The next day, Saturday the 26th, there are two important events. Catholic Charities will be having a social justice conference at the pastoral center, and the Regional Food Bank is sponsoring a 2 day permaculture workshop, featuring Jerome Ostenkowski of Rocky Mountain Permaculture in Colorado. I am trying to figure out bilocation so I can go to both. If you are interested in the social justice conference, contact Catholic Charities at 523-3000; if you are interested in the permaculture workshop, call me at 613 4688.
Meanwhile, our own work of social justice goes on. The Oklahoma Food Cooperative Organizing Committee is now selling shares in its order delivery service, enclosed is more information about that. And we continue to deliver food to the poor two Saturday mornings a month, and Marcus and Kathy and others continue to go out and deliver meals to homeless people in the downtown area each month. We used to deliver food to the poor every week, and then we cut back to 3 weeks/month, and then this summer we had to cut back to two Saturdays/month. This reflects our attempt to match the resources we have available with the requests we receive for help. We can only do what we can, with what we have, where we are. The issues are not only food, but also help in delivering the food. We rarely have a situation where we have too many people show up to help. And there are other things that we do that don't have to happen on Saturday mornings. Our food pantry area constantly needs cleaning and organizing. When you move as much food as we do, well, food just doesn't fall from heaven into the grocery bags and miraculously find its way to people in need. Somebody has to get the food, unload it, stack and organize it, put it into the bags, take the messages, organize the delivery lists, load it into vehicles, do the actual deliveries, and then clean up afterwards.
This work doesn't change much from week to week, and hasn't for four years, except that the tendency is for the work to increase, not decrease. As our economy continues its slow motion crash, the number of people in need continues its steady increase, while the resources to help them either stay steady or are themselves in decline. The margins are the first to collapse, and the last to recover, and we see regular evidence of this in our work of mercy. Given the fact that utility bills will be sharply higher this coming winter, I am very worried about what is going to happen to the people we serve. I am working on a flyer to distribute this winter with suggestions for how to cope with the winter heating emergency that is upon us (I know its hard to think about this at the tail end of a hot summer), the best advice I can discern is to suggest that people only heat one room. We should begin thinking now about collecting blankets and coats for the winter, and we should also all be praying for mild weather throughout the coming winter.
As this is Labor Day, we should stop for a moment and reflect on the Church's teachings regarding labor. The Church teaches that labor is superior to capital, but our culture of death of course has reversed this and our economic structures give the advantage to capital. The Church teaches the duty of employers to pay a living wage, but our culture of death makes excuses for low wage employers, even though low wage employers are as deadly to a community as methamphetamine dealers. An unfair and unjust system of globalization, which from beginning to end is rigged to favor the powerful, is destroying jobs in the United States and providing transnational corporations with structural incentives to oppress workers in poor countries with a system characterized by low wages, opposition to unions, and physical coercion of workers. People defend this by claiming that "free trade" is beneficial to everybody, but they conveniently forget to note that nothing involved with the present system of globalization even remotely resembles 'free trade'. In Seminole and Ada, 900 workers are being displaced by this system, as the Wrangler corporation moves its manufacturing plants to Mexico. Let us keep these workers in our prayers, but let us also give them practical help. We have begun an outreach to them to encourage them to start cooperative enterprises and small market gardens to replace their corporation jobs.
Someone said to me, "Bob, sometimes the stuff you write is so gloomy. But on the other hand, you are always doing and advising perky happy things like gardening, baking bread, and etc. I don't get it." Well, I try not to confuse people, but these times are not always easy to read. I think it is important not to have illusions about what is happening out there, but also to remember that even though we may live in terrible times, "all the way to heaven is heaven", as St. Catherine of Sienna said, a saying often quoted by Dorothy Day. I think the "Serenity Prayer" is very important. We do need serenity to accept things we cannot change, courage to change what we can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Our refuge is in a constantly renewing faith in God and an increased holiness in our daily lives and work. God's blessings be with all of you, we are grateful for the support and help we receive from so many of you.
PS. In September, our delivery days will be the 2nd
and 3rd Saturdays.
Works of Justice and Peace
+Live simply and justly in solidarity with the poor and marginalized and be a good neighbor. Make no war on them, rather, be one with them in spirit, truth, and love.
+Hear the truth when it is spoken to you. Discern the signs of the times and speak truth -- to power, to the people, and to the Church.
+Make injustice visible -- witness, remember, teach, proclaim, tell. Light candles, do not curse the darkness.
+Protect the poor and powerless-- listen, learn, educate, organize, empower participation, and respect life from the moment of conception to the time of natural death.
+Work for reconciliation with truth, evangelism, catechesis, orthopraxis.
+Celebrate life, goodness, beauty, virtue, responsibility, and joy. Practice peace, non-violence, servant leadership, harmony, community, voluntary cooperation, and the proper stewardship of God's creation. Pray without ceasing.
+ Ensure fair distribution, subsidiarity, economic opportunity, justice, and food security for everyone everywhere.
The Works of Justice and Peace are a statement of the mission and purpose of the Archbishop Oscar Romero Catholic Worker Community.
For more information:
www.justpeace.org Access to Catholic Social Justice Teachings
www.bettertimesinfo.org Access to sustainable, simple, and frugal living resources
www.energyconservationinfo.org energy issues
www.oklahomafood.org Oklahoma Food Cooperative
Mailing: 1524 NW 21, Oklahoma City 73106
Telephone: 405-557-0436 or 405-613-4688
at Epiphany Parish: 405-722-2110 ext 115