Monthly Archives: March 2013

HOUSE NEWS: Need some new volunteers and looking for folks to live here for Fall 2013

Click here to see an entire list of what is happening this week at the Gainesville Catholic Worker.

LOOKING FOR A FEW GOOD VOLUNTEERS: As the semester starts to wind down for students at UF and Santa Fe, we’ll be in need of some new regular volunteers starting this month and running through June. We’re hoping to continue as many of our projects as we can through the months of May and June, but we’ll need your help. If you think you can help out one day a week for Breakfast@theGreenHouse or Wednesday’s cafe in the morning or afternoon or Thursday morning at the microfarm, we’d love to have you! Just send us an email and we’ll plug you in starting this month or next…

INTERESTED IN LIVING AT THE GAINESVILLE CATHOLIC WORKER FOR A SEMESTER? Each semester, we accept 3-6 students, recent grads, and other aduts who are interested in exploring life and work in a gospel-based community, standing with and working alongside people whom our society marginalizes, and deepening one’s sense of the intersection between spirituality and social justice. The GCW Semester gives individuals the opportunity to experiment with and practice a life of simplicity, solidarity, service, community, spirituality and more. It is a “total immersion” engagement in the life and work of the GCW. If you or someone you know might be interested in living and working with us for the Fall 2013 semester, we’d love to share information and talk. Email us and we’ll send some information to look through and set up a time to meet.

MARK YOUR CALENDAR! ART FOR ALL OPEN HOUSE (WITH PIE!) ON APRIL 14: Our semesterly Art for All Open House (with pie!) will be on Sunday, April 14, from 1-4pm. We’ve created some beautiful things – from vases to rugs, made from recycled material. Come enjoy the beauty and creativity – and maybe pick up a Mother’s Day (or graduation) gift. We’ll also have slices of homemade pie on hand for anyone who comes by!

RETREAT ON INTENTIONAL COMMUNITIES THIS WEEKEND: Pax Christi Florida is hosting a retreat on the spirituality of intentional communities with Christine Vladimiroff, osb in Delray Beach April 6-7. Two members of our community will be attending. If you’re interested, you can find out more about the retreat by clicking here.

Hope you had a happy Easter and looking forward to seeing many of you this week!

HOUSE NEWS: Mark your calendar for Art for All sale (with pie!)

Click here to see an entire list of what is happening this week at the Gainesville Catholic Worker.

NAPKINS NEEDED: With all of the extra meals we have been serving since starting to serve breakfast 4 times a week, we find that we are often running out of cloth napkins – especially after rainy days when we can’t hang them out to dry. Our friend Beth has a serger that can whip out napkins in no time, but we need fabric scraps to make them. Do you have any large fabric scraps (at last 18″ square) that you aren’t using? If so, drop them by the house and we’ll put them to use!

Rugs for the Art for All sale!

Rugs for the Art for All sale!

MARK YOUR CALENDAR! ART FOR ALL OPEN HOUSE (WITH PIE!) ON APRIL 14: Our semesterly Art for All Open House (with pie!) will be on Sunday, April 14, from 1-4pm. We’ve created some beautiful things – from vases to rugs, made from recycled material. Come enjoy the beauty and creativity – and maybe pick up a mother’s day (or graduation) gift. We’ll also have slices of homemade pie on hand for anyone who comes by!

DIEDRE HOUCHEN, FRIEND OF THE GCW, TO SPEAK AT LAW SCHOOL EVENT ON TRAYVON MARTIN CASE: “At Close Range: The Curious Case of Trayvon Martin,” is March 20 at the University of Florida Levin College of Law in the Chesterfield Smith Ceremonial Classroom, HOL 180. The Center for the Study of Race and Race Relations will bring together experts from nine different departments at UF along with keynote speaker, New York Times op-ed columnist Charles Blow. The panel presentations will be from 9 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. and Blow’s keynote lecture will be from noon – 1:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public and law school parking restrictions will be lifted in the green lots. The panels will look at a wide variety of issues raised by the case, from a multitude of academic perspectives.  Some of the featured panels include “Jim Crow Riding High: The 21st Century Assault on African-American Voting Rights in Florida,” “Half-Baked: Weed, Race and the Demonization of Trayvon Martin,” and “Racial Profiling, Security and Human Rights.”

LENTEN SCRIPTURE STUDY CONTINUES: We’ll be continuing for the next three Wednesdays to look at the gospel readings for the rest of Lent, with a wrap-up session the Wednesday after. We meet from 7:30-9pm and all are welcome. Here is the reflection on yesterday’s gospel reading, John’s story of the woman caught in adultery. Also, each Tuesday during Lent, Kelli has been writing short weekly reflections (so far, on awe, joy and presence.) Click here to read all three of this Lent’s posts so far.

EXTRA VOLUNTEER HELP NEEDED ON MONDAY AFTER EASTER, APRIL 1: Several of our house members will be away on the Monday after Easter, April 1, and we’re in need of 2-3 extra volunteers to help with Breakfast@theGreenHouse that day from 7-9am. If you think you can make a one-time commitment to help that day, please let us know.

Hope to see many of you this week!

SCRIPTURE STUDY: John 8:1-11 – Lessons for men, and seeing the sins of others through our own sinfulness

John 8:1-11, reading for the fifth Sunday of Lent, March 17

John 8:1-11, reading for the fifth Sunday of Lent, March 17

Most, maybe all, biblical scholars agree that John 8:1-11 is not original to John’s gospel, and that it actually reflects Lucan artistry and themes much more. For this reason, some commentaries neglect to reflect on the passage at all. It is a problematic passage for our study because we’ve stressed the importance of studying passages in their narrative context, especially paying attention to what comes just before and immediately after the passage as we unpack everything going on within it. So if John 8:1-11 isn’t original to the gospel, its importance within the overall narrative is compromised, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t take it for what it is in itself.

The passage opens within a highly public setting—the place being the “temple area” and “all the people” coming to Jesus (v. 2). The scribes and Pharisees, traditional opponents of Jesus, enter in v. 3, dragging along a woman that they presumably have caught committing adultery. Immediately we should be aware that it takes at least 2 to commit adultery, and while the Pharisees and scribes have no problem apprehending the woman, her presumed partner, a man, seems to have given them the slip. The whole scene strains credulity. On their way to the temple area, the scribes and Pharisees just happen to come across (where, in the middle of the road?) at that very moment a woman in the act of adultery? How convenient! More likely is that this is a set-up, from beginning to end. Perhaps the scribes and Pharisees “entrap” this woman, for the purpose of challenging and embarrassing Jesus. Perhaps the woman’s adultery was a widely known “secret”, the subject of Jerusalem gossip, but only now do the scribes and Pharisees act, using her as a prop in their confrontation with Jesus. Regardless of the exact circumstances, it smells of a set-up, and the woman is nothing more than a tool, a prop, used in the scheme.

The “question” posed to Jesus by the scribes and Pharisees is whether Jesus agrees with the law of Moses that the woman should be stoned for her transgression. Interestingly enough, the law they refer to (whether in Deuteronomy 22 or Leviticus 20) emphasizes that both parties—man and woman—should suffer the punishment; here, of course, this group of men concern themselves only with the woman and with what should happen to her.

So the narrator tells us in v. 6 that the scribes and Pharisees pose this question to test Jesus—but what sort of a test is it? As one of the folks in our study pointed out, it’s a no-win situation for Jesus because in the minds of his questioners, either answer he gives will damn him. Think of it like the conundrum that Jesus faced when asked whether to pay taxes to Caesar. A simple yes or a simple no will indict him either way, giving his opponents a victory and weakening his own standing with those who are listening in. A couple possibilities exist here for being “between a rock and a hard place.” One possibility is that if Jesus were to agree to the stoning of the woman, he would in fact be going against Roman law in the region, which forbid Jews from carrying out the death penalty, a sentence handed down only by the Roman authorities (think of the high priests petitioning Pilate to have Jesus executed rather than doing it themselves). If he answers no, he is tacitly recognizing the priority of Roman authority over Moses’ authority. Either way, he loses face and can be cast by his opponents as either a dangerous anti-Roman zealot inciting insurrection or as someone who has no respect for Moses and the torah. Additionally, to choose in favor of her stoning is to bolster the position of the scribes and Pharisees themselves, since such a stance would seem to be in agreement with their own.

I’d suggest another possibility too (which fits especially well if we acknowledge this passage to be part of Luke’s tradition where women are featured quite prominently, rather than John’s tradition). The Jesus movement seemed to do quite well with women of the time, including a strong suspicion that Jesus and his male disciples were “bankrolled” by women of means (receiving provisions and hospitality, etc.). Allowing for how Jesus’ message stoked within women a sense of empowerment and equality, this scene—with a woman brutalized (the scribes and Pharisees certainly did not bringing her to Jesus gently and it must have been terrifying for her) and objectified and used by men to further their own schemes—could have also functioned, intentionally or not, to drive a wedge between Jesus and his women disciples/supporters.  Going along with the “law of Moses” would surely alienate those women who had found so much hope in what Jesus had said and done. But to go against the law could also weaken Jesus’ standing as a man of the times, especially in the eyes of other men, traditional men, concerned that their religious “authorities” not be seen as permissive on matters of societal importance, including the roles of women and men, the tradition of family, and so on.

Jesus doesn’t immediately respond to his questioners, instead writing in the dirt, as they continue to press him on the subject. His response of course is that the one without sin should throw the first stone. Rev. Joe Nangle writes that with his response, Jesus invites all those gathered (as well as us today) to “view the sin of those accused through our own sinfulness,” a stunning challenge when we think about it because typically we view the sins of other’s through our own comparative righteousness instead! Yes, we may be sinners too, but that person’s sin is so much worse than ours! Such thinking would have been typical of Jesus’ audience as well, including the Pharisees and scribes. It is doubtful that anyone present for this scene would have answered the question “Are you sinless?” in the positive. But what is operating here, and what Jesus undermines with his answer, is his opponents’ belief in a hierarchy of sin, where certain sins are more horrific and therefore more deserving of punishment or greater punishment than others. It isn’t that the woman is a sinner—it is that these MEN find her sin to be more repugnant, more repulsive, more everything than their own. Adultery—particularly a woman’s adultery—trumps hypocrisy or pride or sloth. Her adultery trumps every transgression, every sin that any of them has committed. But Jesus says NO to their—and our—desire to create a hierarchy of sin where some sins are worse than others (and maybe Jesus specifically says no to the hierarchy of sins created by men to obscure their own misconduct while shining a light on the misconduct of women). Jesus says sin is sin is sin—and we are all guilty.

The passage ends, of course, with all those who were present (remember that a great crowd was there, not just the scribes and Pharisees) leaving the scene, until Jesus is alone with the woman. And here Jesus again shows the difference between himself and religious authority gone astray: Jesus speaks to the woman, the first time the woman is treated as a subject, with inherent worth and dignity—not an object, not something to be used, a tool, a prop, a means to some other end—but as a person, created in the image and likeness of God. And despite whatever sinfulness she had participated in, he withholds his condemnation.

As we finished the passage, we talked about the various ways it speaks to us today. One person referenced the passage in scripture where Jesus says (paraphrased) “You have it heard it said ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I say to you anyone who looks at a woman with lust in his heart has already committed adultery…” She said that we always hear this passage as Jesus condemning us for impure thoughts, but in light of today’s passage, couldn’t we look at it as Jesus resisting our own attempts again to draw lines, placing some of us in the circle—“the adulterers”—and others of us outside the circle—the “good” people, who while sinful, are at least not as bad as those in the circle, those adulterers! Such circles exist to make us feel better about ourselves while we point our fingers at those bad people who are so much worse than we are. Just as Jesus undermines any pretensions we have to create hierarchies of sin, so too does Jesus erase those lines we create to separate ourselves into less sinful (or righteous) and more sinful (or just plain sinful). She pointed out Jesus surely knew all of us have had impure thoughts, and by equating that with adultery, he blows up the circle and gets us all inside it. Sin is sin is sin. And when we hear about certain sins as worse than others, or see those held up as “the worst of sinners,” we should recognize not how much better we are in comparison, but remember our own sin too. Jesus invites us to see “the accused through our own sinfulness,” not our comparative righteousness. And to take up our place in the circle with them.

HOUSE NEWS: Microfarm workday on Saturday, Lenten reflections, and more…

Click here to see an entire list of what is happening this week at the Gainesville Catholic Worker.

WORKDAY AT THE MICROFARM: This Saturday, March 16th will be our monthly workday at Black Acres Microfarm (or BAM). We’ll be on site and can use some extra volunteers between 9am and noon. BAM is located in the 400 block of NW 32nd Street (you can’t miss it). If you’ve never been out to BAM, you need to come and see the incredible things Jade and Lynn have done with their property. The food they grow is a main source of the produce that we serve each week at the cafe, distribute to our friends and neighbors, and use in a variety of other ways to get good fruits and vegetables to people who need it. So come on out between 9am and noon on Saturday, whether you can give 30 minutes or the full three hours. (NOTE: We’re doing our monthly workday on the 3rd Saturday this month because next Saturday is Jade’s birthday! Happy Birthday Jade!)

SPEAKING OF BIRTHDAYS! Happy Birthday to Gloria Grady-Schmidt, one of our house members! Gloria will be celebrating her birthday on Thursday, March 14; so if you’re around the house this week, make sure to wish her a happy one!

REFLECTIONS FOR LENT: Each Tuesday during Lent, Kelli has been writing short weekly reflections. Her reflections so far have been on awe, joy and today, presence. Today’s post includes this paragraph: “Real presence is connection – to ourselves and our own lives, and to our Creator. The quiet practice of it, sitting still in a dark room, is a discipline. But the growing expansiveness of presence in our daily lives ­is perhaps the most profoundly real thing we can experience. Our eyes begin to open to sparrows and mustard seeds, the lilies in the field, the lost sheep, the person across the room praying with us and the one on his way for a cup of coffee. ‘It went by so fast,’ said a friend’s dying father before he took his last breath. Be here now.” Click here to read all three of this Lent’s posts so far.

EXTRA VOLUNTEER HELP NEEDED ON MONDAY AFTER EASTER, APRIL 1: Several of our house members will be away on the Monday after Easter, April 1, and we’re in need of 2-3 extra volunteers to help with Breakfast@theGreenHouse that day from 7-9am. If you think you can make a one-time commitment to help that day, please let us know.

AND MORE HELP NEEDED: We’re still in need os some extra help for the breakfasts (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, between 7-9am) as well as for Dorothy’s Farmers’ Market Cafe on Wednesday (anytime between 10am and 4pm). If you think you can help out, be it just once or on a regular basis, please let us know.

COMMUNITY PRAYER SERVICE AND POTLUCK MEAL: Each month, on the third Sunday of the month, a group of us get together for worship and a meal, much in the tradition of the early church. It’s a small service, intimate, held in someone’s home. This Sunday we’re hosting it here at the GCW from 4-7pm. Everyone is invited to attend. The prayer service usually lasts about 45 minutes followed by dinner. Bring a dish to share if you can!

Hope to see many of you this week!

LENT: Presence

ImageAs a household, we decided to spend fifteen minutes in silence together once a week, early in the morning when we are all theoretically available. We are rarely all there; in fact I think our average is two. But on the times we have dragged ourselves out of bed early enough to help get the breakfast ready before meeting in the dark living room at 6am, we are not sorry.  We try to do as we’ve been taught and empty our heads of plans and memories and even of the strangeness of sitting quietly in the dark when there is so much to do and we would rather be sleeping.  We try not to think of this, or anything.  The goal is simply to be there. Almost always, there are moments of success – if only for a few seconds.   Most of us agree that our very modest, weekly practice of remaining still and present in the moment stays with us for a bit and sometimes allows us to experience more deeply the people and events we’re heading for later in the day.

Sometimes it is almost magical.  Somehow, instead of thinking about the level of coffee remaining in the pot and counting in our heads the number left to serve, we can listen to the guest telling us about his family’s farm in Tennessee. We remember the name of the farm late in the day.  We notice and marvel that a woman’s poems sound like those of another poet we’ve read and how these two, separated by over a century, see things so similarly. We remember who prefers their coffee black and to ask about the bike ride to St. Augustine. The two hours of serving breakfast to neighbors seems exactly like two hours of serving breakfast to neighbors – not a chore on a checklist before the next thing.  Sometimes we are really present.

Catholics have an interesting doctrine about “the real presence” – that the body and blood of Jesus are actually present in food, specifically the bread and wine that has been blessed at mass.  Actually there, transformed at the moment the prayer is prayed into flesh and blood – not just symbolically.  This hurts our modern ears. We understand that the chemical composition of bread and wine are the same with or without prayers and incense.  But still we have experienced a mystical presence.  Some of us have indeed felt it at the moment the prayer of “consecration” is prayed, when we feel transformed in the community of kneeling pray-ers, desiring the same thing together – that we be one, and become as one with our creator.  Many more of us have experienced it outside of church.

It is a human experience, universal.  A dear friend is far away, but he lies heavy on our hearts, and  weighs on our mind, as if concretely here.  We experience a beloved parent who has dementia – and whom we saw twice a year during the best of times – constantly present to us in the landscape or at moments of decision, the places we have been together, the person we are.  A friend who died over a year ago walks beside you as you see things through her eyes and hear her voice clearly.  The presence grows without bounds as if these loved ones are physically with us at their most vital.  When Latino people hail one who has died as ¡presente! – I think this is what is meant.  We have been transformed as a person or community by someone no longer here physically, but who lives on in us. We feel those we can no longer touch. We hear those who can no longer speak. It is mystical to the point of feeling magical. And it is real.

Real presence is connection – to ourselves and our own lives, and to our Creator. The quiet practice of it, sitting still in a dark room, is a discipline. But the growing expansiveness of presence in our daily lives ­is perhaps the most profoundly real thing we can experience. Our eyes begin to open to sparrows and mustard seeds, the lilies in the field, the lost sheep, the person across the room praying with us and the one on his way for a cup of coffee. “It went by so fast,” said a friend’s dying father before he took his last breath.  Be here now.

-Kelli

LENT: Joy

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Years ago, I gave a talk to some college students about the Catholic Worker House and was describing the Breakfast Brigade, a project we were running at the time where folks would arrive at 4am to bake bread, boil eggs and prepare fruit, and then bring it all out to the labor pools where day laborers were arriving at 6am in hopes of work. I was trying to describe the atmosphere during the wee hours of the morning, and I used the word “fun.” I was corrected by a frequent participant, who was from Mexico and had a precision about language that speakers of English as a second language tend to have. It was “joy,” he said, not fun, that we experienced.

This immediately rang true to me, and I have wondered about the nature of “joy” since.  Recently I read an essay by Zadie Smith, a British writer who has wondered the same thing:

 It might be useful to distinguish between pleasure and joy. But maybe everybody does this very easily, all the time, and only I am confused. A lot of people seem to feel that joy is only the most intense version of pleasure, arrived at by the same road—you simply have to go a little further down the track. That has not been my experience. And if you asked me if I wanted more joyful experiences in my life, I wouldn’t be at all sure I did, exactly because it proves such a difficult emotion to manage. It’s not at all obvious to me how we should make an accommodation between joy and the rest of our everyday lives.

Part of the problem with making that accommodation is that, as Smith says, “great struggle . . . tends to precede joy.”  I have found this to be mostly true.  During a terrible time in my family’s life, shortly after we had been informed that one of our sons, a teenager at the time, had cancer and might not survive, I ran into a friend of mine.  His warm hug and kind eyes were a comfort, but then he said something incomprehensible to me at the time – that he could see already how many lives Ben’s suffering had touched and all the kindness and generosity his illness was motivating.  Suddenly I wanted to punch him. Let someone else’s son‘s suffering produce all this goodness.  He should know better how to comfort the afflicted, I thought; he was a Catholic priest.  It would be many months before I could make the connection between the sorrow we were experiencing and the strange eruption of joy amidst it. My friend had been in the US because he had been run out of Mexico for caring for the poorest of the poor and thereby threatening some of the most powerful of the rich. He knew deep grief and suffering – and joy.  Clearly, joy is not fun at all, and can be totally disconnected from pleasure of any kind. It is standing stock still in the kitchen with a phone in your hand, as if before a firing squad, waiting for the test results, and the bullet misses. The test result is negative, and joy suddenly descends upon the house of grief.

But it is not the grief, or the fear, or even the relief. Joy requires something more.  It is not the alarm clock ringing at 3:00 am or the warm loaves rising, and it is not the sudden absence of rogue blasts in the blood.  Joy requires more than simple hardship followed by success. It is the sleepy crowd of bakers stumbling into the kitchen on Friday morning at the same time the worker is emerging from his sleeping bag; it is the person on the other end of the line, and the one in the hospital bed. It’s all the others in hospital beds, in hospitals everywhere, all the mothers worrying about their children, all the children. I am saying it now, like the priest did to me.  Joy is connected to suffering, but it erupts in the recognition of community.

Lent tries to give some of this to us, or to remind us of it. We start our Lenten practices together. If we are in a state of relative peace and abundance, we create deprivation for ourselves – no meat, or no TV, no snacks or electronics – something we will miss.  And, if we are normal, we will feel a twinge of suffering at the loss.  “First-world problems,” as they say, but it is true that in times of abundance we tend to need the ascetic practices, tried and true. We do it within a community of people similarly deprived and somewhat ridiculously aggrieved. We support each other, we tell stories, we kindle empathy and solidarity. And slowly, over the six weeks of Lent, we begin to experience the glimmer of the deep connection to one another that lies under the surface of all sorrow. We try to remember what we have learned and steel ourselves for the deep reality of who we are when it comes. Because it will, and we will meet it together.  This, I believe, is joy.

- Kelli

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