I spent three days last week up on the central coast of California with my friends from the Guadalupe Catholic Worker.
Tuesday, I helped with the food distribution (Guadalupe, the poorest town in Santa Maria County, is home to scads of farm workers). Thursday night, after I left, they held their weekly free clinic. Friday is free clothes-for-the-people day.
My friends shared their lives, their home, their food, their stories. Mostly we talked. Do you think sloth is connected with fear? How do we balance action and contemplation? How do you cope in the midst of so much brokenness? Where do you buy anchovies?...
They are interested in and appreciative of my life, although in some ways our lives are very different. They live by the Catholic Worker model, which means on donations. They regularly get arrested at Vandenberg Air Force Base and military facilities around the country for witnessing against war, in particular nuclear weapons. Their friend and sometimes community member Fr. Steve Kelly, S.J., is in custody in the Bay Area, again awaiting sentencing for an action.
Wednesday Dennis and I took a long walk along an inland marsh and the coast. I turned on my tape recorder and asked him to tell his story. Transcribing it will take many hours but it's a love story, and a story of vocation, and a story of the Gospels coming to reside in one person's heart in a way that costs, and when I'm done I'll post it, probably in a three- or four-part series.
Dennis, his wife Tensie, and their two kids, have a gift for making people feel loved. You feel welcomed, accepted, needed, of worth while you're there. And maybe because of that, and because I'm not used to being around people for that length of time and, after returning to L.A., have thus spent the last couple of days alone that I've suddenly become very aware of my cowardliness.
Deep down, I'm aware of my cowardliness and so I lash out, even if it's just in my mind, at other people who I like to think are worse cowards. Thus do the wars that I purport to abhor begin.
That Christ's forerunner, John the Baptist, died in prison is no accident. We don't like to "freak anyone out," but Christ freaked out EVERYBODY.
Not because his aim was agitation, but because he loved truth. We live in a culture of so many lies, especially so many lies masquerading as truth, that to try to sort it all out sometimes feels overwhelming.