Dignity or solidarity…?
Catholicism or Anarchy?
These are the questions that my colleague Ed Koch and I have been considering with our group the past few days.
We went to Malachi House yesterday which is a home for the dying, but not a hospice. All they are is a home for those who have less than 6 months to live. The place was spotless from floor to rafter. The pantry was organized both by date received and food types. We quickly realized that the staff demanded that their guests deserved the dignity of having a nice home.
Contrast this with the folks who live in less than squalor conditions in solidarity with the poor when there’s often no reason for it. The storefront we visit and slept in was infested by mice, hardly what we would call clean and was being overused by too many groups to keep up with a cleaning schedule. That being said, good work was being done by passionate people who clearly cared about the poor and treated those people as Jesus would.
Speaking of Jesus, it was also pretty clear to us that Dorothy Day’s vision of a Catholic Worker home has gone quite awry. Anarchy and anti-establishment messages could be found everywhere, but few messages about Christ. We spoke to some of the younger folks and they said that they we far more interested in simple living communities than in anything that the church had to say about those communities. They said other communities might be a bit more catholic in structure but that this one “wasn’t too bad.”. Translate that last line as “we like that Catholicism’s truth is largely absent.”
We brought this up in evening reflection and Joe, our guide admitted that the struggle exists in maintaining some kind of Catholic identity. He also reminded us that the group works with some very difficult people and that he sees them treating those people with great love because they want to, not because they have to.
I’m not sure what Dorothy Day would think, but the loose tangental relationship to the church needs to be more at the center.
Our return to Buffalo has been marked by a thrown gauntlet. We need to do something for Christ’s poor in Buffalo that brings them into a more dignified life and we need to admit that sometimes we’ll struggle in doing that. That we need the solidarity of staying together on this commitment and need the local parish and Newman Center to keep us accountable. That’s a solidarity wrapped in a commitment to dignity. The poor need more than they can attain. The poor deserves a home they can be proud of and comfortable in. Their homes can be meager without being dirty and nasty and often groups committed to helping the poor settle for places that nobody should ever have to live in.
Today, let us pray that we can maintain a commitment to dignity and stay in solidarity with each other and those we plan to serve. And most of all that we can stay in solidarity with Christ and the church as we do so.