Proud of my beloved

Central Minnesota Catholic Worker core group member Toni Hudock (near) readies a pan filled with spaghetti as her daughter, Jianna, 13, works on dessert Sunday before the Joetown Table event at St. Joseph American Legion Post 328.My wife, Toni Hudock (née Triana), has been active in the establishment of the Central Minnesota Catholic Worker over the last couple of years, and yesterday the organization, in cooperation with a few other local churches and groups, sponsored the first monthly community meal in the town of St. Joseph. The meal was free, and the emphasis was more on community building than hunger relief; anyone and everyone were welcome.

When Toni signed on as cook for the event as planning ramped up, I knew those folks had no idea how good they were going to have it. That girl knows cookin’.

So for about three weeks now, Toni has been cooking up large batches of spaghetti sauce, her grandmother’s recipe, in our kitchen at home, in preparation for the event. The house has smelled very fine. She also handled all the other food planning and purchasing for the event. She’s been working hard to make sure the meal was a good one. Yesterday, while I was away on business, it happened, and despite the fact that the weather was terrible, it drew a nice-sized crowd. And those folks got a mighty good meal as a reward for the efforts to brave the blizzard.

That’s Toni there, in the photo from the great St. Cloud Times article, serving up spaghetti. (She’s not thrilled with the photo, but service is hard work, right?) And that’s our daughter Gianna in the background, also hard at work.

A snippet from the article:

In the Legion hall kitchen, cook Toni Hudock of Albany and other volunteers stirred vats of salad and spaghetti, with sauce made from Hudock’s homemade recipe. Hudock said she has seven children, so preparing meals for such a huge group doesn’t daunt her.

“It’s not about the cooking; it’s about who comes to eat it,” Hudock said. “These people came and joined the community today.”

From the article and her own account of how it all went, it sounds like this first of what is intended to be a monthly event, was a success. I’m proud of her.

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Learning to live, learning to die: West on Dorothy Day

If you’ve got about 45 minutes to treat yourself, I recommend some time with Dr. Cornel West. America magazine’s In All Things blog has posted the full video of an address he delivered in November at Catholic Worker’s Maryhouse in New York City.

The title of his talk is “Dorothy Day: Exemplar of Truth and Courage,” but I’m not sure the title does justice to the inspired, contemporary, and freewheeling nature of the talk. As should be anything that lives up to who Dorothy was, West’s address is both a delight and a challenge.

More helpful background on the talk and on West himself, as well as the video, is here.

Dorothy — and her ongoing legacy

Today is Dorothy Day’s birthday! She was born November 8, 1897.

It’s a good day to point out that one of the newest Catholic Worker communities in the United States — the Central Minnesota Catholic Worker, which has developed over the past couple of years in St. Joseph, Minnesota — has a lot going on, both on their own initiative and in collaboration with other local organizations.

Here’s this, from their most recent email update [FYI, regarding the first one: MNsure in the name of Minnesota’s new health insurance exchange]:

1.  MNsure Information Session – Monday, November 18th from 6:30-8 pm at the St. Joseph Fire Hall ( note this will BE our regular monthly meeting)

Are you currently without health insurance?   Are you curious about MNsure, the new Health Insurance Exchange?  Do you want to know more about healthcare reform and how it will impact you?  This presentation will answer those questions and will focus on the portions of the federal health reform law, the Affordable Care Act, that impact people who are currently uninsured or who purchase individual coverage in the private market.  Learn about Minnesota’s new Health Insurance Exchange:  how it works, who should use it, financial supports available for people with incomes up to 400% FPG, and the future of public programs like Medical Assistance and Minnesota Care.

Presenter:  Ralonda Mason is a supervising attorney at the St. Cloud Office of Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid.  She has over 25 years of experience working with public benefit programs including healthcare programs such as Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare.  Ms. Mason advocates on healthcare access issues at the state legislature and with state agencies.  She was appointed by Governor Dayton to serve on the 2012 Minnesota Health Reform Task Force.

2.  The CW along with area churches and our ‘Poverty in St. Joe’ group is looking at organizing a Community Meal in St. Joseph once a month.  We are meeting on Thursday, November 7th at 7 pm at the Legion to discuss further details and share ideas.  All are welcome.

3.  Muslim/Christian Understanding:  Sunday, November 17th from 7-9 pm. @ St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Sartell,  Jama Alimad, the Executive Director of Community Grassroots Solutions of St. Cloud and a leader in the Somali community will be present along with several others from that community to share information about their Muslim faith and Somali culture while also hoping to dispel some of our possibly unfair assumptions.

4.  Workers’ Rights:  You are invited to attend a planning meeting to support immigrant workers around St. Cloud through the Greater Minnesota Worker Center. We will be planning an action to highlight abuses by temp. agencies. I  Saturday, November 9th 3pm:St. Cloud Public Library: Mississippi Room. This comes from the East Central Area Labor Council.
5.  Immigration Reform – Our immigrant brothers and sisters are counting on more of us to step up and voice our support for immigration reform.  If you have not done so already, please call our MN Congressional Representatives to ask that they support it.  A group from Waite Park has been very active on this issue. 
The Central Minnesota Catholic Worker website is here. They welcome donations, which would help keep some good early momentum going. (Full disclosure: My lovely wife is on the “core team” organizing committee for the group.)

“Our country’s most radical witness to Christ’s love for the poor”: Gomez on Dorothy Day, personhood

In The Tidings Online this week, Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles offers an important and sometimes beautiful reflection on what it means to be a human person and what he calls our current “crisis of anthropology.” Prominent in the Archbishop’s comments is Dorothy Day, whom he calls “our country’s most radical witness to Christ’s love for the poor and his call for us to be instruments of his peace and justice.”

Not everyone will agree with everything Archbishop Gomez has to say here. I doubt, for example, that it’s fair or wise to characterize “feminism” in general as a “distorted understanding of human nature.” (In some ways, after all, it has helped us correct a distorted understanding of human nature in ways that even the most “conservative” among us would recognize.) But even if you doubt some of his assumptions, this piece is still worth your time. A few snippets:

As a way to begin talking about some of these issues, I want to recall the American Servant of God Dorothy Day.

My brother bishops and I are promoting her “cause” to be canonized as an American saint. And I found it providential that, earlier this year, our Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI chose to talk about Dorothy Day in his final public audience before retiring as Pope. It is fascinating to reflect that he chose this lay woman from 20th-century America as the last example of holiness that he wanted to propose to our Church.

Dorothy Day’s is one of the great conversion stories of modern times. Her life tells a kind of spiritual diary of the 20th century.

***

But the loss of God has even more personal implications for our sense of life’s “meaning.” When we lose our sense of God, we lose the “thread” that holds our lives together. We lose the answers to the questions that help us make sense of the world: What kind of person should I be? Why should I be good? What should I believe in? What should I be living for — and why?

Many of the elites in our culture today would argue that there are no true answers to these questions — just different opinions, beliefs and preferences.

But we know that’s not true. We know people need those answers. Without those answers we don’t know anymore what makes a human being human.

***

Our task in this moment is to restore this appreciation of the sacred image of the human person. We need to bring this truth into our homes and neighborhoods and churches.

We need to proclaim to our society what both the Old and New Testaments affirm — that each human person comes from the loving thought of God. That we are all made for holiness. That we are made to live as God’s image in the world.

So we need to help our neighbors to see that all our lives are not our project but God’s project. We are God’s works of art. Each one of us. By his grace and by his Law, God wants to make each of us more like him, day by day.

In our Christian tradition, our lives have a beautiful teleology, a beautiful and purposeful direction. Jesus Christ shows us “who we are.” He shows us that we are children of God, born of the love of the Father. We are born to love and to be loved. And we do that by loving as Jesus loved.

The full text is here.

Pope Benedict points to Dorothy Day as example of conversion

Pope Benedict XVI made prominent reference to Dorothy Day in yesterday’s Wednesday audience address. He did it in the context of talking about conversion — on the occasion, of course, of the start of Lent.

In one fine passage, the Pope noted:

The tests which modern society subjects Christians to, in fact, are many, and affect the personal and social life. It is not easy to be faithful to Christian marriage, practice mercy in everyday life, leave space for prayer and inner silence. It is not easy to publicly oppose choices that many take for granted, such as abortion in the event of an unwanted pregnancy, euthanasia in case of serious illness, or the selection of embryos to prevent hereditary diseases. The temptation to set aside one’s faith is always present and conversion becomes a response to God which must be confirmed several times throughout one’s life.

He then mentioned three twentieth century figures who experienced strong conversion experiences which left an indelible mark on their spirituality and their lives: the Russian Orthodox scientist-turned-monk Pavel Florensky, the Dutch Jewish woman Etty Hillesum, and finally Dorothy Day. About Dorothy, the Pope said:

The ability to oppose the ideological blandishments of her time to choose the search for truth and open herself up to the discovery of faith is evidenced by another woman of our time, the American Dorothy Day. In her autobiography, she confesses openly to having given in to the temptation that everything could be solved with politics, adhering to the Marxist proposal: “I wanted to be with the protesters, go to jail, write, influence others and leave my dreams to the world. How much ambition and how much searching for myself in all this!” The journey towards faith in such a secularized environment was particularly difficult, but Grace acts nonetheless, as she points out: “It is certain that I felt the need to go to church more often, to kneel, to bow my head in prayer. A blind instinct, one might say, because I was not conscious of praying. But I went, I slipped into the atmosphere of prayer… ” God guided her to a conscious adherence to the Church, in a lifetime spent dedicated to the underprivileged.

It’s wonderful to see. My only hesitation is that one could get the impression, from the Pope’s telling of Dorothy’s story, that conversion led her to see that methods such as protesting, going to jail, and politics were misguided, part of “the Marxist proposal,” which she then renounced in favor of a more pious life. Of course, that’s not the case: her newfound Catholic faith and deep piety (daily Mass, daily praying of the office, deep devotion to several saints, etc) only reinforced her political activism on behalf of and in solidarity with the poor. Perhaps since her story is so well known, though, my concern here is unfounded.

The closing line of the Pope’s address is also well worth noting and reflecting on as we begin Lent: “Conversion means not closing in on ourselves in the pursuit of success, prestige, position, but making sure that each and every day, in the small things, truth, faith in God and love become most important.”

Complete text of his reflection is here. More on Benedict and his legacy, in light of his resignation, to come here soon.

“You don’t really know what you are accomplishing”

Here’s something from Dorothy Day that I came across yesterday, at a time I could really use the encouragement it offers.

Have courage. The more trouble you have, the more miserably you seem to be getting along, the more worth the whole thing is in the sight of God. If you had it all easy, if you took pleasure in it, it would not be worth much. And even if to you it seems to be going badly, that doesn’t mean a thing. You don’t really know what you are accomplishing. God makes it hard for you because you are strong and can stand it really. You are privileged. You know how a symphony, the best in the world, sounds like nothing if you yourself are tired and not in the mood for it, and yet that doesn’t detract from the perfection of the work. It’s the same with our work. We have no way of judging it, so it’s no use trying. 

That’s from a letter to Catherine de Hueck, dated July 1935 (published in All the Way to Heaven: The Selected Letters of Dorothy Day). Dorothy was not talking about the struggles of parenting, but I suspect she would not mind if I read it in that context.