Frank Cordaro Book Review…”Come Out My People!”

Come Out My People

The last night in August, we were honored to have Frank Cordaro join us for evening prayer followed by his presentation to us based on the book, “Come Out My People!” Frank was on his way to give this same presentation to the Atlantic Life Community Gathering in New Jersey. Frank has been quite an inspiration to our young community. He has been a Des Moines Iowa Catholic Worker and Peace Activist for 35 years and was part of a panel for our first retreat in September of 2009. Thank you Frank for this and all that you do!

I have wanted to read this book for many years. It just was not written yet. Now that it is, we Catholic Workers and faith-based-nonviolent-resistance-to-the-USA-Empire type folks owe Wes Howard-Brook a debt of gratitude. Not since reading Ched Myers’s ground-breaking Binding the Strong Man has a book so influenced my reading of the scriptures. What Myers did with the Gospel of Mark, Howard-Brook does for the whole Bible by laying out a template for reading it.

Come Out, My People! addresses two major issues that have plagued my reading of the Bible. The first is the seeming great divide between the New and Old Testaments, or what we Christians have called our “Jewish question.” James Carroll’s book Constantine’s Sword, documents this tragic misreading of the scriptures and the bloody history that has followed. The current political discourse surrounding the State of Israel shows that these issues are still very much with us and not going away anytime soon,

My second issue surrounds the question of violence in the Bible. Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer’s book Jesus Against Christianity highlights this perplexing issue well. Nelson-Pallmeyer asks the question, how are we who believe in the nonviolent Jesus and the unconditionally loving God of unlimited forgiveness with the violent deeds attributed to God and God’s people in the Bible? Nelson-Pallmeyer’s answer is a bold and liberating one. If we really believe in that Jesus and that God, then where ever God is portrayed as violent in both the New and Old Testaments, the violence is human pathology imposed on the text. I find Nelson-Pallmeyer’s answer very appealing. It rings true in my spiritual guts. Yet it is somehow too convenient, too easy a solution. It does not adequately or systematically deal with the Bible’s violent biblical texts.

Wes Howard-Brook’s book Come Out, My People! addresses both of these issues and then some.

The “Jewish question” is addressed in the introduction, “Is God on Our Side?” Most people believe the Bible to be the book of two religions: Judaism and Christianity. This is not the case according to Howard-Brook. There are indeed two religions embedded in the biblical text, but they are not Judaism and Christianity. They are a religion of Creation and a religion of Empire.

The religion of Creation is “grounded in the experience of and ongoing relationship with the Creator God, leading to a covenantal bond between God and God’s people for the blessing and abundance of all people and all creation.” The religion of Empire, “while sometimes claiming to be grounded in that same God, is actually a human invention used to justify and legitimate attitudes and behaviors that provide blessing and abundance for some at the expense of others.”

These two religions are in direct opposition to each other, with differing ends and means. And despite attempts in the biblical text to reconcile the two, in the end, at the end of the book and in the New Testament, a clean break is made, with the religion of Creation overriding the religion of Empire.

The key to reading the text in the Old Testament is not to start at the beginning of the printed book but with the oldest texts to be written down. A review of what many of us learned about reading the New Testament is helpful here. Even though the first book in the New Testament is the Gospel of Matthew, biblical students know that the oldest texts written in the New Testament are the letters from St Paul. In the same way, even though the first book in the Old Testament is the book of Genesis, the oldest written texts in the Old Testament are the King David and King Solomon stories found in I Samuel 13 through to I Kings 10. They were written sometime during the reign of Solomon in the 10 century BC.

We know this to be true because it was not until the time of David and Solomon that the biblical people had the means to write. Writing and literacy in ancient times were done exclusively by scribes attached to Kings in royal household and priest in temple cults. There were no royal households or temple cults before King David and Solomon in biblical times.

Having determined by whom, when and where a text was written, Howard-Brook tells us, “Key to reading any ancient text is placing it in its original context. This process begins by asking two questions: What is the relationship between the time in the text and the time the text was written? What questions are the biblical texts trying to respond to when they tell stories about the past?” (p13)

The answers to these questions, when asked of the oldest texts found in our scriptures, are rather easy by biblical standards. In I Samuel 13 through to I Kings 10, the relationship is one almost of real time, since these texts were written by the scribes of Solomon’s royal house. The purpose for writing these texts was to legitimize Solomon’s rule by giving it divine importance, which means they were written to support a religion of Empire. Scribes wrote of a God who supported and blessed King Solomon and all his endeavors, including a system like all the political and economic systems of the time, and wrote to legitimize an Imperial model of ruling.

The next set of texts chronologically was written soon after Solomon’s death, with the split between the northern Kingdom of Israel and the southern Kingdom of Judah. This is the story of Moses and the Exodus written by the Northern royal scribes in Israel. It was written to legitimize the break-up of the Unified Kingdom and the reign of Jeroboam, the Northern Kingdom’s first King. Over five hundred years separated the authors of these text and the historical characters in the text. This story of Moses and the Exodus is the emblematic biblical liberation story. In these texts there is no King, no temple or priestly cult, no capital city, no land base to protect, no taxes or standing army. God’s people are led directly by God. It is no accident that King Solomon looks a lot like Pharaoh in the Exodus story. Solomon was the template for Pharaoh. And Moses looked a lot like King Jeroboam.

With these two sets of texts, the conflict between a God and Religion of Empire versus a God and Religion of Creation are set in place. The rest of the biblical text could be read as attempts to eliminate one or the other, or to reconcile these two conflicting story lines. This over-arching biblical conflict is not fully resolved until Jesus and the New Testament.

It was not long before the Northern Kingdom of Israel and its Kings succumbed to the dictates of the Religion of Empire with a capital city, royal court, temple and temple cult, standing armies, taxes and rule by force. It was during this time that prophets sprang up in Israel and Judah. First came Elijah and Elisha, followed by Amos, Hosea, First Isaiah and Micah. The prophets are a mixed bag when it comes to the Religion of Empire and the Religion of Creation; some were in one camp or the other and still others were in both. Yet they always spoke to the issue of social justice and its connection with being Faithful to God. Howard-Brook compares, for example, Isaiah’s and Micah’s “swords into plowshares” prophecies, showing the difference between Isaiah’s Religion of Empire perspective and Micah’s Religion of Creation perspective (p.175).

“With the fall of Israel to the Assyrian Empire in the 7th century BC an early form of the book of Deuteronomy was written as a compromise document forged in Judah during the reign of King Josiah by the royal scribes in Jerusalem and the scribal refugees from the north. This effort brought together the central symbols of the Zion and Sinai stories into a unified narrative that legitimizes the monarchy, its priesthood, and its own story of divine covenant with the Davidic dynasty.”

Howard-Brook is at his best in describing political and socio-economic forces that produced these texts. What he can’t tell us, and nobody can, is how well this Deuteronomic compromise worked, if it worked at all. What we do know is that by the time of the Babylonian Captivity, the compromise was a failure. The prophet Jeremiah best documents this failure. Born at the wrong time and in the wrong place, Jeremiah was put into an impossible situation with a flawed hybrid theology of a compromised God who called for Faith in both Creation and Empire. The best that Jeremiah could do was sow the seeds for the resolution to the failed compromise (Jer 33:31-34).

The writings that came from the seventy dark and difficult years of captivity were some of the most profound and significant text in the whole Bible. Ezekiel and Second Isaiah both deal with the grief caused by the loss of king, temple and nation and tried to make sense of it.

Ezekiel, priest of the temple turned prophet in exile, mastered a new form of writing borrowed from the Persians called apocalypse. In it Ezekiel says God did not abandon the biblical people in Babylon but is using these harsh times of captivity to bring them back to their homeland a better and more faithful people. Ezekiel is the first of the biblical writers to prefigure the idea of resurrection in his vision of dry bones. (Ezekiel 37:1-14)

Second Isaiah took the basic universal non-violent “study war no more” themes from First Isaiah and grounded them in the harsh and “bottom up” experience of captivity. From his poetic hand came the whole idea of the Suffering Servant. It was from this Suffering Servant concept that the Gospel writers borrowed so heavily when trying to explain who Jesus was.

Neither Ezekiel nor Second Isaiah make a clean break from a theology of Empire, but their rewriting of the tradition, if put into practice, would change what a king, temple, city and nation would be. Both make social justice, with the people led directly by God, the basis of what it means to be Faithful.

The big surprise for me was how Howard-Brook applied his interpretative model to the book of Genesis. Scripture scholars have known for some time that the book of Genesis was compiled during the Babylonian exile. Central to the Babylonians’ identity was their story of origins, Enuma Elish, that legitimized Babylon’s King and Empire. The biblical scribal captives, to assert a separate cultural identity, had to write a story of origins equally grand and all-inclusive, to give divine legitimacy instead to their story and their people. Howard-Brook spends the first 90 pages unpacking and interpreting Genesis. It’s breath-taking and worth the price of the book by itself.

The next texts (from the Persian period) that made it into the canon vary between pro- and anti-Empire theologies. The books of Ezra and Nehemiah are solidly pro-Empire. Third Isaiah and Leviticus are anti-Empire.

Howard-Brook writes that by the time the Greek Empire came to power in 323 BC, the era of the prophets was over and both canonical and non-canonical texts took three basic forms: the royal, establishment wisdom texts like Proverbs and Sirach, the subversive wisdom texts like I Enoch, and Daniel and the skeptical/ironic wisdom texts like Job, Ecclesiastes and III Maccabees. (p. 288)

The books that did not make it in the canon in this era “were deemed too radical … it was more often the texts unpalatable to the temple elite and their later successors that lie at the roots of the Gospel of Jesus than those deemed acceptable in their collaboration with empire.” (p 289) The non-canonical book that most influenced the New Testament is I Enoch. Written in the apocalyptic style, its 107 chapters can be divided into five sections that took close to 300 years to complete. Howard-Brook presents I Enoch as the apocalyptic bridge text between the books of Ezekiel and Daniel and the apocalyptic texts found in the New Testament. This was all new territory for me, and illuminating.

By the time the disciples began to write the books of the New Testament they relied heavily on the canonical and non-canonical texts that embraced the God and Religion of Creation over the God and Religion of Empire. There is no compromise between the God of Creation and the God of Empire in the New Testament. In the New Testament message, there is no king except the kingship of the Suffering Servant whom Jesus emulated. There is no temple and no high priest and priestly cult to serve a temple. There is no exclusive chosen people, except for each person who embraces the Way of Jesus and who bands together with others of the same Spirit. There is no city, land, or nation that the followers of Jesus claim as their own, except any land and every city where the beloved community of Jesus’ followers live their lives and practice the Way.

The final break with the Religion of Empire that the New Testament makes clear is with the use of violence as a human means to serve God. With no King, city, temple, or land to defend, there is no need or justification of violence. Come Out, My People! allows us to come to the same conclusion about violence in the Bible that Nelson-Pallmeyer did in his book Jesus Against Christianity. In Howard-Brook’s book we have a systematic interpretive textual explanation to back up Nelson-Pallmeyer’s claim for the nonviolent God. I cannot overstate the importance of Come Out, My People!. Buy it, read it, discuss it, and put it into practice.

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Solidarity is a treasure, a principle woven through the Christian Gospel as well as the sacred writings of many other religions. While Jesus lived it, announced it, explains it, tells it and breathes it, He never utters the word, never pronounces the sound. Yet it screams out at us through the stories He tells, beckons us to change our hearts as He embraces the untouchables and moves us to action as He teaches us about who our neighbor really is; who indeed we are sister and brother to.

Solidarity is the love that the Master painted into being amidst the bones and sinews of the Gospel; a masterpiece of unspoken truth embedded in the heartbeat of Christian conversion. Like the Christ Himself, this defining intangible of the Gospel can only be pointed to, expressed in art, poetry, music, never fully explained or defined, but lived as He did to the point of death; lived as we are called to.

In her dedication to living out the Works of Mercy Dorothy Day was driven by the solidarity of the Gospel. Solidarity, it may well be said is what makes of the Gospel a treasure that one might give up a fortune for, or even a life.

While the norm in our day has been to fit the Gospel into everyday living in society, Dorothy’s and the Catholic Worker’s has been a journey to live this counter-cultural Gospel that challenges society and critiques the numerous ways Christianity has been co-opted by civil religion. At the heart of it is the mystery of solidarity, that belief that every human being in every nook and cranny and on every continent on the planet earth is brother and sister, one to the other. Who is there to go to war with, but my brother, who is there to allow die of malnutrition, but my sister? A social injustice to any one of us, anywhere, is a social injustice to every one of us, everywhere!

“As often as you do it to the least of these my brothers and sisters, you do it to me.” (Matthew 25)  We remember our brothers and sisters who have been tortured, who have fled to America because of desperate poverty or persecution, who have been executed by the state, killed or brutalized by war, sold into the sex trade as victims of human trafficking, or who are living in devastating poverty. The Gospel tells us that “these” are our sisters and brothers, that the Kingdom of God has no borders; that we have been called to “welcome the strangers”, “to beat our swords into plowshares”, “to love our enemies”, and to “sell what we have and give to the poor, and then to follow Him”.

Solidarity is not the happily ever after narrative that bombards us daily and that has been burned into our psyche, overflowing with material excesses. Rather, solidarity is a jagged, raw reality that exposes materialism for the idolatry that it is and offers a way out for all of us imprisoned by the things that own us. Solidarity is a simple way that restores the human family to right relationship, and reminds us who a treasure really is. For it is in the breaking of bread that we discover who are sister and brother are, and to be thus discovered we must be seated at the same table.

Our Lenten Journey

We are ever so grateful at the Dorothy Day House for the peaceful spirit that marks the ebb and flow of our community life. Our conversation since Christmas has revolved around peace, the dignity of the person, the indignity and threat to civilization posed by the state sanctioned torture of human beings, and the presence of the principle of solidarity at the heart of the Gospel. These will continue to animate our conversation during the forty days to come.

The Life of Dorothy Day House, Youngstown…

*Our community has decided to fast the first Friday of each month as a way of being in solidarity with our sisters and brothers who are oppressed by the daily conventions of life on planet earth. Please join us on Friday, April 1st, at 5:30 p.m. as we gather for a cup of soup broth, prayer and reflection on the injustices that continue to persecute humanity.

**Dorothy Day, Youngstown is a co-sponsor for the second annual Good Friday Peace procession to be held in downtown Youngstown. The Peace Procession is an opportunity for our Good Friday faith to spill out onto the streets of our community and witness to our Lord who endured torture, hung from the cross, suffered a gruesome execution sponsored by the state and ultimately revealed the love of God the Father.

***We will be in solidarity with the School of the Americas Watch, protest and fast as they gather in Washington D.C. from April 4th to April 11th to call attention to our country’s complicity in the persecution of our central American sisters and brothers.

****Round Table – For the month of March we gather as usual on the fourth Thursday of the month to focus on Catholic Social Teaching. Having spent the last couple of months on peace, the assault on human dignity and solidarity, for our March Round Table we talk about a man who stood with the poor against all oppression – Arch-Bishop Oscar Romero.

Those who come to help & learn and share…

*This past Saturday a number of our good friends came together for a party of sorts – when all was said and done, one bedroom on the second floor was completely dry-walled from floor to ceiling and the entire third floor was completely painted. Catholic Workers have never been afraid of hard work, our gratefulness to all those who have given so much…

**On this same Saturday about a dozen Catholic Workers gathered at the House to do the follow up to our Bridges out of Poverty Campaign. Our time together was invaluable as we had a very in depth conversation about what it means to walk together as sister and brother. We learned a lot about ourselves, more about solidarity, and discovered that we have a lot more to learn and figure out.

***This coming Saturday members of the Kent State Newman Center are stopping by to spend part of a day at the house and to reflect on the call to peace and justice and to consider the Works of Mercy. We hope to pick their brains and learn from them even as we sit around the table having Dorothy’s conversation.




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January 2011 update

January has been a beautiful month at our house.  While it has brought more than enough snow…it has brought much joy.  We have experienced it when our guests bring us notes of gratitude, or offer to mop a floor.  We are blessed with joy when a caterer or chef thanks us for the opportunity to serve.  We see joy in the faces of new volunteers who leave with a sense of peace…and a desire to come back.  We were humbled with joy when one guest wanted to “take our house home” just to hold it and capture its beauty.  We are overwhelmed with joy when we receive an unexpected check and a note asking us to continue this ministry.  And….we are filled with joyful gratitude knowing that so many of you hold our community of volunteers and guests in your prayers.  Know that you are in ours.

May you be blessed with the pure and simple gift of joy!

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A New Year’s Reflection

Dear Friends,

Sometimes we all need the words of others in order to get started. This past year as so many struggled to get the Dorothy Day House, Youngstown up and running; we borrowed every nut and bolt, from every author, thinker and activist we could get our hands on. Early in the year the peace and justice community in the United States lost one of its defining voices of conscience when Howard Zinn died on January 27th. Throughout our first year Howard’s name and words echoed through the house including this quote from “You can’t be Neutral on a Moving Train”: “I wanted students to leave my classes not just better informed, but more prepared to relinquish the safety of silence, more prepared to speak up, to act against injustice wherever they saw it.”

As a community of novices we needed the knowledge and strength of Howard Zinn’s words. But we were to have the opportunity not just to read the words of peace & justice legends but to actually have them come walking through our doors. Staughton and Alice Lynd have become “regulars” at our Round-Tables and provided us not only with knowledge and wisdom but grace and hope and companionship as well. In our walking with the guests who have made of Dorothy Day a home away from home we have learned to listen as carefully to those who are homeless as to those who are lettered, and already in our formative years it has made all the difference.

Last year at this time as we were just beginning our second month in the house already a story was unfolding that would tell us a little more about who we were and indeed who we are called to be. Ann and her husband were among the first to come to us in November of ’09 and their story touched us deeply. They had been homeless on and off for some years and now she had just been diagnosed with cancer. While we saw them get into an apartment and reunited with family it was only a few months until Ann lost her fight with cancer and died.

We were grateful throughout Ann’s ordeal that the Dorothy Day House could be a hospitable stop along the way for her, a place of warmth and respite that offered a taste of God’s goodness and love. As we have steadied our wobbly legs and grown in our sense of mission we are most grateful for the Howards, Alices, Staughtens and Anns of the world who have played such a huge role in helping us to find our way. Of course we are just a little over a year old so we can continue to ask patience of our guests and one another.

As we anticipate the New Year we have so much to be grateful for in the old. While dining with guests and sharing their stories has become sacred and holy time that seems to be cherished by all, we have come to understand that walking with friends and safeguarding dignity is much more than a warm welcome and intentional listening. Hearkening back to the words of Howard Zinn, so long as we remain silent in the face of gross and devastating injustices we fail to consider the dignity of our guests as surely as if we ignored them upon their presentation at our doors.

This Christmas season friends were so very generous to us and as always to all those who serve the poor, and yet hardly a word was said on the news or other public forums about changing the unjust economic mechanisms that keep some in the shackles of poverty. As we focused on peace during Advent and on the violence of war, the death penalty, atomic bombs and the military and prison industrial complexes this past fall we over and over again have seen that the poor, the powerless and the outcasts are all the losers in this fight that rages to protect the status quos.

So as we say goodbye to the old year and usher in the new so very much work remains. As the words of Howard Zinn last year helped us break the silence, let us begin the new year with the words of Christopher Hedges: “Hope knows that unless we physically defy government control we are complicit in the violence of the state. All who resist keep hope alive. All who succumb to fear, despair and apathy become enemies of hope. They become in their passivity, agents of injustice.” Let us pray for a just new year, and that we might be agents of change and transformation.

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Advent Reflection: Let Us Gather for Peace

Having been so richly blest the Catholic Worker Community of Youngstown pledges to do our best to take up the mantle of Dorothy Day and to provide our many friends with a channel for peacemaking during the Holiday Season. As our culture is so caught up in the materialism of the season or what form of Christmas greeting is appropriate, and we are all susceptible to this; we hope to deepen our experience of peace by following the non-violent Jesus who embraced the outcasts of His day.

As the Gospel of Luke tells the story of John the Baptist it quotes the prophet Isaiah as it proclaims: “A voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His paths. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low.'” (Luke 3:4,5a) Here the scriptures call for us as a people to turn away from our excesses and address the injustices that plague God’s people. Here’s a call to make the causes of our neighbor’s poverty our top priority for this year’s journey of peace.

At the Dorothy Day House we gather day in and day out and dream together about peace, and as we gather for prayer and for our Roundtable, we hear the Gospel calling us to be a community of peace. The Prophet Isaiah implores people of all times: “beat your swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks and study war no more”. Jesus takes it one step further: “But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)

Because Advent has become the shopping season, there is a golden opportunity for Christians to seize the moment and reclaim the message of peace. As a Catholic Worker community, we are planning just a handful of prayers and actions that put us in solidarity with all those victimized by man’s inhumanity to man. (See our Calendar for times and dates.) We hope you’ll join us as we struggle to embrace Isaiah’s words and follow the “Prince of Peace”. He took all that Empire could throw at him; harassment, interrogation, torture and the brutal death by crucifixion, but remained true to His Beatitudes: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)

“Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the Glory of the Lord shown around them; and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them; “do not be afraid for behold, I proclaim to you Good News of great joy, that will be for all the people. For today in the City of David a savior has been born for you whom is Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you; you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. And suddenly there was a multitude of heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

This Holy Family who became refugees fleeing for their lives encountered on their journey shepherds; these were among the poor who were counted as sinners by the religion of their day. We must forever remember, Mary and Joseph were homeless at Jesus’ birth and found themselves  among these shepherds; the undesirables of society. They fledBethlehem for their lives and arrived in Egypt as undocumented immigrants, they were poor and don’t forget Mary’s words that we now call the Magnificat. Read the birth narratives for yourselves in light of this past year’s journey at the Dorothy Day House. This Advent we have the opportunity to weave a new narrative through our own lives; as we journey with the poor. Being born again can take on a whole new meaning; a chance not just to transform our hearts but our lives as well. Who are the shepherds in your life?

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Looking Back: To Our Beginnings…

*At this time last year after months of meetings and groundwork we of the Catholic Worker Community, Youngstown prepared to serve our first meal!

*We had our Open House on the third Sunday of November with dozens and dozens in attendance including words of inspiration from our Mayor and a blessing from Bishop Murray. Sister Ann put the vision before us that afternoon and all were anxious for her words to take shape and come to life.

*We served our first Thanksgiving meal our first week of service even as our number of guests were between twelve and eighteen.

*Finally our Round-Table moved from St. Christine’s to our very own Dorothy Day House.

*In the months to come carpet was pulled up and our wood floors were finished, cabinets went up, tile was laid, walls were added, dry-wall went up, walls were painted, ceilings repaired, a furnace was installed, duct work was done, plumbing and electrical work done, and on and on it went – how grateful we are to Deputy-Sheriff Sam and his crew for the monumental role they played in all that.

*As much as we could say about the brick and mortar it’s been the growth and formation of our community itself that’s been most amazing.

*We were blest from the beginning with dedicated volunteers and legions turning out for our inaugural retreat and huge open house.

*We greatly outnumbered our guests in the beginning but with each passing month we hit a new milestone: twenty, then thirty, forty; from fifty it seemed to jump to seventy the same month and then stunned disbelief – one hundred plus…

*While all along we have been honored to provide a meal for those who grace our doors we have endeavored to recognize from the beginning in each person who entered the house the presence and dignity of Christ Himself.

*Before the first meal was served our beginnings trace back to the groundwork done by so many; the inspiration that sprang from the Humility of Mary and Ursuline Sisters collaboration; the Core group that grew out of that; partnerships with countless friends, the quest for a house; an architect and building contractor friends who moved mountains for us, a friendly Landlord who worked with us, a sheriff’s department that was an invaluable alley and all so many major contributors; how blest we have been.

*With each passing month our first year we seemed to enjoy astounding new blessings; guests who became generous volunteers and invaluable community members; a garden crew who worked long, hard hours week in and week out, those dedicated to our shower ministry, collaborations that led to an inspired Good Friday March; how we have seen God’s Spirit at work everywhere at once.

*By mid summer we were celebrating Mass each month, gathering for evening prayer every Wednesday; likewise we began the formation of our C.W. Community, and our Round-Table the fourth Thursday of each month continues (The third Thursday this month because of Thanksgiving Day).

*From that first meal back in November of ’09 to the present how we have been blest with Team Leaders who were willing to shoulder the responsibility for overseeing the countless details of an evening’s meal, a resource team that has become diligent in utilizing our resources, three Humility of Mary volunteers who have made invaluable contributions, head chefs, restaurants and various groups who have put in countless hours preparing our meals and regular volunteers who turn out once a week and more like clockwork to make sure our guests get a good meal in a warm, hospitable home where all are welcome.

*In our Catholic tradition we can say that we are doing and being Eucharist at the Dorothy Day House, Youngstown. At times our experience has been so profound that it seemed we were literally dripping in the presence of Christ; touched by a tangible holiness, a sense of a space made sacred by the encounter of people who have shared deeply and entrusted their woes, hope and dignity to one another.

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Newly Posted Photos of the Community

Thank you Mary Roth for all of the wonderful photos of the House and our activities here! Many of these photos have now been posted at the Photos link above, and we will continue to update our albums as more photos come in!

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New Dorothy Day House Phone Number

The Dorothy Day House phone number has changed to 330-743-1409. Please update this in your records! Thank you for being a part of our community, and we look forward to hearing from you!

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Healthcare ~ A Catholic Worker Perspective

Catholic Workers,

We are in jeopardy of losing our way as Christians in America so long as we place the well being of the middle class over and above the common good. Two years ago we had an opportunity as a people to address the horrific circumstances of undocumented immigrants living in America, we chose instead to leave immigration reform in limbo and to crack down on “the illegals”; deporting parents and tearing families apart. Today health care reform once again gives us the opportunity to stand with the poor and to embrace one another as brother and sister, but will we?

While the health, well being and futures of tens of millions of Americans hang in the balance, we as a country continue to play a tired and oppressive contact sport called partisan politics that seems oblivious to human suffering. Political ideologies not only trump Gospel mandates, but even worse, actually use and manipulate them for partisan gain. The Judeo-Christian heritage along with Islam, Hindu and other religious traditions have assigned a vaulted place for those who languish in poverty; while a very strong populist sentiment in America rants about “lazy” welfare recipients and bemoans “entitlements” for the poor.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. recognized that the final frontier to humanity’s inhumanity is poverty; he was planning a march and major campaign on behalf of the poor when his life was cut short. Mahatma Gandhi was adamant throughout his life that India had no room for those who considered certain human beings untouchable; his unrelenting dedication to the truth of human equality cost him his life. Then we have Jesus of Nazareth who stood with the poor, identified with the poor and was brutally murdered for challenging the religious and government leaders of His day to really and truly make room for the poor at God’s table.

As much as the world has changed since biblical times it has indeed remained eerily the same. While ever so many modern day prophets like Martha Hennessey and Frank Cordaro cry out for access to health care for all human beings living in our country, the powers that be; political, religious and otherwise manipulate the truth and create a clever smoke screen that insists on the welfare of the privileged at the expense of those who have next to nothing.

To their credit our American Bishops have argued for over three decades that Universal Health Care is a moral imperative for any country that would call itself civilized. Today, every other industrialized country in the western world has universal health care for their citizens save America. We as Americans enjoy the largest, most prosperous middle class the world has ever known; yet thirty six million Americans live in debilitating poverty, forty-seven million have no health care, and the fastest growing number of Americans becoming poor are children under the age of six. The decisions we make collectively as a people will undoubtedly not escape the notice of a God whose Son said: “as often as you do it to the least of these my brothers and sisters, you do it to me.” (Matthew 25:40)

Today our Catholic Church in America lobbies for a universal health care that includes the immigrants among us (those derisively called illegals and respectfully referred to as undocumented). The Church speaks in an uninterrupted voice of respect for human life that stretches back to the hospitality that Abraham offered the stranger, in the spirit of St. Francis, Mother Theresa and Dorothy Day, to our present day insistence on the sacredness of every human life including the unborn, minorities, those living in abject poverty, the homeless, and the list is vast and endless. The heartbeat of truth that pulses through the religious heritages of the world will not accommodate a relativist moral mentality that champions the health care needs of some segments of our population “deemed worthy”, while marginalizing others using the manipulative language of “entitlement”.

As we of the Dorothy Day House Youngstown prepare to open our doors on November 22nd, we sound a clarion call on behalf of all our brothers and sisters who struggle at the margins of our society to raise their families and make ends meet. We stand unabashedly on the side of the Social Gospel and in the name of Jesus of Nazareth: “to bring Good News to the poor, …to proclaim liberty to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Matt. 3:18)

As we set out to fulfill the “Works of Mercy” as annunciated in Matthew 25 we give thanks to our generous benefactors and partners for supporting this initiative. We challenge all to understand that the one step we take for charity on behalf of the poor rings hollow and is for naught, if we fail to take the other step for social justice; a step that makes us all brothers and sisters and that transforms us from a tired group of pilgrims into an authentic community of Christ’s disciples. Let all people of good will speak up and be heard and tell our political representatives that their work on health care reform is not complete until each and every human being living in our country has equal access to health care period, and that includes our undocumented brothers and sisters.

Jesus’ Gospel message led Him to a gruesome death on the cross and so it should not surprise us that the powers that be – including the populist masses and corporate lobbyists still call out for the head of anyone or anything that has even the faintest echo of being a threat to their status quo. Let us of Dorothy Day House Youngstown be tireless in following in the footsteps of Christ by working for peace and social justice. Our Bishops echo the Gospel call to justice in calling for equal access to health care for all an absolute human right and moral imperative; so let us pray for the courage, strength of character and moral fortitude to champion our Gospel values even when they prove unpopular with the powers that be.

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