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Published: March 17th 2004
5:30 AM and most everything is quiet at the Sadako Sasaki House of Hospitality in Norfolk, also known as the "Norfolk Catholic Worker House." The birds outside are rustling as the sky warms into view, and a diesel locomotive idles less than a mile away. Calvin the cat is eating his breakfast, and I can hear Victor's soft footsteps upstairs as he prepares for another day of teaching school. I've just finished my breakfast and a couple of pages of William Stafford's collected writings, and now I'm focusing on updating my Friends as to my new adventures at the Norfolk Catholic Worker. I've been living at the Catholic Worker for a month now, although I was on the road for a week photographing trains, and my weekends have often been spent with my fiance Jennifer.
Yes, that's right, Jennifer, whom many of you have had the pleasure of meeting, & I are now engaged to be married next Spring. We haven't sent out the official announcements yet, but we have notified our immediate families. So if you're reading this, then you're amongst the second to know. And I'm sure there will be many more exciting blogs to post if we realize our honeymoon dream of riding across Europe on a bicycle built for two...
But anyway, back to the Catholic Worker...For almost a year now I've considered joining the Catholic Worker community here in Norfolk. I first became aquainted with the Catholic Worker about the time that I applied for a Conscientious Objector discharge from the Navy. The Catholic Workers run a house of hospitality in Norfolk, opening their doors to the homeless and feeding the hungry three times a week at a breakfast line. They also maintained a prophetic witness against America's rampant militarism, a calling decidedly less popular at the front gate of the Norfolk Naval Shipyard than in People's Park or on the Boston Commons.
From the beginning I respected the integrity of the Catholic Worker's witness- instead of simply mouthing liberal aphorisms, they were out doing the work that everyone said was so important. Before I left the Navy I enrolled in a photojournalism workshop and documented the Catholic Workers for a week: If people were hungry, they were feeding them. If someone was dying alone of cancer, they were visiting him. If our country was building weapons of mass destruction, they were opposing it, even unto prison.
After I got out of the Navy, I stayed in touch with the Catholic Workers, and often found myself sharing a street corner at a peace vigil with them. I encountered many more Catholic Workers at peace rallies in Washington DC, New York City and at Fort Benning. Even if I was a Quaker and they were Catholics, we were inspired by the same God to speak out against the same evils.
Even while I was on my bike trip last Fall I was considering the Catholic Worker House as a possible fall back. If nothing else worked out, if I didn't get rehired at Norfolk Southern, I could probably go join the Catholic Worker.
Well, now I've joined the Catholic Worker for a trial period. So now I find myself up at 5 AM three times aweek, on my way to prepare breakfast for up to a hundred hungry people. I've cut back on my hours at Norfolk Southern so that I can spend Fridays focusing on my personal photography and being a "Catholic Worker," answering the phone, opening our pantry to the poor, and generally looking for Christ in all people. This weekend I'll be heading up to DC for the trial of two Catholic Workers- they stand accused of defacing the Pentagon with blood. (Although the thermonuclear destruction of the world is planned within the hallowed halls of the Pentagon and the security of strategic oil resources is assured with the numbered deaths of America's children and the innumerable deaths of nonAmericans, we can't have any blood on the Pentagon!) After the trial, I'm hoping to make it up to New York City for the peace march on 3/20.
For me, my move to the Catholic Worker is but the continuation of the same faith-put-into-works that led me to bicycle 2,000 miles and speak to Friends about peace, that leads me to stand on a traffic-snarled street corner in a weekly vigil for peace, that led me to give up my car for my bicycle. I want to live my life simply and authentically, and a life lived in community with fellow Christians following the simple tenents of the Bible seems to be the best: "Love Your Enemy. Feed the Hungry. Visit the Imprisoned. Care for the Sick. Seek Justice."
So my Friendly Biker blog will be continuing, albeit in a different vein. In the coming entries I'll be writing about my experiences amongst Catholic Workers. I'll be explaining what the Catholic Worker movement is. And I'll be talking about the bicycle clinic that I've started for the working poor that we stand with in solidarity.
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