The Fragile Gift of Community

There are days, to tell the truth, that you just have to wonder if it's worth it to try to live in community. It's sort of like marriage and family life: It's a great idea, but the reality requires more blood, sweat, and tears than anybody ever told you about ahead of time. And sometimes you just wonder.

You stir a soup pot, and it seems there are always more hungry people at the door. You open the shower line, but more hot, sweaty, dirty bodies appear the minute you've finished. You visit the prisoners, but for every visit there are five more unaddressed needs. You work to devise strategies to stop the death penalty, and the state just sets another execution date. You sit down to pray, but the cacophony of your thoughts and feelings won't lie still long enough to get through a simple "Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner."

We live together out of a commitment to the love that Christ gives us to share as a body, but sometimes it seems the best we can do is still to fail each other. And sometimes we just wonder: Is it worth it? Wouldn't it be better (and is that the same as easier?) just to give up? To go back to a more traditional lifestyle--one that's not so weird or isolated or cut off from the mainstream culture?

Some time ago, a little cardboard box came in the mail from St. John's University in Collegeville, Minnesota. Inside were a simple pottery bowl and cup. They were crafted as a eucharistic set by Richard Bresnahan, trained as a master potter in Japan, and sent to us through a friend, Frank Cordaro, of the Catholic Worker network. The message said that an identical cup and bowl had been sent to every Catholic Worker house in the country. (We are very honored to be considered a "Presbyterian Catholic Worker.") Frank wrote:

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