The Underpinnings of Faith

When I lived in Des Moines, Iowa, I attended Friday evening Mass at the Bishop Dingman House of the Des Moines Catholic Worker. Many of my students at nearby Simpson College also showed up for worship, as well as to help serve meals, clean the house, and join in war protests during the week. There were usually 20 or so present at Mass, including the poor and not-so-poor, African Americans and Latinos, children and grandparents, college students, and high-school dropouts. For a while there was even a black cat that sat purring in front of the coffee table-turned altar.

One night an inebriated man came in from the street, sat down, and loudly and nonsensically interrupted everything as we tried to make our way through the order of worship. Because Mass tended to be informal and open to anyone’s contribution and participation, we tried to keep things going. But when it got to the point where the service could no longer continue, Father Frank Cordaro paused and gently escorted the man to the kitchen, where he was given a seat and a warm meal. The rest of us were stunned. When Father Frank returned he said to us, “Don’t you hate it when Jesus does that?” Of course, in asking this he was echoing Dorothy Day, who was deeply influenced by St. Benedict, who reminded his monks that “everyone was to be received as Christ.”

Day and the Catholic Worker movement she co-founded in 1933 with Peter Maurin in New York City are certainly not foreign to many readers. Perhaps less familiar are the intellectual ideas and spiritual practices that ground and sustain the Catholic Worker. Acquainting us “with the richness of thought, contemplation, and action that has inspired and characterized the Catholic Worker movement” is the aim of The Catholic Worker Movement: Intellectual and Spiritual Origins, authored by Mark and Louise Zwick, who are the founders of the Houston Catholic Worker, Casa Juan Diego.

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Sojourners Magazine September/October 2006
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