I’ve done my share of living with people, I survived the sixties. In reality pursued a “sixties” lifestyle until the end of the eighties. These past seven years are the sum total of a solitary lifestyle for me. Quite frankly, I’ve come to enjoy it. The quiet and the solitude are necessary for building a life of prayer and moving forward in my formation. On a more earthly plane, I like to watch television until the wee hours of the night. These are some of the arguments that the committee in my head were debating.
On closer reflection, the realization came to me that I could not live Gospel values in isolation. Professing to be in solidarity with the poor and marginalized from a distance is to be in solidarity with a theory and not a practice. I had often criticized people for referring to “the poor” as if the poor was some faceless entity out there or over there. I realized that for me to be in solidarity with the poor would have to happen one person at a time to be real. Further, to love my neighbour meant that I’d have to allow my neighbour to love me, late night television and all.
Of course since I’m no longer a young person, financial insecurity lurked its mighty head. In the housing coop where I now live, housing charges are one-fourth of one’s income. So, if I were to become unemployed or underemployed, I wouldn’t have to worry about losing my apartment. Now, Sarah and I have taken on the responsibility of a mortgage. In my case without claim to ownership or title. We have pledged to be responsible for the house, regardless of the ability of our future guests to contribute. It was then that it became clearer to me what poverty means to me as a Franciscan. It means learning to trust. It means that poverty entails being insecure. I now understand why my Order, the Franciscan Sisters of Joy, have no motherhouse, communal or individual property. We, like the poor, are totally dependent on God through and with others to deal with any of the obstacles encountered in this life. I must learn to trust in God’s will and the good will and cooperation of others. I have to realize that I am not the “master builder” as Romero put it nor am I in charge of the show. My capacity for cooperation and teamwork must be honed and enhanced. This brings me to community. As I wrote on another occasion,
I don’t believe self-acceptance [or growth] is possible without the help of others because it is through others that we learn what is acceptable and what is not. This process starts when we are children learning the rules of our society from our families and continues as we journey through life. This includes our spiritual life, I don’t believe that we can learn how to be or be spiritual without others. I believe that God speaks to us through others and on occasion speaks to others through us. However, there is also a caution that sometimes as Christians and people of God we must be in opposition to what is generally acceptable. One example is the current trend of leaving the Christ out of Christmas and reducing the Holy Season that commemorates Jesus’ birth to an exercise in ultimate consumerism.
I believe that this is why the Catholic Worker movement is so important to me. In striving to live out the gospel in a concrete way we need each other for support. I need to be reminded of the Sermon on the Mount and the Works of Mercy. We can remind each other that there is precedent for what we’re doing, not just back in some forgotten age, but in my lifetime, Dorothy Day, Peter Maurin, and the movement they started.
Victoria Marie, osc