The Trip, Part 1: Hospitality

I’m pretty sure this will take several days to explain, in part since my writing time is now divided by a number of thank-you notes which must be written with all haste.

Which seems like as good a place as any to start.  We were very, very blessed by the generosity of friends and strangers on our trip to Fargo, ND, this past week.  We were gone from Tuesday morning to the following Tuesday night, and only spent one of those nights away in a hotel.  So pending the thank-you notes, here are the people to whom we owe our very awesome, very long trip.

We spent the first night in St. Louis, MO, with Nate, Angela, and John Paul.  Craig got to know Nate first in his role as a Catholic blogger (read: “they met on the internet!”)  Nate and Angela are in the beginning stages of starting a new Catholic Worker on the other side of town from the long-standing Worker of St. Louis, and as they have kicked most modern communication technology out of their house, we’ve been corresponding with them by snail mail for a couple of months now…mostly about whether they would be interested in allowing us to crash at their house on our way north.  Happily, they were willing.  We left New Orleans early, arrived in St. Louis in the afternoon, and had a great time having dinner, going to playgrounds, eating frozen custard, and discussing the joys and difficulties of living a holistic Catholic lifestyle.  Nate and Angela were leaving on their own road trip the next day, so we were really grateful to them for going out of their way to take us in.

Next we went on to Iowa City, where we stayed with people we actually knew, Mike and Violet and their beautiful daughters Stella and Juniper.  They let us stay two nights, so we had time to visit, take the kids to the library, stay up late, and marvel at how peaceful Juniper is at all times.  Mike and Violet let us sleep on their mattress.  They are awesome.  They offered to leave things where they were in case we wanted to stop back there on the way home.  Sadly, we didn’t make it back to see them again this trip.

From Iowa City we went on to the original purpose of the trip, a Young Disciples reunion in Fargo, ND.  There, again we stayed with strangers, although the arrangements for this “host home” had been made by a friend of ours who used to run the YD program.  Josh and Tracy, the young couple we stayed with, provided toys, stairs, and cereal for the girls, as well as a Mary Poppins cup with built in straw.  What more could little girls need?  We were there Friday and Saturday nights, and had a good reunion and more fascinating theological discussion.  That was actually the other theme of the trip.

While we were in Iowa City, Mike and Violet had mentioned the place their friend Brenna was living: a Catholic Worker farm outside of Dubuque, IA.  Violet was kind enough to call and see if we could come visit the farm on our way home.  And sure enough, they had a space for us.  Actually, Brenna gave up her bed so we could stay, and we got in late since we didn’t leave Fargo until almost one and there are no useful interstates in the area, (South Bend and Highway 31, anyone?) and the roosters are apparently on Mountain Time, as they started crowing at four in the morning.  But the people of the farm (do I call them Farmers?  Workers?) were so hospitable, even though only Brenna knew us from Adam, and she barely so.  Craig was feeling down and out by the morning (he didn’t sleep well) and we were offered another night, should we need it.  We have several good farm stories now, and Craig is ready to move immediately, and, as usual, we had good food and good conversation and left feeling welcomed and rested (Craig napped through lunch).

So finally we went back through St. Louis, and stayed at a hotel, because even though Nate and Angela had offered us another night at their house, they were getting back from their road trip that same day, and Craig had come down with a cold, and our humility had about run out, so we decided not to impose anymore.  And even the lady working at the hotel offered us milk as we were checking in for the tired and grumpy (read: screaming) girls.

Thus the pile of thank-you notes I have to get started on.  We have a new standard of hospitality to live up to.  We were well cared for on a long trip, one we could not have afforded to make without the generosity of friends and strangers.  And I think the best part was, if we had stayed by ourselves in hotels all those nights, trying to get the girls bathed and to bed on time, sleeping until we had to get ready to go, watching TV because there isn’t a whole lot else for a three-year-old to do in a hotel room, we would have missed so much.  We would have missed catching up with old friends, we would have missed making new friends and learning a wide variety of new things.  The girls would have missed playgrounds, frozen custard, and farm animals, just for starters.  I wouldn’t have so many letters to write, which I actually can’t wait to start.  Connections we had to people in other places which were tenuous, if they even existed, are stronger now.  Our like-minded community, which we keep trying to build a little here and there as we go, has grown tremendously.  It might just have been worth the 3,200 miles in the car.

Peter Maurin

So I just finished The Long Loneliness which is a kind of autobiography Dorthy Day wrote back in the fifties.  I highly recommend it, first of all.  The first section about her early life is fascinating, the section about the birth of her daughter is moving (and should be required reading for mothers), and her depiction of Peter Maurin, who practically drove her to start the Catholic Worker movement, left me wondering why he hasn’t been canonized yet.  There will be much, much more on The Long Loneliness as I re-read it in the coming months, but we started looking again at Maurin’s Easy Essays, and here is one for a taste.  I suspect a similar feeling of unconnectedness to my experience in the world is what has caused me to drift away from my interest in formalized theology.  (No offence intended, studiers of formalized theology, it’s just that I have found God more easily in my garden than in Aquinas lately.)

BLOWING THE DYNAMITE

Writing about the Catholic Church, 
a radical writer says: 
“Rome will have to do more 
than to play a waiting game; 
she will have to use 
some of the dynamite 
inherent in her message.” 
To blow the dynamite 
of a message 
is the only way 
to make the message dynamic. 
If the Catholic Church 
is not today 
the dominant social dynamic force, 
it is because Catholic scholars 
have failed to blow the dynamite 
of the Church. 
Catholic scholars 
have taken the dynamite 
of the Church, 
have wrapped it up 
in nice phraseology, 
placed it in an hermetic container 
and sat on the lid. 
It is about time 
to blow the lid off 
so the Catholic Church 
may again become 
the dominant social dynamic force.