Catholic Worker National Hui, Waikanae, July 2004

Reprinted from The Common Good, No 30, Spring 2004

There’s seagulls flying and wide open doors and a tiny baby suckling and a great brew of soup boiling on the fire. There’s the smell of Bebe’s bread baking, Shaun lying in bed sipping hot drinks and Jenny singing by the fire. Justin is driving with us and all the food and the kids in the old van to the Ngaitawa camp, Mike welcoming us on and Joseph talking about making a place where it is easier to be good, making a place for people to come where it is easier to be good to find the goodness in themselves.

We have a good mihimihi by the fire and a bit of waiata among the talk. There’s big green hills and a river flowing and a great tree fallen near the boundary in a storm earlier this year. There’s chooks and a plantation of small native trees. They’re building a big house adjacent to the whare, where lots of people can sleep and be warm above the fire. It’s the middle of winter and it rains and there’s two great fires going so everyone’s warm and well fed and nobody’s too bothered about show and veneer. Mostly we’re concerned with how Jesus lived and loved in the world and how to go about our own days with that love in us.

There’s reflection in the morning on the gospel of the day, each taking a word that touches us, then on the second reading, a feeling as if we were there in that time and place, and then on the third reading, the gift it gives us for the day. Beebe brings out the exquisite candles that she makes at Clare House in Opononi. She gives us one for the Suzanne Aubert House – glowing orange and yellow with people painted dancing around the candle holding hands and the name of the house inscribed. Francis lights it now every Wednesday when we all turn up for liturgy.

Nicholas talks about the Auckland CW and the six people he has staying with him there. John Millar talks about the Cottonpatch gospels and we reflect on John and Leonie’s House for refugees and migrants; on Teresa’s work and the scripture study at Joseph Cardjin House, and Graeme and Lynette’s work with the people they have to stay at The Promised Land Farm. Joseph and Catherine and Abraham at St Francis Farm in the Hokianga talk about taking people in and for how long and whether the guests can manage having no electricity and chopping firewood and no telephone. Nicholas has no car and only goes in cars if it’s already going there, and we have no TV and no cell phones and Teresa has no computer. I begin to realise CW is to do with time and availability and being unhurried.

It’s also about being open to interruptions and people, to whomever turns up, when they turn up, and to prayer and being open to God moving in your life. About Mike making letterboxes and coffins when people want one or die, and me writing poems when people want one or die. Moana and Shaun and John Millar going out in the middle of winter to stand at the totem pole to demonstrate and stand against the presence of America in Iraq. Nicholas and Fr Peter Murnane pouring their blood on the floor of the American Consul in Auckland. Hugh and Francis and John Christenson preparing Christmas dinner for whoever turns up in the big garage at Cardjin House. Margaret coming here from Israel to visit and talking about her husband Alon and the others, about his friends who refuse to go and fight and kill people in the occupied territories, and what an act of courage it is in a society where all are trained soldiers, and what the consequences are and the price they pay and how they care for each other.

We pray each night the evening prayer of the church from the Aotearoa NZ Anglican Book of Common Prayer We reflect on inside and outside and not spending all our time inside man-made buildings or vehicles. This way we get to feel the presence of God in our very being.

Great having an older Christian pacifist, John Millar, with us and connecting with the Methodist Bible Class movement of the 1930s–1950s. And then us with the YCW/Ploughshares movement born in the 1970s, and now our Catholic Worker and the Urban Vision communities of Baptist origin born in the 1980s. It was good for us all to be together in the valley by the river under the big trees with the seagulls around.

All of these things make sense inside this context of how to be prayerful and to act prayerfully and nonviolently in the world and not get too caught up with accumulating material possessions.

The winter sun creeping inside the hills, the whare, inside the young and the old bones, inside the people praying and reflecting, making soup and bread, caring for the old ones and the little ones and the ones who are not too well. These are the places where God comes and works miracles and nobody even notices, except the people who are cared for and cured and walking in the light where they’ve never been before. Inside the warm homes where our brokenness is held, we can enter easily into the very presence of God.

—Kathleen Gallagher

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