Mason Street Musings

posted by Scott Schaeffer-Duffy on August 6th, 2012

From the September 2012 issue of The Catholic Radical. [PDF]. Illustration by Sarah Jeglosky, 1987.

“You are evil!” S. shouted only an hour after he called us “good people.”

In truth, I can’t really blame him. He has a bad temper, especially when he’s drinking, but he’s otherwise a decent person. He came by looking for specific help, which Claire agreed to give to him. While the details were being worked out, he talked at me, effectively slowing down my work on a garden shed behind our house. When I started losing patience, I thought, “S. is Jesus,” but that was a pretty big stretch under the hot sun. Then he told me that he had been writing letters to Jesus. I couldn’t resist asking, “Have you gotten any letters back yet?” Ignoring me, he went on to disparage his family and to praise the Catholic Worker. “They live in a house, but this is a home,” he repeated several times. I feared this was a prelude to a request to move in with us for what must be his ninth or tenth time in twenty years.

A phone call pulled me away, and then, early dinner preparations kept us apart a bit longer. By the time I returned, S. had taken off his shoes, one sock, and his shirt, and then gone into the upstairs kitchen to fill his water bottle with ice. Thinking of our 18-year-old female guest, I told S., “You know you can’t come in the house half naked.” He looked at me like I was crazy and protested that it was “wicked hot!” By this time, Claire had a plan to take S. to see a nurse to treat his ailing leg. Like me, she had many other things to do, so she prodded him to put on his clothes and get into the car. When he griped that we shouldn’t hurry him, I foolishly said, “S., nobody wants to call someone to get you to move along.” Before I finished speaking, I remembered Saint Paul’s words, “Jesus … did not counter with threats,” but it was too late. S. flew off the handle shouting, “Are you threatening to call the police?! Are you out of your mind? You are f–ing evil!” He stormed off in a rage.

Claire asked me later on, “Do you think we’re losing our compassion?” I hope not. Maybe I have to write an apologetic letter to S. and to Jesus. It’s not an excuse, but the pace of hospitality this summer has been almost overwhelming. Claire and I have had nary an uninterrupted hour. Dave copes by getting up before 5 a.m. to snatch a bit of quiet. We also have been deluged with unexpected expenses, far beyond our income. At present, we are almost $2,000 in debt and will sink $1,200 deeper in the red to print and mail this newsletter. Although, we are nowhere near as poor as too many people are in Worcester, every additional expense wears on us. And we still have only a fraction of what we need to rewire the house, something we are told is crucial to prevent an electrical fire.

But then, John, one of our former guests, who is holding down a good job, came by, during the heat wave, to work on the shed. His carpentry skills, combined with our guest Derek’s expertise, helped complete the project much more professionally than I could have by myself.

Our garden is in full bloom, our children and guests are happy and well-fed. We even have fresh strawberries for tonight’s desert! There’s much to be grateful for. Maybe we are getting letters from Jesus after all. Thank you for all you do to help us be compassionate. You make it easier for us to be good. Ω Scott

You can contact Worcester’s Saints Francis & Therese Catholic Worker at 52 Mason St, Worcester MA 01610,, and 508-753-3588.

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One Comment Leave a comment.

  1. On April 20, 2013 at 05:14 Jan L. said:

    Hi Scott, & Claire,
    Sorry I missed your call yesterday. Looked for an email address to send our entire letter and Mission Statement, but none to be found.
    Please email me your e-address and I will get the entire info to you asap!

    This meeting will be held in Worcester, on Saturday May 18th, 10AM to 4PM.
         – in the Phelan Center; located behind Blessed Sacrament Church
         – 551 Pleasant St.   Worcester, MA.

    Very,very grateful for your help with this!
    Jan L.
    Jan L.

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