The long, dark sickday of the soul

posted by Mike on March 21st, 2007

I’ve felt spiritually derailed this year, and the Lenten season just makes it that much more obvious. A day or two of prayer and fasting usually gets me back on track–in fact, I’ve never known it to fail. But I’ve been sick for a week and a half, and in no mood to take on any more spiritual disciplines till I’m feeling better.

Part of the trouble is that I haven’t lived in a Catholic Worker community for six months. For all the drawbacks of the Catholic Worker lifestyle, it does make it easy to integrate spirituality into the flow of your life.

When my life isn’t spiritually grounded, my activism isn’t grounded, either. When the rest of my life is going well, activism is a joy, or at least fun in a quixotic way. But these days, my projects have been a real chore.

Many radicals of vastly more experience than myself refer to their work as “resistance,” which is a word I don’t really like. As a Christian, I think that Truth and Love are the background of reality. I don’t want to stand up to Evil like a wall, I want my life to be sharp like a pin, so that when confronted with Evil I can make little pinpricks in it, letting Truth and Love seep through, eventually eroding it. But at the moment, my work feels like “resistance,” as though I’m standing against evil alone, rather than being a tool of God’s love.

Ash Wednesday, 2007

posted by Mike on February 21st, 2007

Last year’s Pie and Coffee “Lent” articles were an eclectic bunch.

Most Catholics either give up something, or take on a new responsibility, for Lent. They also stop eating meat on Fridays (except fish). Since becoming a vegan, I’ve been wondering what I should do. Last year, I gave up soy on Fridays, which was a pain in the neck and not very productive. This year, I think I’ll just observe a juice fast on Ash Wednesday and Fridays, since the combination of prayer and fasting always does me good, and I should try it more often.

Chinese New Year: Indymedia has an article and movie about the celebration in Worcester, courtesy Matt Feinstein. Are there Chinese Christians who feel a conflict between celebrating these first weeks of their New Year, and observing Lent?

Television: You can submit your questions about prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and other topics to Worcester’s Mayor and City Manager via Soapbox.

Catholic Worker: Houston Indymedia reports that the Houston CW is being harrassed by the Klan.

posted by Mike in Fasting, Items, Lent | on February 21st, 2007 | Permanent Link to “Ash Wednesday, 2007” | 1 Comment »

Fasting and Eating and Understanding

posted by Mike on October 13th, 2005

Today is Yom Kippur. It’s also Ramadan. Many are fasting today, and many who would not fast ordinarily are joining them. So if you see a bunch of people looking cranky and repentant, that’s what’s going on.

Yesterday was the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast in Worcester. I’d heard of “prayer breakfasts,” but I’d never been to one, so I did a little research and found the Prayer Breakfast Network. Their website does not feature symbols of religion (Christian cross, Jewish star, Muslim crescent, Buddhist wheel) or breakfast (Northern bagel, Southern grits, Western omelette), just a bunch of American flags. Their spiritual heritage page is entirely about Anglo-Saxon Protestantism.

Maybe some towns could have a monocultural prayer breakfast like that, but not Worcester. The breakfast emcee was a rabbi, the opening prayer was by a Catholic bishop, the opening speech was by a city employee identified as a Unitarian, the keynote speaker was Bernard Lafayette (Baptist minister, among other things), and the closing prayer was by representatives from Hillel and the Islamic Society.

Then an Indian man who’d known Gandhi read a poem!

Stuff like that, and the City Council’s choosing religious tolerance over mosque wiretapping, makes me happy to be in Worcester.

Here’s another story that makes me happy to be in Worcester. It’s about some folks who decided to meet their new neighbors instead of fearing them. As told in Worcester’s Catholic Free Press:
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Darfur Fast in D.C.–Day 4

posted by Mike on August 5th, 2005

Today was the last day of our four-day fast and vigil at the Sudanese Embassy.

Everyone was in good spirits. It was hot and humid. I got a little dehydrated since I didn’t really feel like drinking water.

Ice Tom Lewis tried to take a break in the lounge at the Hilton, and was approached by security. So Scott and Ken went down there. They buttered up the concierge, explained about our vigil, and relaxed in the lounge while a Hilton employee went upstairs to fill their shopping bag with ice.

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Darfur Fast in DC–Day 3

posted by Mike on August 4th, 2005

Today we did some light yard work at the Embassy of Sudan.

Overnight, an Embassy staffer had tried to add a couple of timbers to the sharply-sloping front lawn to deal with erosion, but they didn’t go in well, and the sidewalk was littered with one timber and a lot of dirt. With the Embassy staffer and the Italian gardener leading the project, the demonstrators helped smash concrete, cut back vines, dig, level the ground, move timbers, pound rebar through them, and sweep up afterwards.

Scott & Mr. Bashara move a timber
Demonstrator Scott Schaeffer-Duffy and Embassy staffer Mr. Bashara move a timber.

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Darfur Fast in D.C.–Day 2

posted by Mike on August 2nd, 2005

Well, the Embassy went ahead and welcomed visitors to sign a condolences book for late Vice President John Garang. Their consular offices remained closed.

We met a lot of interesting people. Visitors ranged from dignitaries in suits arriving in cars with diplomatic plates, to guys in street clothes arriving on foot.

The first visitor of the day was an older woman who showed up early and waited for the Embassy to open. She had been a college classmate of Garang (who went to Grinnell and Iowa State).

World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz came up to demonstrator Ken Hannaford-Ricardi and asked, “Is it OK if I go in there?” Ken said, “Of course.” Wolfowitz said, referring to the Darfur issue, “I’m with you on this one.” Ken said, “OK–but who are you?” Leave it to Ken.

Ken and Paul
Ken Hannaford-Ricardi, an opponent of America’s Iraq policy as part of Voices in the Wilderness, talks with Paul Wolfowitz, an architect of America’s Iraq policy as part of the Department of Defense.

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Darfur Fast in South Bend–Day 1

posted by Brenna Cussen on August 2nd, 2005

The fast in South Bend is also going quite well. There was a wonderful article about it on the front page of the “Local” section on Sunday. So many people read it and now know about the divestment campaign. The local TV station (WSBTV) also gave us 1.5 minutes on the evening news. Amanda Hart was a thorough journalist and she stayed with us to get footage for a full hour.

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Darfur Fast in D.C.–Day 1

posted by Mike on August 1st, 2005

The Sudanese Embassy said they would call off plans for a commemorative event for late Vice President John Garang, and closed their consular office for two days, after our group refused to interrupt our 4-day fast and vigil for an end to genocide in Darfur.

Embassy staffer lowers flag to half-mast
Embassy staffer lowers flag to half-mast.
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Fasting for Darfur

posted by Mike on June 29th, 2005

Women in Dereig camp A group of Catholic Workers will be fasting August 1-4 and vigiling each day from 9 am-5 pm at the Sudanese embassy in Washington, D.C., and in South Bend, Indiana, for an end to genocide in .

All are welcome to join the vigil at any time for any length of time regardless of whether or not they are fasting with the core group. The embassy is at 2210 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, D.C.

For more information on the Washington, DC event, please contact Scott Schaeffer-Duffy at 508.753.3588 or

For more information on the South Bend, Indiana event, please contact Brenna Cussen at 781.588.4216 or .

Two of the participants, Scott and Brenna, visited Darfur in December of 2004.


posted by Mike on June 20th, 2005

Jim Fussell has updated his essay Fasting as a Method for Opposing Genocide in Darfur. It lists some of the people who’ve fasted on this issue and considers the purposes of political fasts:

In fasting in response to genocide the gravity of the response begins to suggest the magnitude of the crisis. Public fasting causes spectators to become witness to nearby suffering, reminding them of a greater suffering occurring at a distance. Fasting has the power to rouse the onlookers from apathy to action.

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