Books Worth a Look

  • Little Bee by Chris Cleave - This book is a must read. Better than anything else I've read, it takes you vividly into the life of a person in the 3rd world who has no choice but to escape. It is brilliantly written & works well as an audio book. Often I've sent info about the wonderful refugees I've met in Europe. We know only so much of their plight as it is painful for them to recall much less live through again by recounting it. But over time it is clear what they've lived through. This book is excellent as you discover the horrors of their world. Somewhat how to me, it is like being in Europe near a Concentration Camp. One has an obligation to visit it. 'Never to Forget.' In this case, to have our eyes opened.
  • Garbage King by Eliz Laird - The book is set on the streets on Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia and here lives Mamo and his sister Tiggist. When Mamo's "uncle" offers a job, he soon sets out on a bus to work. Little does he know that he is actually being sold into slavery...

Sunday, August 30, 2009

An Overnight with Jim and Nancy Forest in Alkmaar, The Netherlands

The genius and driving force behind the Catholic Worker was, of course, the indomitable Dorothy Day. Jim Forest first met Dorothy when he was a young man of 21. His experiences with Dorothy are well known. He is currently revising his biography of her, Love is the Measure. It is due out next year.

Imagine though my incredible good fortune. Here is a man who has not only met, but worked side by side with Dorothy, Thomas Merron, Thich Nhat Hanh and more. Yet, Jim is in no way pridefull. In fact visiting him and his lovely wife, Nancy, is pure joy.

Dorothy Day's approach, as Jim shared with me on one of many walks, can be sumed up simply: "live generously, loving even your enemies. That means do not shoot them!"

An simple example of generosity: Nancy & Jim showed me a small shirt for their grand daughter that they had just printed with I'd rather be reading Dostoyevesky. I commented that I want to take a copy of the famous picture, Christ of the Breadlines by Fritz Eichenberg, to have it imprinted on a T-shirt. Next thing I knew, Jim went upstairs & got me a full size book of that and many others by Eichenberg saying simply, "It's yours."

Jim & Nancy live in an incredibly beautiful and fascinating Dutch city that feels much more like a small Dutch town, Alkmaar. Canals of all sizes run around and through it. Houses date back centuries. Next door to Jim & Nancy is the oldest house in Alkmaar, built in 1560. I waited under its natural outcropping for a downpour to stop! I will be sending out a set of pictures from Alkmaar one I learn how to down & upload them.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Experiencing the Amsterdam Catholic Worker

As I begin to write this, it is 4:00 a.m. back home in Maryland and 1:36 a.m. on the west coast.

I will wait a bit before I share specific stories. (Perhaps a tad paranoid, but I do not want to put into jeopardy anyone who is seeking asylum. I am not in jeopardy as I do not break any laws, but given ability to hack online & search, I do not want to lead anyone to one of these people. They have been through enough.)

Suffice it to say at this point, that we who are safe, secure, and relatively healthy and peaceful do not realize on a gut level just how fortunate we are. Richard Engel, NBC Bureau Chief for the Middle East and only in his early 30's, reminds us how easy it is to become numbed to tragedy.

Sitting with one of the people seeking asylum and listening to their experience in whatever English they can manage can be heartbreaking.

Being hunted down in their own country (because their father was on the losing side, because they have the wrong religion, because they refuse to fight or to join the terrorists, etc.)

Then having to hide and try to escape,

having their parents pay large sums of money to "travel agents,"only to be left behind once abroad,

finding themselves alone in a foreign country, knowing no one, and not speaking the language,

  • having to defend themselves from unscrupulous people, from the police
  • often put into prison
  • living in the street
  • hoping against hope for some help
  • people passing you by and looking the other way

But that is not the end of the story...

Perhaps you find a group of people to help you, to take you in. You then begin a long journey to prove you cannot possibly go back to oyur own country. (If you went back, you would face torture, waisting away in a small jail cell for years with 50 other people and little or no food, and finally possibly death)

So the journey in the new country involves:

  • trying desperately to find some proof for asylum
  • not being allowed to work or get career training or education
  • learning the new language as best you can
  • having no idea if your parent(s), siblings or alive.
  • no one back home to contact

IMAGINE, my friends, living one month much less 10 years like that.

May I ask you to:

  • stop and pray for them?
  • think what else can you do today?
  • get the word out?

Phil in Holland, for now.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Greetings from Hackney - London N1

I hope this finds everyone well.

I received an incredibly warm welcome here. One young man hugged me so hard and so long that I had think back about 20 years since that happened - a newly graduated high school Senior who had struggled.

Another who is fun but tends to be somewhat reticent, kept giving me periodic hugs. The two kind, regular house managers smiled (I hope!) as soon the house was ringing with laughter. To avoid jet lag, I managed to stay up 34 hours.

Yesterday there was a Mass and social for local Catholic Workers. I met a young couple from Australia who live here London now. They had just returned from Australia. They have rock/metal group. David is going to send me a link which I'll share.

I have begun to network to try to better understand the asylum processes. I'd like to try to help some of the guys' applications to move along.

One, my favorite, his got lost and the lawyers forgot all about it. One blessing is that now that he has been here longer than 18 months, they cannot force him to return to Italy. He has immigrated to Italy from Africa. The experience in Italy was very bad. The EU policy is to insist that you apply for Asylum in the country in which you first enter. Italy is not helpful.

Tomorrow will be the soup kitchen and Monday begins the Community Cafe. It is great fun for me as I get to renew acquaintances with many people each day.

One person, Maureen, who volunteered at the soup kitchen on Sundays just died. She was only in her 50's. I had thought she was younger. I wondered why her email stopped abruptly mid-year. I was shaken by the news of her death as I liked her very much.

Be well all and I'll blog again when there's something worth hearing!



Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Eunice Shriver counted Dorothy Day among her friends

Among the many friends Eunice Kennedy Shriver made throughout her illustrious life was Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement. Daughter Maria Shriver said in her eulogy during her mother’s funeral Aug. 14 that Shriver considered Day a personal hero, along with Mary, Mother Teresa and her own mother, Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, and her sister Rosemary.

Day referred to Shriver in her diaries several times in the 1970s. Day’s references to the member of the Kennedy clan mention how Shriver would call just to chat, invite her to Hyannisport for a break or to discuss deeper concerns.

“She (Shriver) is reading my books,” Day wrote April 15, 1976. “Bedside books, she calls them. She is not happy. ‘Do you believe in heaven and hell?’ she asked me. ‘Why?’”
In an entry dated Oct. 30, 1979, Day told about another call from Shriver in which she said her brother, Sen. Edward Kennedy, would announce a run for the White House in nine days.
Several years earlier, July 14, 1975, Day described another call from Shriver in which she said her husband, Sargent, was planning to seek the presidency. Shriver asked Day to sign on as a supporter. Day was a bit flabbergasted. “I am an anarchist,” she wrote. “But ‘pray for him.’ I like her. He is a daily communicant.”

The diary excerpts can be found in “The Duty of Delight: The Diaries of Dorothy Day” edited by Robert Ellsberg and published in 2008 by Marquette University Press.

By Dennis Sadowski


Thoughts on the amazing people I get to meet.

Rich, my 19 year old friend, soon to be Franciscan and recent community member at Haley House in Boston. An article he wrote.