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...

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Blowing Up Judas ! San Miguel de Allende, Mexico - Easter Sunday

I leave for Mexico in 4 days. Part of my plan for waiting through this snow - aHHH - was to be able to be in a Spanish country for Holy Week. Spiritually my favorite week of the year; it's also quite colorful in Spanish countries.

I'm not sure how the spiritual gets in here! But it does sound unique,
Take a look on You-tube!

You'll probably like the politician aspect in this description! And I wasn't even referring to GWHB! - honest.

After days and days of solemn processions, through Semana Santa (Holy Week) and Easter, the people of San Miguel de Allende mark Noon on Easter Sunday by stringing up effigies of Judas and blowing them up (about 20 this year). Often, the "Judas" looks more like a politician (GHWB made it two years ago), or pretty much any character who needs to get blown up.

Phil More from Queretaro, Guadalajara, Tlaquepaque, Puerto Vallarta, Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende in March !

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

My dear friends,

I hope you will take a few minutes out of a busy day to watch this video or at least part of it. My rationale follows.

It tells the story that has become familiar to me of so many in Europe. I have met, talked with, lived with, worked with, and slept in the same room for months with these folk.

The heartache is almost beyond description. Imagine, being thrown into prison because of your religion or because your parents or spouse belong to the wrong political party. You are beaten daily, starved. Quite often most or all of your fmaily is killed.

If you can escape you take a very long journey to a foreign land. Imagine if you or I had to do this. Relocate say in Central Asia, far from anyone we now. Not knowing the language, having literally nothing.

Then you are forced to fight for some help, struggle daily with hunger, fear, abandonment, and loss. This is not an exaggeration. This is real and it is every day.

This is why I keep going back to London and Amsterdam. I have met and come to know and love many individuals in this precise situation. Neither you nor I could turn our gaze away without helping.

America and its people are known for many things. One which is paramount is it innate decency. I spent close to $10 for a nice order of jumbo shrimp to take home. My netflix account brings videos to me regularly for only $14 a month. I occasionally splurge on a movie out, merely $8. If I want I can go and purchase a book for $ 8 - 25 without a blink. I can fly to Mexico for $ 400+ and do what I like. I can go to an ice restaurant and spend $100 form ore for dinner for three.

Not that I nor any of us should not enjoy the basics joys of life. It is just that I can. Yet many have a daily experience of practically nothing. If I give £ 20 to an asylum seeker in Europe ($31.39) it is so much for that individual. For us, it is so little.

I often wonder at the canned food drives, clothing collections at Christmas. Well intended and helpful, but what about the other 364 days of the year.

Several years ago I walked back from church in Chicago with a young man who had just purchased a condo for $250,000. He was ecstatic. Seeing a homeless man sitting outside McDonald's we stopped to give him something. The young man gave him a few coins & then said to me: "Well we've done our good deed for the day." He meant well, but I wanted to cry out at the top of my voice: "You've got to be kidding me." So I am sharing this.

I know good people are helping. It's just the need is so great, like a very bad tooth ache or migrane that does not go away.

Helping asylum seekers in Europe, the plight of so many in Haiti, the poor and children here in our own land. Each calls out to the heavens.

Please take no offense. I can do no other. In the homily today at Mass, the celebrant referring to the many in our city who helped those in need through two major snowstorms, reminded us that those helping see themselves no as heroes, but as humans doing what needs doing.

Just so.I am blessed with so many dear and kind friends. May peace be in your day. Thanks for listening & possibly looking at the video.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

City of Belief - book review by Jim Forest, The Netherlands

a review published in the February 2010 issue of Sojourners magazine

City of Belief
by Nicole d'Entremont
publisher: CreateSpace / ISBN 978-1442138506
250 pages, $16

reviewed by Jim Forest - (my friend in Alkmaar, Netherlands.

In 1965, Nicole d’Entremont, a not-quite college graduate, was one of the young volunteers working at the New York Catholic Worker -- St. Joseph’s House -- on Chrystie Street, a short walk from the Bowery in lower Manhattan. These days the area is fashionable and the rent high, but in 1965, a two-room, cold-water flat could be rented, along with its cockroaches, for as little as $25 a month.

For New Yorkers at the time, the Bowery conjured up images of homeless, alcoholic men panhandling in the day and sleeping in doorways at night. When an ambulance was summoned to aid one of the unwashed men who had collapsed on the street, it could easily take half an hour before it arrived. Dying men in that neighborhood were not a priority.

In a mainly unwelcoming world, one of the few places street people could find a meal and a measure of care was St. Joseph’s House. It was probably the only place in town that provided decent food and a welcome with no strings attached, no sermons to hear, no biblical readings to endure, and no program to submit to.

The year 1965 was also when things were rapidly going from bad to worse in Vietnam -- bombs falling like rain, thatched huts in peasant villages set on fire with Zippo lighters, bewildered U.S. army conscripts as much victims as executioners. Among the war’s casualties was one of the newer members of the Catholic Worker community -- Roger LaPorte, 22 years old. Before dawn on Nov. 9, while standing between the U.S. Embassy to the United Nations and the U.N. headquarters, he poured gasoline on himself and struck a match, exploding instantly into flame. Rushed to Bellevue Hospital, his body 95 percent burned, LaPorte lived more than a day, managing to say that this was a religious act (that is to say, not an act of despair) and that he was “against war, against all wars.” He lived long enough for a priest to hear his confession.

D’Entremont was one of those at the Catholic Worker who was closest to LaPorte. She and a friend had been with him the evening before his self-immolation, unaware of what he was thinking about doing. She was vaguely aware of something LaPorte couldn’t -- or dared not -- put into words, but that hung unspoken in the air. Now 45 years have passed, nearly half a century of trying to understand what she lived through -- and not only herself but LaPorte, Dorothy Day, and the others who were part of the community, young and old, novices and veterans, articulate and inarticulate.

The result is City of Belief, a remarkable novel in which d’Entremont herself is simply one of the people through whom the reader experiences life at the Catholic Worker in 1965. Some names are unchanged (Dorothy Day is one), others altered. D’Entremont has become Del, LaPorte has become Jonathan, St. Joseph’s House has become St. Jude’s, the community journal The Catholic Worker has become The Agitator.

City of Belief is also a portrait of a time when, for an amazing number of people, the goal of life was much more than making a living, being comfortable, and having security. It is startling to recall the sacrifices many made at the time in their struggle to end the war and create a more compassionate society.

While City of Belief has elements of autobiography, it is mainly a work of art. D’Entremont records events not only as she saw them but through the eyes of others, seeing herself with amazing clarity and detachment. Her book also describes in a compelling way her struggle with faith and doubt.

LaPorte’s self-immolation happened at 5:20 in the morning. Twelve hours later, the lights of New York and most of the Eastern Seaboard went out. For nearly twelve hours, New York became a moonlit paradise. The crime rate plummeted; the good-deed rate soared. New Yorkers had no idea how talented they were in finding ways to help each other. It was a night of love in all its varieties. Nine months later, there was a tidal wave of births.

Was there a connection between what happened after sunset and before sunrise? City of Belief suggests the answer is yes.

Video - New CW House

Good people pop up all over!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Green Peace Activist Sentenced

Monday in Highbury Corner Magistrates' Court at 2.00pm, Dan Viesnik was sentenced to 14 days in Pentonville Rd. prison for refusing to pay the fines for his Aldermaston Protest action against the Atomic Weapons Establishment

Dan had continued to refuse to pay the original 50 pound fine. The fine was increased so that as of yesteray it was 515 pounds.

Participating in the Aldermaston Protest against nuclear weapons, at the end of the march he sat down at the entrance to Military Defense Property refusing to get up voluntarily.

Dan is a regular volunteer at the London Catholic Worker's Community Cafe
and a Peace Activist The magistrates adjourned briefly to consider the 14 - 28 day penalty as prescribed by law for non payment of fines. The Chief Magistrate stated that they were not taking a position on Dan's action, but gave him a 14 day prison sentence. Dan had read a compelling statement to the Magistrates who were willing to sit & listen without comment. In his statement Dan quoted Thoreau including the sentence "Our duty is to do what is right."

The gallery was full of supporters from London as well as Nagase from the Peace Pagoda in Battersea Park and a spare American. All stood to honor Dan as he was escorted out of the courtroom. With hands folded, Dan responded with a slight bow to the group.


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.