Be Compassionate, as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Pardon, and you shall be pardoned. Give, and it shall be given to you. Good measure pressed down, shaken together, running over, will they pour into the fold of your garment. For the measure you measure will be measured back to you. –- Luke 6: 37-38
I have a bad memory. Now this can be both a blessing and a curse in our daily work at Catholic Worker Hospitality House. The blessing is that it enables me to forget the misdeeds of certain guests at our dining room and shelter, instead of holding onto a grudge and refusing them hospitality. But the curse is that I annoy my poor co-corkers, as I too often hear from them: “Did you let Mr. A back into the shelter?! Last time he was here he did x, y, and z and we had to kick him out” or “ I saw Mr. B was at the dining room today. I thought you had banned him for doing q, r, and s repeatedly? My usual response is: “Oh, Jeez, I totally forgot.” I know that my actions drive my co-workers to distraction, but I would like to think that my forgetfulness is a form of passive forgiveness. I believe strongly that we must forgive the misdeeds of others if we want God to forgive our own. And as I’m well aware of my myriad misdeeds, I try to give folks a second, third, or forth chance before I impose any sanctions on them.
Now passive forgiveness has its place, but there are times when we must practice active forgiveness. I remember a time when a guest did something really bad and for years I couldn’t forgive and let it go. I held on to it, let it fester, and, as forgiveness is at the core of our faith, I let it effect my prayer life. How could I come before God to seek forgiveness and redemption when I was unwilling to give it to another? I don’t know if my lack off forgiveness affected the person I couldn’t forgive, but it sure had a negative effect on me. When I don’t forgive I separate myself not only from my fellow man, but from the love of God as well. When I do forgive and let go, I’m able to move on and stay in communion with God and others.
I try to remember that we are all better than our worst action. As Christians we believe that regardless of the transgression committed by the individual there is the possibility for reconciliation and a return to wholeness. Our faith teaches that as long as the person acknowledges their wrongdoing, shows repentance, and does some sort of penance, we can welcome the person back into full communion with the community. And ultimately, don’t we want the wrongdoer to be welcomed back into the full graces of the community? In our spite and anger we often say, “lock ‘em up and throw away the key,” but the world is a better place when our neighbor reforms, repents, and is welcomed back.
In my time at Catholic Worker Hospitality House I have seen numerous guests at our dining room and shelter who at one time were wild, out of control, or just plain bad. But then something changed in their lives and they became a different person. Our challenge is: do we remember the out of control person or do we embrace and support the reforming person? In the retelling it seems the transformation is instantaneous, one day they were bad and the next they were good. But in reality it’s a process, often a very long process with plenty of fits and starts: a decision is made to try to be better, baby steps are made, then a few more, until gradually over time the new way gains strength and the old bad habits fade. Over the years we have seen the power of forgiveness work miracles in those we serve. I have seen numerous people who I personally thought were hopeless cases end up transforming their lives. It always starts with people forgiving themselves and starting to walk the road of personal transformation. Our challenge is to try to forgive past actions, believe in attempts at reform, and support and encourage where possible. We always rejoice when we see such transformations.
In our daily work at Catholic Worker Hospitality House we do our best to embody the way of forgiveness; to assist with the healing of individuals, society, and, ultimately, ourselves. We thank you for your support of our efforts at healing and reconciliation, even when it seems foolish and hopeless. Together we are “fools for Christ” who are doing our best to embody the Kingdom of God here and now.
In Christ’s Peace,
For all of us at Catholic Worker Hospitality House
Coffee and creamer
Toilet paper and napkins
Large and tall trash bags
Money, for our ongoing expenses
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY HOSPITALITY HOUSE
On April 1, 1996 Catholic Worker Hospitality House opened its doors for the first time, serving a ham and potato dinner to five thankful guests. Twenty-three years later we’re still going strong. Five mornings a week we serve hot meals to 60-70 guests with over fifteen folks taking showers during the mealtime and every night we offer emergency shelter to eight individuals. We also operate two boarding houses where a total of fifteen individuals have permanent affordable housing. We’ve been able to not only continue our work, but greatly expand it over the years because of your generous and faithful support. We thank you for all you have done for those in need in our community over the years and hope that you will continue helping us help others.