Over the past couple of weeks, the Integritas program has been visiting the St. Peter Claver Catholic Worker House in South Bend to make dinner and spend time with the community. Each group has had a somewhat different experience: we've moved from eating dinner on picnic tables behind the Women's House to sheltering from the rain and wind in the dining room of the Men's House, and we've made everything from bean burritos to Shepherd's Pie; but every group of students was struck by the homey feeling of the house and the warm welcome they received from the community. Many students remarked on how apparent it is that this is a tight-knit community where people really care for one another, and also on the diversity of the gathering assembled for dinner--college students, professionals, men and women coming in off the streets, parents, children, young, old, from all backgrounds and walks of life.
The groups also met with different levels of success in the kitchen. It quickly became apparent that the primary work of mercy occurring was perhaps not 'feed the hungry' but rather 'instruct the ignorant' as the students struggled to recognize leeks, beets, and fennel, which they had never seen before. Only one group knew to peel the paper skins off the onions before chopping them up, and olive oil almost went into a batch of peanut butter cookies. As one student remarked afterwards, "The Catholic Worker House is a great place for learning life lessons!" I would add: in more ways than one. As Dostoevsky says in The Brothers Karamozov, and as Dorothy Day was fond of echoing, "love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing when compared with love in dreams." Equally, the face of Christ can be harsh and dreadful to gaze upon when seen in the face of the poor.