An Invitation From the Catholic Worker on Lehigh Avenue in Philadelphia

We were part of the Catholic Worker Women’s Pilgrimage to Rome to pray and vigil outside the Clergy Sexual Abuse Summit at the Vatican in February. We would like to share a bit about that trip.

We came back on fire  to continue the efforts towards Church reform.

Our T-shirts carried this message for the Pope and Bishops:

Speak Truth to Power 

Catholic Worker Women’s Pilgrimage

An end to sexual abuse and the violence of clericalism.

Justice for survivors.

Equality for women in ministry.

Truth, reconciliation and healing for the whole Church.

Since the Summit we have had many conversations with volunteers and friends who have expressed concern, confusion  and anger about the Church. It seems many have left the church, some are staying but are not happy, and others are working toward reform.

One commonality is the yearning for spirituality, liturgy and community.

We would like to have a conversation to hear everyone’s voices.

We hope this conversation will be the beginning of an ongoing discussion and community building.

If you are interested in being part of ongoing liturgies please let us know which evenings are best for you.

Please share this email widely.

If you can’t make it on the 8th, feel free to email us with your concerns and ideas.

With Peace and blessings,

Mary Beth and Johanna

House of Grace Catholic Worker

1826 E Lehigh Ave

 Philadelphia PA 19125


How Humane is our “Care” for the Elderly?: A Review of “Being Mortal” by Atul Gawande

This book gets you thinking about the purposes of nursing homes, the varieties in meaning of the term “assisted living,” hospice care, and especially about how the way we treat the elderly is dominated by institutionalized medicine. The author questions whether medicine’s goal of merely keeping elderly people “safe” in nursing homes is in conflict with the goal of the elderly themselves.

    For Atul Gawande what the elderly most want is, so far as possible, to remain the authors of their own lives. They want to continue enjoying their purposes in life while in nursing homes and not just vegetate there while being kept “safe”. The author also doubts how caring it is (and how needlessly expensive as well) to subject patients toward the end of life to drastic treatments that have little chance of saving their lives.

    All in all this is a thought-provoking book, though in the interest of criticizing current medical practices, it may underestimate how caring the intentions behind those practices can often be.


Here is a video of our daughter, Jen, doing what she loves to do: welding. Notice the welding helmet and the machine she is using, which is a Miller plasma cutter. Jen is cutting snowdrops into an old toolbox as a design for a garden club member. As a welding teacher she is challenging gender occupational standards. Challenging standards is what artists do.

The Phoenicians

As I discovered in my grade school visit to our local library (see previous post), Phoenicia was a flourishing maritime civilization that peaked around 1,000 years before the birth of Christ. When my wife and I visited Israel (see other previous posts) and headed north along the Mediterranean from Tel Aviv toward Haifa, we were probably standing on the soil of ancient Phoenicia, which was centered in modern Lebanon but included Northern Israel and extended at least to southern Syria, if not further.

The Phoenicians were traders in everything from wood and wine to glass and Tyrian purple (dye) to slaves. Their alphabet influenced ours via Greece. They established settlements on islands surrounding Sicily and in Sicily itself, especially Palermo (see the first photo below, which is of a typical street in Palermo taken a few years ago). The second photo is of the wine we drank a good deal of while in Sicily.

I had no idea in grade school that there even was an ancient world, and I suppose that discovering Phoenicia was the very beginning of my awareness of history.

Grade School Academic

I have often wondered why I chose a career in academics. I flirted with the idea of becoming a newspaper journalist because I admired my journalist aunt. I also thought of becoming a lawyer because a lot of bright lights where I went to high school seemed headed in that direction.

But the more I think about it, the more I believe that my choice of academics went back to a kindly librarian. A grade school nun directed me to go to the library, discover something about the “phoenicians,” whoever they were, and write down for her what I found out about them. I had never been to a library before, so I dutifully rode my bike the mile or so straight up my street in Buffalo’s North Park section and made my fearful way into the local library. I was too young to know anything about library research and my teacher had told me nothing about it. So I approached a librarian, looking more manly than I felt because I expected she would find me laughably ignorant. Instead she smiled in an understanding sort of way, asked me what my topic was, and ushered me over to what was then known as the card catalog. I don’t remember where I found my information about the phoenicians (book, magazine, whatever). All I do remember is that the librarian led me to it without finding it for me. So I wrote my new knowledge down and proudly handed it in to my somewhat surprised teacher, who gave me an A for it.

It was common enough at the college where I later taught for over forty years to hear speakers at awards ceremonies say that college teachers would never know how deeply they had influenced their thousands of students over the years. I hope that was true in my case, but I think the librarian who directed my young boy’s research into the phoenicians toward the end of the nineteen forties was more responsible than anyone else in my life for my later choice of an academic career.

The first photo below is of Merion Hall at the Jesuit University in Philadelphia (statue of Saint Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, out front) where my English Department office was located before I retired. The second photo is of the library in Ardmore, Pennsylvania where I now get my books with the help of still welcoming librarians.

Next post: About the Phoenicians!

Farewell Barcelona

One of the great joys of Barcelona was staying in the same hotel for the whole week, a stability made possible by the city’s first-rate transportation system, which will take you easily anywhere you want to go. We spent our last overcast 100_2658100_2666100_2673100_2677100_2669day at Montjuic, a hill overlooking Barcelona from which you can see the 1992 Olympic Stadium (photo below).

From there we went to the National Museum of Catalan Art, formerly the National Palace (photo on top) which has an art collection that would take weeks100_2657 to see reflectively.  We spent most of our time in the Renaissance/Baroque section, stopping along the way to see some special works by El Greco, Velasquez and a few others (photos 2,3, and 4).