Culture of Imagination

connecting spirituality to everyday life

Tag: hospitality

Why Do We De-Personalize the Poor?


I used to think the poor where so different from me, but I am coming to see that we are the same.  Back when I was younger, I remember seeing a man inside of a dumpster where I worked at a car wash.  This was one of my first encounters with someone who had no place to live.  I remember feeling sad as many questions ran through my head.

I was raised in the suburbs so poverty, diversity and so much of real life was something I was sheltered from.  My parents never really talked about poverty as we were a struggling family who was on the path of the American dream.  I guess the poor were looked down on as I heard a lot of friends use the phrase “that’s ghetto” if something did not measure up to the status quo we were all taught.

Living at a Catholic Worker community has taught me that the poor are Christ.  How we treat them is how we show our love for Christ.  I am learning to live with others who have very little money and might be struggling with their health, both mentally and physically.  Sometimes the pain is too great for my friends and I want to fix it all, but I am realizing all that I can do is be present because it is beyond me to fix anything.

I am learning to stop talking about the gospel and start living it.  This has been a great practice for me as I am understanding that embodying a way of love, presence, vulnerability, humility and compassion is much more powerful than anything I will ever say.  I am leaning to listen and learn from the poor who are becoming some of my best friends in everyday life.  This has been so freeing for me as I am discovering my true self in the process.

  •  Hospitality is an act of love

Hospitality is not a gift for a selected few, but a practice to be followed by the body of Christ in everyday life.  Hospitality is a holistic practice in the parish.  We cannot create a holistic counterculture without practicing hospitality among us in the place we live.  Hospitality is an act of love.

  •  Becoming much more like Christ

Hospitality will shape us as we practice it.  We will become much more like Christ as we practice an inclusive hospitality with our neighbors in poverty.  As we practice this, the poor will be seen, heard, valued, loved and brought back into restorative friendships that will help them with the loneliness that haunts them each day.

  • The way of reconciliation and peace

This is the way of the cross.  This is the way of life.  This is the way of reconciliation and peace.

  •  To be of the poor

Gus Gordon writes, “…Christian communities are called not only to be for the poor, or working on behalf of the poor.  At the most profound level they are invited to be also of the poor.  This entails an exodus, a going out of one’s place of perhaps privilege and entering into the world of the poor and accepting it as one’s own.  Praxis as a service to the poor transforms into a praxis in the midst of the poor because the world of the poor has become one’s place of residence, not merely one’s work.  In this solidarity with the poor one begins to share in their lives, sorrows, joys, hopes, and fears.  And in many instances this solidarity goes deeper and begins to take up the cross of Jesus…” 

  •  Sharing life with the poor

The body of Christ is to be of the poor in the place we inhabit.  We need to live in the midst of the poor in everyday life together in the parish.  Our presence is to be a presence to the poor, oppressed and marginalized.  Hospitality and solidarity with the poor are intertwined.  We need to share life with the poor.

  •  Created in the image of God

We need not to fear this way of life anymore.  The poor are just like anyone else in that they are human and have dreams, desires, needs, pain, loneliness, joy, fear, confusion and value.  They are created in the image of God.

  •  The poor are often times forgotten

They have a body and need food, sleep, a place to live, showers, work to do, friendships and meaning in their lives.  The poor live and die just like everyone else, but are often times forgotten.  Sometimes there is no funeral to remember them or celebrate their lives when they die.  This is so sad.

  •  A people who are not afraid to live with the poor

Christians should be a people of the poor, a people of great risk, a people who are not afraid to live with the poor.  But this is not how most of society lives towards the poor, oppressed and marginalized.  We are called to be a holistic counterculture that doesn’t allow the values of empire to define our reality.

  •  Love and hospitality should shape us more than American values

The love and hospitality of Christ should shape us more than the American values of capitalism, consumerism, individualism and comfort.  The poor are tired of hearing propositional statements about the gospel and want to experience a hospitable love from Christians in the parish.

  •  We have closed our doors to hospitality

Where has our love for the poor gone?  The poor are everywhere, but we have closed are eyes to friendship and reconciliation.  We have closed our doors to hospitality.

  •  The greatest heresy in our times

This is the greatest heresy of the church in our times.  The early church was a church of radical hospitality to the poor, oppressed and marginalized.  We are called to the same as followers of Christ in the parish.

  •  De-personalizing the poor

Shane Claiborne says, “It is much more comfortable to de-personalize the poor so that we do not feel responsible for the catastrophic human failure that someone is on the street while people have spare bedrooms in their homes…” 

  •  Our comfortable way of life in America

We cannot de-personalize the poor as a way to keep them out of our homes, out of our lives and out of our minds any longer.  De-personalization fosters to our comfortable way of life in America.  It fosters to our seeing nothing wrong with our lack of responsibility for the poor.

  •  Apathy and individualism

If we de-personalize the poor, we do not feel so bad about the whole situation we are in.  De-personalization fosters apathy and individualism.  De-personalization is not from Christ at all.  Christ has come to give value to all human beings.

Why do we de-personalize the poor and close our doors to them?

Why Have We Disconnected Hospitality From Ecclesiology?

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After living with and learning from the Tacoma Catholic Workers for four years in my parish, I am coming to see that hospitality is one of the central messages of the gospel.  When I first learned of Christianity, it seemed hospitality was not even mentioned that much and it was all about believing the right things while attending church on Sundays.  It wasn’t really about being a part of a local community where you lived and loved people in everyday life.

So I began to question this whole idea of a church that is disconnected from local community.  I began to ask myself, “Is this what church is?”  It never set right with me and I became disillusioned with the whole thing.  So I have lived into my questions for a long time now.

What is church?  What is the gospel?  What is authentic?  How do we love others?

The Tacoma Catholic Worker has a thirty year history in the neighborhood where they care for those struggling with poverty by proving housing and living with them in community.  They have provided hospitality by valuing all people and seeing the similarities instead of differences.  They have taught me that we all eat, sleep, take showers, need relationships as well as have needs and feelings.  It makes me sad that so many people in our culture are rejected because they are poor and don’t fit the model for success in our world.

I see the Tacoma Catholic Worker as a collective of houses and people who have practiced stability in the parish for three decades.  Most people do not even think of church when they see the work that goes on there, but I do.  This is what I dream of when I think of church.  The church is a network of people who care for their neighborhood, live in community, in proximity, become neighbors in everyday life, show hospitality, practice justice, love their neighbors especially the poor, listen well and collaborate locally for the common good.

  •  Offer hospitality to one another

“Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling…” (1 Peter 4:9).  Hospitality has a lot to do with making space for others by being generous with our time.  Creating open spaces in our lives in order to connect with others and live relationally is important to the communal imagination.

  •  Showing hospitality just might be the holiest thing we could do

In fact, showing hospitality just might be the holiest thing we could do.  We need to do this willingly without grumbling about its demands.  The body of Christ needs to make space for others within our lives in the parish.

  •  Making space for others fosters love

Making space for others fosters love among us.  It values our uniqueness.  It builds trust and brings value.  Without spending time with others there is little relational connection between one another.

How can we learn to practice hospitality and become the church in everyday life together?

Hospitality to the Poor, Oppressed and Marginalized as a Way of Life


As I have lived at the Tacoma Catholic Worker for the past four years I have learned a lot about hospitality as a way of life together with others.  I am learning to share life with people I did not think I had anything in common with.  The particular house I live in is called The Guadalupe House and the primary function of its hospitality is proving showers, transitional housing, meals and mail to friends who struggle to have these basics needs met in their everyday lives.

  • A weekly liturgy dinner for the poor

We have four meals every week together and on Tuesday nights we do a weekly liturgy dinner for the poor where our friends can come and share their spirituality with others in a nonjudgmental way.  A lot of our friends live in shelters, cars or sleep outside.  Some of our friends also have houses and apartments too.  This is beautiful because it brings the poor and the middle class together in friendship and love.

  • Finding the commonalities rather than our differences

At the dinner table everyone is equal as we find our commonalities in realizing that we all need to eat whether we have a lot of money or not.  I am eating with folks of different races, languages, classes, ages.  This has been so countercultural and beautiful to experience.  The lesson I am constantly learning is to find the commonalities with others rather than our differences.

  • Using our houses in a hospitable way

The Tacoma Catholic Worker has eight houses all within one block in our neighborhood.  It is kind of like an urban village where the poor are welcomed and not shunned.  We use our houses in a hospitable way where we live with others anywhere from several months to several years.  We give our friends a place to work on their goals of getting income, work, housing, sobriety, reestablishing relationships with children and becoming healthy physically and mentally.

  • Providing a refuge for someone struggling with immigration

There is an ICE detention center for immigrants close by and we recently have worked with an organization that helps get others out to work on their immigration.  One of the rooms at The Guadalupe House is for someone coming from ICE.  It is a blessing to provide a refuge for someone that is struggling with immigration and a new life in this country.

  • Seeing Christ in the poor

I am learning so much from the Tacoma Catholic Worker.  One thing our community constantly practices is seeing Christ in the poor by our compassion, love and hospitality in everyday life together.  I see the Tacoma Catholic Worker as an expression of being the church together in our neighborhood where we live out the works of mercy with others who are hurting and lonely.

  • Eating together and showing hospitality could change everything

The simple acts of eating together and showing hospitality in the place we live could change the body of Christ and the world around us.  This is the most revolutionary thing I have ever seen and experienced.  As I continue on in my journey here, the poor will continually teach me of Christ among us.

How can we practice hospitality as a way of life?

Valuing the Other


I have been thinking a lot about immigration lately.  There is an immigration detention center called ICE close to where I live.  This detention center is run by a for-profit company called GEO that makes money off of detaining immigrants at the borders of our country.  The more people that they put in detention the more money the company makes.

  • A for-profit company called GEO imprisons others to make money

So it is beneficial to everyone who works for this company to do their job and imprison as many people as possible so all the Americans from Geo become wealthier and can afford a comfortable way of life at the expense of others.  Many people think this is justice, to keep others out of our country who don’t belong, and are proud to be Americans.  It is pretty sad for sure.  All of this is an abstract concept until you meet someone who has experienced the horrors of this place.

  • Giving Alfredo’s room to someone struggling with immigration

Our friend Alfredo died November 5, 2013.  He was an immigrant from Mexico who could never get legal status in our country so he ended up living at the Tacoma Catholic Worker for about twenty two years before he died recently.  He lived by the hospitality of others and was a huge part of our community.  We all miss him dearly and wanted to honor him by giving his room at the Guadalupe House to someone struggling with immigration by being imprisoned at the ICE detention center.

  • Someone from ICE is now living with us

Now I live with a new friend of mine who comes straight out of ICE.  He loves the Guadalupe House and thinks it is paradise compared to living at ICE.  It is fun to get to know his story more and see his happiness about the possibility of being fee in America.

  • Remembering Alfredo through our new friend

Everytime I see our new friend, I think of our dear friend Alfredo who I miss a lot.  Alfredo would always drink his coffee in the morning while listening to Spanish music and read the paper.  He painted our porch, where the poor gather to take showers during the week, and our steps to the backyard before he died.  After the long winter season, the paint is now wearing down and becoming faded and nonexistent as people walk over the steps.

  • Everyone is valuable no matter how much money and opportunity they have

One thing that I have learned through my relationships with others who come from a different culture than my own is that everyone is valuable no matter how much money and opportunity one has.  I am seeing the image of God in others who have not been raised in the North American culture.  Learning from them is enriching my life tremendously.  I do not have to get so caught up in creating my identity around how much money I make or the things I own and just be faithfully present in the present moment of everyday life where I live in community with others.

How can we show more hospitality to others who have less money and opportunity than we do?

The Poor Need to be Seen and Loved


I have learned from the life of Dorothy Day and the Catholc Worker Movement to value the poor by practicing hospitality.  As I have lived at the Tacoma Catholic Worker for four years now, I am coming to understand more how Christ lives in the poor.  So many of my friends are poor, oppressed and marginalized.  It makes me sad.

  • Christ lives in the poor

Some of my friends have mental illnesses, physical disabilities and struggle with depression or loneliness.  The other day, someone came to our house to take a shower and he thanked me for the kindness shown to him.  I didn’t think giving someone the opportunity to take a shower was that big of a deal, but it is.  It struck me that Christ lives in the poor somehow.

  • How I experience the poor is how I experience Christ 

When I am giving someone a shower, I am giving Christ a shower.  When I am eating with the poor and hungry, I am eating with Christ.  When I offer my friendship to the poor, I am offering friendship to Christ.

  •  Taking seriously hospitality

Christians need to take seriously hospitality as the body of Christ in the parish.  So many of our neighbors are poor, oppressed and marginalized.  They are invisible and degraded by the systems of our culture.  Almost nobody cares for the poor anymore.

  •  The poor have been pushed out or clustered into social services

The poor have been gentrified in our neighborhoods.  They have been pushed out or clustered into social services away from common everyday life with others.  A lot of Christians have abandoned the poor.  We have become a church of the wealthy and middle class.

  •  Closing the doors of our homes

We have become a church of mainly white people.  We have closed the doors of our homes in fear from those who live in poverty.  Addiction, mental illness, prison systems, immigration, war, domestic violence, unlivable wages, the greed of capitalism, loneliness and abuse all contribute to the lives of the poor, oppressed and marginalized.  Christians cannot remain apathetic towards our neighbors who experience these life conditions any longer.

  •  Practicing hospitality together in the parish

What would happen if we sought to practice hospitality together in the parish instead of letting our neighbors be reduced to a number at a social service with little genuine care.  The poor are dying among us as we ignore their existence.   Ian Adams says, “Imagine a community of hospitality and reconciliation inspired by Christ in every neighborhood….”

  •  The poor need to be seen and loved

Hospitality inspired by the parish imagination could change everything.  Hospitality inspired by the parish imagination could bring dignity back to the poor.  The poor need to be seen.  The poor need to be loved.

  •  The poor need friendship

The poor need friends to help with the loneliness they experience every day.  If we practiced hospitality as the body of Christ together opening our homes, our lives, our presence, our care and our tables; what would God do through our reconciling friendships?  I think miracles would happen if the rich, poor and middle class shared life together in the parish.

What keeps us from seeing Christ in the poor, oppressed and marginalized?