header icons

We are worried!

Picture from the Houston Press

We fear that the emphasis in our newspaper on the oppression in El Salvador and Guatemala [and now in Honduras, Nicaragua, Venezuela, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Yemen, and so many other countries] would give the impression that we have  a base or foundation other than spiritual.

We want you to know that we don’t want to be political –as a matter of fact we would be awful politicians. Hopefully we are, or we try to be, good church members trying to focus on peace and justice issues that spring from the Gospels and Catholic social teaching—and our prayer life.

With Dorothy Day we believe in the primacy of the spiritual. If Dorothy was anything, she was a contemplative, in addition to being a person of action and commitment.


We are in this work because we are believers.

We are not in this work only to do good or help others or serve humanity or change the system or overthrow consumerism and materialism or even be good conservatives or good liberals or good radicals.

We are here because of faith. We are faith people. For us, if we are all of the above without faith, we are marching to the tune of the wrong drummer—and to sounding brass and tingling symbols.

Works without faith are dead.

Followers of Whom

We are not followers of Marx or Lenin, Jefferson or Madison, Buckley or Galbreath, nor even John Paul II [or Francis] or Archbishop Romero.

We are not even followers of Dorothy Day or Peter Maurin.

We are followers of the Nazarene.


Faith changes things, and hopefully, it changes us.

With faith we have a new vision—a new person.

FOR OURSELVES: We can see beyond our selfish, immature, egotistical, oversensitive, frustrated, self-pitying, hypercritical, paranoid, greedy self to a new self—if we have faith.

The Nazarene makes that possible. “He is risen and still with us.”

FOR OTHERS: With the new eyeglasses of faith, we see all of our sisters and brothers in the world differently and yes (?) even our spouses and family members.

With the eyeglasses of faith we see beyond  (“Look beyond!”) selfishness, self-centeredness, greed, angry hatred in our brothers and sisters to the new person, again, arranged by the Nazarene.

Mark of Cain

With the eyes of faith we no longer see the mark of Cain on everyone’s forehead (of Cain who killed Abel and who responded to those looking for Abel—“Am I my brother’s keeper?”

With the eyes of faith the mark of Cain is gone and there is a neon light flashing—maybe like those at cheap motels, saying, “You—yes, you—are your brother’s keeper.”

Well, not exactly, sad to say. Those neon lights are lousy and there are always letters and parts missing.

Frankly, to read the new sign takes a pretty thick set of glasses of faith—and we are always fogging up the faith glasses.

Dorothy Day

Dorothy Day
by Angel Valdez

Dorothy Day has really helped us with the vision. She leads us, point us to the Nazarene.

Dorothy, with her life and words, lived out the vision. She taught us how faith leads us to love—that followers of the Nazarene are great lovers.

But she also warned us that “love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing”—as opposed to non-faith love—love in dreams.

Faith changed our whole perspective and enables us to love anyone, no matter how ugly—even ourselves!

No Faith, No Work

 At times we could not continue this work without faith. Things can go so wrong, problems can be so serious, trained committed people are so few, good resources are so rare that our work is a constant challenge. Our work goes on day and night. We go from one crisis to another.

Without faith our work would be considered masochistic—or as one social worker from the old Jefferson Davis Hospital screamed at us for complaining, “You just have a martyr complex.”

Very Vulnerable

Because we have an open policy on housing immigrants and refugees, pregnant immigrant women, we open ourselves to problems.

  In any given day with the 150 guests in Casa Juan Diego houses, something is bound to go wrong. Someone will not get enough to eat or the right thing to eat, or not have the right clothing or the right medicine or get cheated of their pay or get robbed or not have diapers.

Our biggest asset is our biggest problem. Faith demands that you don’t just let things go—that you can’t ignore problems. Ignoring problems small or great is what makes people (guests) get hurt.

But we will continue being vulnerable to problems and crises. We will continue doing this work because it is the Lord’s work, receiving the stranger in a strange land, giving a home to women and their children. Receiving these guests in the Lord’s name opens us to possible problems, scandals, suits, etc. But we will continue to do it because it is the Lord’s work.

Love the Trouble Makers

With faith—and love in action—you can do things you don’t want to do. Like helping families sent at a very inconvenient time by St. Dominic’s Center, like helping the man who is very drunk and who refuses to go to bed or even sit down so others can sleep like accepting criticism from an agency, like being courteous to a guest who is lying about how much money he has to buy his ticket, like listening to a street person telling you stories that are pure bull.

Need New Glasses

  We know that we need to change our faith glasses frequently because we miss so much.

  At time we don’t see anything, much less a sign flashing on the head of a poor or middle-class person or a rich person (we don’t see many of them) saying, “Yes, you are your brother’s keeper.”

Other Workers try to help us by lending us their expensive rose-colored glasses, but that doesn’t seem to help either.

But soon it will be morning. With the help of the Nazarene we will be able to see much better with the glasses of faith and with the help of your prayers.

 Please pray for us—pray for the vision.


Houston Catholic Worker, May-June 1990.