The Two Catholic Workers

Today at morning prayer, Robyn read us a parable from the book Feathers on the Wind by Ed Hays. Los Dos Carreteros tells the story of two oxen drivers who were trying to get their oxen to climb a steep hill with heavy loads. One of the oxen drivers works hard: he whips his cattle and pushes and swears like a sailor. The other, seeing that the steep hill would be next to impossible to climb, lays himself down, prays that God will help him and takes a little nap.
Jesus and Peter happen along the scene and they see one driver inching up the impossible slope and the other napping peacefully in the shade. Jesus and Peter immediately help the man who is driving his oxen with all his might, and finally they make it to the top. Peter stops to ask Jesus why they didn’t help the man who prayed and napped, but the one who was cursing rather impiously. Jesus replies, “The man we helped did not curse from his heart. His anger came out of his intensity and frustration. He is a good man who works hard and cares about the welfare of his family. The other man, however, is simply lazy! He is a hypocrite who only remembers me when he is in trouble.”
This parable makes me feel good about myself. Sometimes I get angry. I get angry at guests, at volunteers and community members. Sometimes I yell and curse like a sailor (it’s true!). I am well on my way to the title of House Curmudgeon. But at least in some way the Holy One could take all this as signs that I care. If I didn’t care, why would I bother to curse? Why would I bother to do anything at all? I could be napping instead of answering that damned doorbell. I could be going to the movies instead of standing in the cold cursing the Honeywell nuclear weapons plant.

Today at breakfast the coffee was cold. It was coffee alright, but for one reason or another it got cold. After ten or so guests loudly informed me of the coffee’s undesireable temperature, I was ready to lay down right there and take a nap. But I didn’t. I gruffly kept serving the eggs, collecting dirty dishes and seeing to people’s wants and needs. Maybe the Holy One helped me through, I don’t know. But just hours later I was singing as I swept and scrubbed and wiped the dishes.
The title of this blog entry is kind of a trick. Because there are no “two Catholic Workers.” There is only the one struggling up the hill, cursing everything in sight but caring for creation with all of his or her being. Although Catholic Workers do take naps, we are called to be awake, aware and working our butts off. Unlike the oxen driver, though, we’re pretty sure we’ll never make it to the top of the hill. But we’re crazy enough to try. Really, what else is worth doing?

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