Dear Friends and Family,
Since the last letter many ugly things have happened. Two of the mothers we serve attempted suicide; one overdosed on pills, and the other cut her throat. Another mother was near fatally stabbed in the head and back. Two families we minister to have been devastated by evidence of sexual abuse. I was confronted and mugged by two men on my way home. Six of our guests were pick-pocketed while visiting our new house. In addition, the church parking lot became the setting of a gun battle that ended with one man dead and another man injured. The shooting happened in the middle of the day while the parish school’s principle and students were picking up litter on the grounds. It is fortunate that no one at the school was hurt.
I try to avoid negative sensationalism, but sin is ugly. In the face of ugliness, we stand with the balm, the transformer, the re-birther: Love. The clash between love and sin is the drama of humanity. This drama is obvious and yet constantly forgotten. No word is too bad to describe sin. No word is worthy to describe love. One defies cursing, the other is beyond praise.
As we live conscious of this drama, we should be careful not to oversimplify or reduce it unfairly. Sin and love are as polar as life and death, but they co-exist in almost every human action. Even our sinful acts are messy corruptions of good by evil where the angels have fought for the inches. But God did not sacrifice himself for partial victory. God sacrificed himself to make us completely pure and holy.
To be pure and holy is to live in a straight forward manner and to open ourselves to God like a child. The Lord only asks us ‘to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly’ with Him. (Micah 6:8) God has never requested anything that is not for our own good and that He is not willing to provide.
Evil in the world is the challenge that faces Christianity. We respond to this challenge with the good news of Christ and try to make our witness credible through our actions. Thank you for supporting the Christmas outreach. Christmas bags were delivered to 150 families, and in a separate outreach, Christmas gifts were angeled to over 75 children.
In January, we expanded to a second location in the Shaw neighborhood of Washington, DC. Our new house is drafty, and water leaks in whenever it rains. We are currently working on solving the water problem by replacing the gutters and having the back wall pointed and sealed.
In February, Laura Cartagena answered God’s call to become the first live-in volunteer at the House of the Three Teresas. Laura has been involved with A Simple House since it was just an idea, and she served as the first chairman of our board. She is also leading our effort to transform the house into a suitable living space for more missionaries.
In March, we hosted a fish fry with Fr. Charles Pope speaking on ‘The Role of Scripture in Our Lives.’ Forty people crowded into a small room to enjoy the fellowship and inspiring talk. In addition, we welcomed alternative spring break groups from Mary Washington College and the University of Rochester who helped paint rooms at the House of the Three Teresas.
All of this is in addition to our constant work of friendship ministry with the poor which includes taking people to church, meeting with them in their homes, delivering food, meeting unique needs, and supporting new mothers. All of these works are ineffectual without love. When anything in our life becomes more important than love, it has become more important than God. Putting love first seems simple, and it is simple. The difficult thing is to not let it become complicated (Ecclesiastes 7:29). Simplicity requires courage.
Cooperating with God’s work means becoming a Saint, and it results in a paradoxical element in our lives. St. Francis of Assisi was often considered super-serious, super-dedicated, and super-simple. Anything in his life that opposed the Lord came under the axe. This severity of St. Francis allowed him to be super-light, irresponsible in the eyes of the world, and fancy free. His purity and holiness were childlike, but his necessary resolution was manly.
We are currently preparing our Easter Outreach and have just launched a renovated website, www.asimplehouse.org. On the Saturday before Easter we plan to deliver 300 Easter bags for children and 150 Easter gifts for parents. We are also looking for more full-time volunteers to start in August. Please pray that we will find the right people, and that the right people will find us.
Special thanks to: The Catholic Worker for donating the new house, Holy Trinity Church for providing many Christmas presents, PJ Doland Web Design for designing the new website, and Visitation High School for many volunteer hours and food donations. We also thank Jim Hardcastle who diligently helped Simple House serve the materially and spiritually poor for over seven months.
Thank you for making this ministry possible and reading our letters,
Clark Massey with board members: Luis Cartagena, Kristina Massey, Michael Ortner, Richard Realbuto, and Fr. Adam Ryan OSB, and full-time volunteer Laura Cartagena.