Though Bread & Roses has never (at least in my term of service) been so openly and explicitly filled with spirituality as the Tacoma Worker, it has had an impressive history, spirituality and culture. When I moved in, the house was decorated with photos and paintings of Dorothy Day, Mohandas Gandhi, and Woody Guthrie. Posters and flyers quoting the great leaders for social justice adorned the walls. Our dining room, ringed with a painted border of wheat stalks and roses at the tops of the walls, served as an office and was cluttered with desks, notepads, photocopiers, and file cabinets. Selena, a former nun and devout Catholic (at the time –she has since left the Roman Catholic church and become a Unitarian, no less devoted to God) exerted a profound influence over the household, though. She emanated a “nunly” energy, and could say the most extraordinary things! She seemed a pillar of wisdom, marked with an occasional dirty joke or scandalous remark just to keep us on our toes. I had shown an interest in the spirituality of the Catholic Worker, and she fed me great books and innumerable stories.
One day in December, four candles, three purple and one pink, appeared on a table in our living room, along with some flowers. A couple of guests asked me what the candles were for, and we speculated in whispers amongst ourselves before I approached Selena to ask her their meaning. She explained to me that it was Advent, the celebration of the coming birth of Christ.
For the next four weeks before Christmas, we gathered in the living room to read scripture and discuss the meaning of the birth of God’s Son among humanity. The gatherings were required of no-one, but there was a strong interest among guest and staff alike, and our living room was crowded with quiet worshipers. Selena explained to us that the Advent candles, one for each of the four weeks before Christmas, were instituted by a Roman Catholic monk, and with a little smile on her face she declared the monk a rascal. The three purple candles were a proper expression of the asceticism in monastic life, solemn lights to guide the faithful. The fourth pink candle, added to stir things up, represented joy and reminded us that God is love and to never forget to be happy and to love one another. The candles burned pure in our home and all were still for a while.