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Saturday, September 30, 2006

Agony in the Garden

Strangely enough there are objections and criticisms made by unbelievers in regard to the sufferings of Christ. There are some who believe that it is pathological and morbid to dwell on the agony of our Lord. There are others who say that there have been other martyrs who have suffered greater torments, and they cite cruel sufferings, sufferings that were prolonged for hours and even days, as in the case of the Jesuit martyrs here in New York state. They cite the sufferings of little children, beaten, starved, crying in a premature and horrible despair, and they say with Ivan Karamazov that "the whole world of knowledge is not worth that child's prayer to 'dear kind God,' who does not seem to hear it." They lose sight of the fact that in the Agony in the Garden, Christ took upon Himself the sins of the world and the sufferings due to those sins. He withdrew from His friends and disciples. The three He had with Him slept (for their eyes were heavy). But even if they had been with Him, He would have suffered all the desolation and the loneliness and the utter desertion that anyone has ever suffered in all ages. He suffered not only the despair of one but of countless millions. The accumulated woe of all the world, through all the centuries, He took upon Himself. Every sin that was ever committed, that ever was to be committed, He endured the guilt of it. In His humanity, He was the I.W.W. who was tortured and lynched out in Centralia and Everett, and He likewise bore the guilt of the mob who perpetrated the horror on their victim. There was never a Negro fleeing from a maniacal mob whose fear and agony and suffering Christ did not feel. He Himself, in the person of the least of His children, has been hanged, tortured, afflicted to death itself, and He has at the same time been the one who has borne the guilt of the evil done. "Him, that knew no sin, for us He hath been made sin." He has suffered long years of imprisonment in jail, innocent and guilty; He has suffered the woe of a mother bereft of her child, and of a child bereft of all solace. "Who does not suffer and we do not suffer," St. Paul cried, voicing the dogma of the Mystical Body. Who can measure the sufferings of Him Who died for our sins, in that hour He spent in Gethsemene, bent to the ground in His agony, His sweat becoming as drops of blood trickling down upon the ground, crying out "Father, if Thou wilt, let this cup pass from me!" It is Christ in His humanity Who suffered, and since then suffering and death can no longer be victorious.

From House of Hospitality, Chapter Fourteen By Dorothy Day

Something to die for

Some comments on an interesting article at GodSpy.
It talks about the ability of people to suffer for vanity or material goods but the difficulty in doing the same to bear spirtual fruit. It also brings to light how we can make even the smallest inconveniences or temptations opportunities for mortification.
It does make one think about their priorities. Look at what people will put themselves through on some of those makeover shows on TV. Isolation from their families, humiliating shots of themselves in their underwear on national TV and the pain and suffering of recovering from numerous surgeries. All in the name of beauty and self esteem. What kind of greater happiness might one achieve by going to similar lengths in the name of God? Certainly, they won't put you on TV because willingly undergoing pain and suffering for God is so middle ages. Today's society just can't get their heads around mortification. It is because people can't see a higher purpose to suffering that we're so willing to embrace euthanasia for the terminally ill and elderly and infanticide/abortion for disabled or deformed babies. There is a value to pain and suffering.
The great thing is we don't have to wait until we're dying to unite ourselves with the suffering of Christ. We can offer up the little things, the difficult co-worker, the driver who cuts us off and the rude shop clerk. Or even the personality clashes of a Worker House. It's only a tiny fraction of the suffering Christ endured for us but we can use it as an opportunity to join with Him on the cross. When adversity rears its ugly head we can exclaim, "Thank you Jesus!" (Think "Serenity now!")
If we don't want to wait for everyday troubles we can mortify ourselves. We don't need to wear belts with inward facing spikes, we can do as the writer does; take a cold shower. Maybe try kneeling in mass without the kneeler. Wake up an hour early and go without coffee to an early mass.
Look at what you are 'suffering without' in your life? Is it an IPod? Then you need to rethink suffering. Do you lay for hours in the sun to tan but cringe when Mass goes over 45 minutes? Are you 'dying' to go under the knife for perfect boobs but refuse to kneel during Mass because it hurts? We must consider what we are suffering and dying for in this day and age and what Christ and many other early Christians literally suffered and died for. May we be so lucky to be in their company one day. But only if we are willing to exclaim "Thank you Jesus!"

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Day's words

(Emphasis is mine.)
But how to love? That is the question. All men are brothers, yes, but how to love your brother or sister when they are sunk in ugliness, foulness and degradation, so that all the senses are affronted? How to love when the adversary shows a face to you of implacable hatred, or just cold loathing? The very fact that we put ourselves in these situations, I think, attests to our desire to love God and our neighbor...
The grace of hope, this consciousness that there is in every person, that which is of God, comes and goes, in a rhythm like that of the sea. The Spirit blows where it listeth, and we travel through deserts and much darkness and doubt. We can only make that act of faith, "Lord I believe, because I want to believe." We must remember that faith, like love, is an act of the will, an act of preference. God speaks, He answers these cries in the darkness as He always did. He is incarnate today in the poor, in the bread we break together. We know Him and each other in the breaking of bread.
"What Do The Simple Folk Do?" By Dorothy Day The Catholic Worker, May 1978

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Anger Management

More on anger today as it still consumes my thoughts. I'm not consumed with rage but with understanding anger as an emotion to be controlled or used. The Church teaches that anger is a deadly sin. We are to turn away from it and embrace love or even meekness (according to my Baltimore Book of Prayers circa 1889.) The Christian response should be to turn the other cheek, treat others the way we want to be treated, love our neighbor , etc. We, as Catholics, are tested regularly and given plenty of opportunity to either be angry or Christlike in our daily lives. Just open the newspaper or turn on the TV and you'll easily find 50 ways to be offended by the anti-Catholic diatribe the mainstream media passes off as news . In what instances are we justified in being angry and acting upon that anger? Many people recall Jesus overturning the tables in the temple but how often can we use that example to rationalize our own actions? Are we to always be meek and peaceful to the point of being walked on or wiped out? Where is the line in the sand? When we compare Christian response to Muslim response we see sharp contrasts. When Muslims are offended they instantly respond with anger then top it off with some violence; actions they justify by their religious beliefs. As Catholics, when offended we might launch an email protest or say a rosary outside the offending party's property or maybe we'll write a heated letter. Why? Because while anger is a natural response to a serious offense, violence is never a Christian response. And how easily violence becomes the outcome of repeated, uncontrolled anger; anger left to fester and grow. Anger that consumes, that is not kept in check, is deadly. As Catholics, God gives us the grace to overcome that which is impossible to overcome ourselves. We know that by working on overcoming the initial urge to hate, we unite ourselves with something greater. Total self control or self mastery is not allowing ourselves to by ruled by our emotions, such as anger. I believe it is easier to allow yourself to be angered by an offense and retaliate then to forgive your offender and offer them a sign a peace. In this way, I believe Christianity is the most challenging of all religions. Knowing this, I must questions myself anytime I feel anger or hatred towards someone or something. However when faced with terrorists, child rapists on death row, mothers who kill their children, dictators who massacre their people, I must admit I am at a loss as to the Christian response. How far must we go to forgive these people and forget our anger? If Christ was a pacifist, are we justified in waging wars and electrocuting these people? Because of modern day horrors such as these, many Christians are okay with the death penalty, torturing prisoners and waging war. I am having a hard time figuring out what is right and what is wrong when the atrocities are so great. Emotions flare up just talking about such things. I don't know if I can be a pacifist like Dorothy Day but I have a hard time figuring out when the taking of a human life is justified. If Catholics can not agree upon such things, is their hope for the rest of the world?

Monday, September 25, 2006

A note on comments

If you are having problems leaving comments, please feel free to email me directly. Just check my profile. Thanks.

Staying cool, staying focused

Back from a long weekend.
I've been having some issues with anger lately. Namely, I constantly get annoyed by little things but suppress my emotions in order to remain calm, or at least appear that way, and eventually all that pent up frustration comes bursting out in the worst ways. I just want to stop getting annoyed at all the little things. What good is staying calm in the face of adversity, large or small, only to explode a couple days later over something like a broken crayon? I can't seem to figure out how not to have the initial reaction of frustration, anger, etc. when something happens.
I was thinking about this problem on my drive home this weekend in context to volunteering. I want to be able to offer help to people regardless of their situation or motives, as I believe Dorothy Day did. She believed that dealing with difficult people was a sacrifice to be offered up and you shouldn't shy away from offering services to (or working with) those whom you don't like or agree with. If I can't seem to deal with the daily stresses of raising a family, how am I supposed to deal with people, whose problems (physically, financially, emotionally, etc) far surpass mine? How do volunteers not get frustrated and not want to give up? The problems that Day faced at the early part of the 20th century are still with us today and will be long after I'm gone. Can I really make a difference? Does helping some poor people in an inner city really effect the larger picture? Should I really stress myself out doing this? Will the people I want to help even care if I'm there? Why should I bother if they don't?
I suppose I know some of the answers. Jesus calls me to serve others. I don't really need any other reason. I know I need to pray for the grace to accept people as they are and not get 'stressed' out in the process of helping them. Maybe I haven't been praying enough and that's the root of the whole anger thing entirely. I'm totally due to hit confession. And maybe some of it is fear. I've identified a goal but there's a hesitancy on moving forwards in such a new direction. It feels like the journey I took towards joining the Catholic Church. I knew it was right but I couldn't just jump into RCIA the moment the realization hit.
So pray for me. I need to mellow out. There is a larger picture I've lost sight of.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Some words from Dorothy(emphasis mine);

There are so many things needed for the reconstruction of social order out of chaos today that we scarcely know where to begin. Catholic trade unions? Co-operatives? Farming communes? Schools and colleges? Personal responsibility? All of these, of course but personal responsibility on the part of the individual alone does not perpetuate a new mode of life; schools and colleges are directed by those brought up in the old ways; communities of individuals die out or change their character; Catholic co-operatives and trade unions cannot begin to exist until we have Catholics living their faith and creating a truly Catholic culture and tradition.

Economists tell us that in days of prosperity children are an economic asset. We assert that in these days of revolution, when we Catholics must arm ourselves with the Holy Spirit to "renew the face of the earth," in this struggle, too, children are an asset and family life the most powerful and enduring form of propaganda.
"The Family vs Capitalism" By Dorothy Day The Catholic Worker, January 1936, 4.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Not up for discussion

Although Day often considered herself a christian anarchist, for lack of a better term, she did not believe in running her houses in utter chaos either. Just as the Church has a heirarchy and rules, so does a hospitatlity house.

Leaders - We have no committees. Wherever in our houses we have had them they do not work. The person in charge of the house, living in the house, working there, is father and mother of the group. The Benedictine ideal, not the idea of majority rule. The leader may make mistakes, but he can repair them. He has to stand a lot of criticism, and keep going; or leave, or step down and let another take his place. People could take turns, but in general it is best to have one leader to take responsibilities and make decisions. We are absolutely opposed to committees. Personal responsibility, "littleness" are points too important to the work to be neglected. They are the very basis.

Relation to the Hierarchy - We do not feel that we need permission from the clergy or Bishops to start a house to practice the works of mercy. If they do not like it, they can tell us to stop and we will gladly do so. But asking them to approve before any work is done is like asking them to assume a certain amount of responsibility for us. We are the gutter sweepers of the diocese, the head of our Detroit house said once.
"Letter On Hospices" By Dorothy Day The Catholic Worker, Jan 1948

A good book to read is 'The Rule of St. Benedict." The basic guidelines outlined by St. Benedict are timeless, thus their use even today. No less than divine common sense, this rule can be adapted for personal daily life outside the monastary or even a business. As a backbone for a hospitatlity house it would be indespensable. A sharp contrast to the 'supersized committee, let everyone have a say in it then take a vote, then discuss some changes to it then vote again' mindset found everywhere else in society. So much wasted time and energy instead of just getting things done.

People come in all of a glow to help the poor, and their very compassion makes them think there must be some quicker way to serve them: make laws, change conditions, get better housing, working conditions, racial justice, etc. But the immediate work remains, the works of mercy, and there are few to do them. Perseverance, endurance, faithfulness to the poor-we should be wedded to Lady Poverty as St. Francis was--these are the things to stress."Letter On Hospices" By Dorothy Day The Catholic Worker, Jan 1948

How often do we see a problem and start out with good intentions and then complicate matters by talking instead of acting. For instance, my blog is all well and good but it is worthless if it does not lead me diretly to helping the poor with my own two hands. I know that and I shouldn't keep writing crap for years and years, discussing and debating, hemming and hawing over how to help the poor. The writing isn't the answer. The discusion in the comment boxes isn't the answer. Doing charity NOW is. Otherwise, we are but clashing cymbals.

Way to go hippes

People ask me, on my travels, (or young visitors to our houses and farms) and speak as though the peace movement is dead. They speak of the 60's as though they were a time of fruitful activity, which they were not. They were a time of anger and turbulence, even. On Pilgrimage - September 1976" By Dorothy Day

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Opposed to All Dictatorships

Day's words on communism (emphasis mine);

In the case of the Bremen picketing, since both Catholics and Communists were picketing and giving out literature, and some of the Communist literature was addressed to the Catholics, we felt it necessary to make clear our position, that there was a fundamental opposition between us, that we regarded their dictatorship of the proletariat as a bad means, that we were opposed to all dictatorships in trying to uphold the dignity of man, the son of God, and his liberty in Christ. They made attempts to join us in our picket lines. There were invitations for us of the Catholic Worker to join them, in accordance with their outstretched hand policy of the day. We always pointed out our oppositions, since they were saying in their literature that Catholics and Communists were together when they were not. On Pilgrimage - July-August 1949" By Dorothy Day

This entire article can be found on the Catholic Worker website. It responded to critics of the movement who labeled Day and the Workers communists. While Day sometimes found herself on the same side as the communists, she was quick to point out the differences between her and them. She goes on to quote Pope Pius XII "The greatest danger to the Church is that the working people know nothing, absolutely nothing, of the social doctrine of the Church.The greatest danger is not communism. That is but a consequence. The greater danger is the ignorance of working people who need the truth and who need the apostles of this truth." She knew, like the Pope, that if blue collar, hard working Catholics understood the churches teachings, they would not turn to the communist party for an answer to their labor problems. I wonder if working people today are any more knowledgeable on the Church's social doctrine that they were 50 years ago?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

New Leaders

I am reading 'teach your own, The John Holt Book of Homeschooling, by John Holt and Patrick Farenga.' If you have any interest in homeschooling or the education system in general, I highly recommend this book. Holt has written several books but this is the first I've picked up. While I don't agree with all his points on children and unschooling, they are worth mulling over. I want to pass on a particular passage found on page 64.
"Leaders are not what many people think-people with huge crowds after them. Leaders are people who go their own way without caring, or even looking to see whether anyone is following them. "Leadership qualities" are not the qualities that enable people to attract followers, but those that enable them to do without them. ...This is the opposite of the "charisma" that we hear so much about. Charismatic leaders make us think, "Oh, if only I could do that, be like that." True leaders make us think, "If they can do that, then by golly I can too." They do not make people into followers, but into new leaders. "
I could not help but think of Dorothy Day when I read these words. Day and Maurin had an idea and went ahead with it. They attracted thousands of people to the movement, many who started their own hospitality houses, farms and papers. Day's followers led and still lead the fight against hunger, poverty, homelessness, war, etc. Most importantly, Day knew her work was for the greater glory of God. True leaders don't take all the credit, they send their thanks towards heaven and give credit where credit is due. Day also acknowledged the important role of every worker and extended family member who subscribed to the paper. True leaders are humble and they inspire us to humility.

A New York Times Protest

I do not often remark on current events but today I will make a brief exception. The New York Times has written an editorial demanding an apology from Pope Benedict regarding a speech he recently gave in Germany. Check out openbook for full explanation.
Here is an instance where as Catholics, if we all stood together we could make a difference. A strong statement would be made if all Catholic subscribers dropped their subscriptions today. When the Holy Father, the leader of our Church, is defamed what other provocation do we need to take peaceful action? If anything, this is the final straw. We don't kill, or bomb, or threaten but we can't ignore these attacks on our faith either. Protests would simply bring more publicity to the paper and to the protesters themselves. We need to all quietly and peacefully deal a serious blow to the pocketbook of the Times. Stop supporting the Times with your money and let them know we will not allow them to slander our faith anymore. Say a prayer for the souls of the newspaper staff, for their conversion as well as a prayer for our pope who can always use the added support.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

We should be fighting like mad...

""The future is so glorious in the world that is to come, why worry about the present? If we are heirs to the Kingdom, why worry about the destitution and squalor and destruction around us. To the devil with this world!" But, this world is God's world and we have no right to consign it to the devil. We should be fighting like mad against the perverse will of men, and this fight is for love of God and for love of men, the very least of them, the most unworthy of them, even to the greatest sinners among them, remembering how Jesus said from the Cross, from His torture and death, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do!" Forgive these murderers! It costs a lot to forgive murderers, every drop of our blood, every ounce of our energy."
'Month of the Dead', Catholic Worker, November 1959, Dorothy Day

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Overcoming sloth and the need to be rich

Today I got the feeling again very strongly that I need to make a difference in the world. I've had the sensation before but yet, I'm still not really doing more than the average SAHM. What is it that holds us back from putting the tenets of our faith first? You know, praying, spending time in worship, feeding the poor, etc. How do we decide on our priorities? Somehow, for most of us, a well paying job became the goal early on, and now we struggle under the weight it places on us. We can't leave it and pay all the bills on our house(s), car(s), convenience food, professional attire and daycare. And so, we spend our time making money to pay for things we need for our jobs or to help us escape the drudgery of our lives at work. In the midst of this cycle we lose sight of what we are truly to be working towards-heaven. If your daily life is not putting you on the path to holiness than you need to reexamine your priorities. A commenter mentioned our tendency towards complacency-of becoming fat, lazy and comfortable in our current situation rather than make a dramatic change for the better. How true. How many of us live a rerun life? Reruns suck on TV and they certainly can't do much better for our eternal formation.
"...there is no one who has given up house or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God who will not receive back an overabundant return in this present age and eternal life in the age to come." (Luke 18:29-30)
So, according to Jesus, we can gain huge returns in this age and the next by serving God. But yet, volunteers aren't beating the door down at Worker Houses. Why? It boils down to a lack of trust in the Lord to provide these returns. We can go to work and every week and there's our paycheck to cover the mortgage and the groceries. So what if our work is demeaning, demanding and devalued? It's easy, it's comfortable, it's safe. Serving the Lord full time is scary at best. The unseen riches of the next life are a hard sell to someone living in the lap of luxury. We don't want to struggle or sacrifice when the real world offers us an easy way out. How hard it is for the wealthy to enter the kingdom of God! The real world says it is easier to be rich, to take comfort in money, but the Church teaches the value of poverty. Can you resist the temptation to be rich?
I am trying to learn to sacrifice, to let go and let God take over; to find the balance between work and the Worker. Through prayer and in God's time, I'm making progress.

Nonviolent protest

I wanted to mention the new link to the Yahoo! Catholic Worker group I just discovered today. I haven't officially joined...yet, but it's looks like a good place to discuss the Movement. I noticed in a recent post the upcoming Ember Days (Sept. 20, 22 and 23.) These are traditional days of fasting and abstinence on the Church calender. Check out for more information on Ember days.
Why not fast these three days for peace? Or for the unborn or any number of worthy causes. It seems to me that people today are so quick to pick up picket signs and march to the White House or write an angry letter to their favorite liberal paper of choice but how many would spend the same amount of time and effort to get to 40 hours? Do you want your petition heard by the people who watch the 6 o'clock news or the Lord Almighty? When people plan a dramatic protest, or hunger strike and alert all the reports in the tri-state area I have to wonder what their true intentions are.
Didn't the Lord say "When you fast do not look gloomy like the hypocrites.They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to others to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you." (Mathew 6:16-18)
There are times when the public needs to be made aware and a nonviolent protest is the way to do it. Martin Luther King Jr. and his work down south is a prime example. But we must be cautious that pride does not drive us into the spotlight under the guise of social justice. There is much to be said for the power of private prayer, fasting and mortification to end the evils of this world. Again, Dorothy Day provides a worthy example. During the Second Vatican Council she traveled to Rome to meet with delegates regarding war, weapons and non-violence, and during her visit she fasted 10 days for peace. Day was almost 70 and she fasted for 10 days. Let that sink in. This was not a fast supplemented with smoothies and protein shakes and there were no TV camera recording it for Workers back home. It seems almost unheard of in this day and age.
This September 20, pick up your beads, tighten your belt, put a smile on your face and hopefully, it won't make the front page.
"...for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted." ( Luke 18:14)

Sunday, September 10, 2006

A Christian Revolution of Our Own Part II

There was a time when the Church could raise an army and fight a crusade in a effort to save a holy city. Could the pope raise an army today if Rome was burning? Would Catholics from around the world rush to the Vatican and sign up?
Muslims offended by a Danish political cartoon started a boycott which drained the income of some Danish industries(among other responses.) An American writes a book, which in my opinion is the literary equivalent of spiting in Jesus's face, and Catholics shell out money to read it and watch it on the big screen. Cartoon = jihad; Blasphemous dime novel about our Lord and Savior = NYT best seller.
Why do we as Catholics take it? Look at our numbers. There's millions of us, can't we get it together enough to take a stand on something? If we all acted together with our pocketbooks, since that's what the real world pays attention to, could you imagine the impact? If all 60 million of us in the US boycotted companies who gave tons of their profits to Planned Parenthood don't you think it would make a difference? If we all acted together instead of following our political party, our whims, trends, the latest celebrity what would happen? Can you imagine if every Catholic, or even half of us, spent one hour a week in Eucharistic Adoration? Or one day a week helping at a hospitality house aiding the poor? We would have our revolution.

A Christian Revolution of Our Own Part I

Some thoughts from Day on Communism.

Communism is a good word, a Christian word originally, but to expect to achieve a state of society in which all is held in common, where the state will "wither away" through state socialism, maintained through a dictatorship of the proletariat, this is impossible for a reasonable person to believe.

It is only through religion that communism can be achieved, and has been achieved over and over again.
From Union Square to Rome, Chapter 12 - Wheat And Cockle By Dorothy Day , pp. 143-151.

Before her conversion, Day admited sympathizing and associating with communists. That relationship hurt her in the years to come despite later denouncing Communism and communist Russia in particular.

I did not believe in private property. I wanted to work for a state of society in which each should "work according to his ability and receive according to his need." That is Marx's definition of Communism. I did not believe that greedy and unjust men could be converted. I believed rather in the inevitability of revolution. ...
I still believe that revolution is inevitable, leaving out Divine Providence. But with the help of God and by resorting to His sacraments and accepting the leadership of Christ, I believe we can overcome revolution by a Christian revolution of our own, without the use of force. [Same source as above.]

Thursday, September 07, 2006

A Christian Anarchy

Anarchism n. the theory that all forms of government should be replaced by voluntary cooperation 2. resistance, sometimes by terrorism, to government
Anarchy n. [an-, without + archos, leader] 1. The complete absence of government 2. political disorder and violence 3. disorder; confusion

Anarchy and Christianity by most understandings are total opposites but Day constantly maintained that the she and the movement were both. It seems like an oxymoron until you read it in her words.

Anarchism and nihilism are two words familiar to the young and now attractive to them. They do not believe in building a new society within the shell of the old. They believe that the old must be destroyed first. That is nihilism. In a way it is the denial of the "here and now." Perhaps St. Paul defined The Catholic Worker’s idea of anarchism, the positive word, by saying of the followers of Jesus, "For such there is no law." For those who have given up all ideas of domination and power and the manipulation of others are "not under the law." (Galatians 5). For those who live in Christ Jesus, for "those who have put on Christ," for those who have washed the feet of others, there is no law. They have the liberty of the children of God.
On Pilgrimage - Our Spring Appeal" By Dorothy Day The Catholic Worker, May 1970

I believe Maurin and Day envisioned a world where everyone acted on their conscience, but it was a conscience shaped by the Gospel and the Church. Voluntary cooperation, yes, but all men cooperating in love. Ideally, a society of saints, however, given our nature we are doomed to struggle amongst one another. Day felt these struggles were sacrifices to overcome, not cause to judge or restrict an individuals freedom.

Trying to set the record straight

When many people think of Dorothy Day they tend to associate her with the following words, anarchy, communism, pacifism and social justice. When people think of the modern Catholic Worker movement the same words may pop into there heads. There needs to be some clarification as to what Day's views were, on these topics and others. The people that seem to lead the movement today are latching onto the radical social views and disregarding the Catholic teachings on which they rest, or worse accepting positions contrary to the Church. Consequently, many Catholics associate the Catholic Worker Movement with liberals and will have nothing to do with it or Dorothy Day. This stems, I believe, from our country's two party political system. In this country, there's the left and the right, the liberals and the conservatives, the Republicans and the Democrats-and never the two shall meet. When someone's beliefs straddle both parties, they become difficult to classify. And it amazes me how many people will alter their beliefs to fit those of the party to which they belong, and then say the Church agrees with them. People can't just be Catholic, they have to pigeonhole their faith into a political party's framework. The Catholic church is not Republican or Democrat.
So anyway, because Dorothy Day is best known for her views on pacifism, rights of the workers, etc. the left has snapped her up as a Catholic who followed her conscience and made a difference even if the big, bad Church hierarchy disagreed with her. She protested against wars, big business and the maniacal American government-we love her! But don't make her a saint because then people might know she's prolife. (Seriously, read about her cause on the Workers website.)
Newsflash hippies-you don't represent Day's vision of the Worker movement. If you want to help the poor, that's great, just don't call yourself Catholic. Don't claim to expound what Day taught unless you tell it all. You're lying by omission.
And to everyone else, I don't agree with all of Day's writings but I'm trying to read everything and there's some great stuff-inspiring stuff you might be surprised to find. Don't pass on the Worker Movement because of what you might have heard. I want to set the record straight. First, the ultimate biography on Day is 'Dorothy Day, A Biography' by William D. Miller. Day turned over all her papers to Miller who is/was (?) a history professor at Marquette University. He spent years reading over everything and interviewing people before writing the book. It paints a complete picture of Day, warts and all. You can also access all her works online through the Worker website by a subject list. To do my part, I will start posting quotes from her work that I feel best illustrate her views and work. If you don't trust me, you can always look the stuff up yourself. You might just learn something.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Is this irony?

The spellcheck doesn't recognize the word blog.

From Real to Radical

A quick explanation is in order regarding my motto or saying or whatever it's called, "The details of my transition from the real world to the radical Catholic world."
I currently reside in "the real world." It's that place you enter after high school or college where everyday you get up and you work for eight hours to get money. And you use that money to pay for the biggest house, the nicest car and the nicest and newest gadgets you can afford. And regardless of whether you like working or not, you do it until you're 65 so you can make as much money as possible to afford all these things you need, and all the accompanying interest payments. You get married when you're good and ready, you have kids when you're good and ready and God has nothing to do with your life until something goes wrong and then you pray to Him, "Lord, I'm not ready to handle this!" The real world doesn't make sense and isn't fair but you go along with it anyway because "that's life." As my father in law says every time something doesn't go our way, "Welcome to the real world."
So anyway, I exist in the real world...Mostly. I've started planning my escape right here on this blog. I'm taking baby steps in the direction of the Catholic Worker Movement. It's radical because I'm going from suburban mom to homesteading volunteer. It's radical because everything the Catholic Worker Movement stands for is so contrary to "real world" values. If you want to talk about a truly alternative lifestyle, don't bother talking about the gays or the poligamists (so yesterday). Instead, try getting people to accept you as a truly self reliant Catholic, living a lifestyle rooted in the principles of the Church and the Worker movement. That's radical.

A Place for Families Part II- Crazy Ideas

I believe families can play a key role in the Catholic Worker Movement. Families should strive to be self sustaining and independent. Ideally, the needs of the family can be met on the homestead. Items that cannot be made or grown could be bartered for or purchased with money earned through the sale of surplus farm goods or labor. In addition, families could earn money by taking in guests and teaching self reliant skills. People on the road to self sufficiency could stay for a week, study gardening, and help in the harvest. Perhaps pick berries and then can them. Or a hands on course in voluntary poverty, and making do with less. The possibilities for educational outreach are only limited to the abilities of the families.
Husbands and fathers shouldn't have to spend 8 or more hours a day away from their families to earn enough money for life's necessities. Key word: necessities. Say you earn $10 an hour; is the latest techo gadget priced at $300 worth sitting at your desk 30 hours for? Would you work almost one week just for an Ipod? I would rather stay one step behind the Jones and spend more time at home.
These families could then support their local hospitality house through donation of excess produce, meat, dairy items, etc., thus cutting the operating cost of the house and the need for outside donations. Worker families could also volunteer their time as available at the hospitality house (which would also need some full time single, celibate resident workers.) Should the family experience a rough time, the house and other supporting families would be there to help out. It's a community without the commune. This model is similar to the current lifestyle of the Amish and some Mennonite, except their local church acts as a hospitality house. These believers place their trust so fully in the support of their congregations that most Amish and Mennonite do not have any type of insurance policy. A serious medical expense is shared by all, as is the lost wages from an accident at work. Shouldn't we, as Catholics, be able to expect the same from each other?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

A Place for Families Part I

Back from a long weekend.
We spent time with my family. My parents own an old farmhouse with a barn and a good chunk of land in a small town. Every time I'm home I imagine fixing up the house, taking a plow to the back acre, throwing some hens in the old coop and living off the land.
The Catholic Worker Farm in Easton, PA was envisioned as this type of utopia. Unfortunately, many things got in the way of the dream and the parcel was eventually divided up amongst the families who resided there. It was this experience that lead Dorothy to mention that perhaps the Movement wasn't the place for families. Rather that looking out for all members in the movement, they were looking out for themselves-with good reason. Families trying to provide the basics for themselves and their children were less willing to make sacrifices for some of the characters who took refuge at Maryfarm without lifting a finger. If there's one potato left and it's between your daughter or a homeless wanderer, you give it to your daughter. A single worker could sacrifice their rations for the needy if he or she so chose.
And every family has a different view of what is best for themselves. The sacrifice one family makes for the Movement could seem extreme to another. Feuds such as this also lead to problems in the back to the land farm/commune at Marycrest Farm in NY. How reliant can you force people to be?
But does that mean there is no place in the Movement for families? Especially large, growing Catholic families with young children? Do we need to wait until retirement to make a difference or do we need to prime our youth and young adults to shoulder the responsibility until matrimony or a religious vocation beckons? Should the Movement become a kind of religious order with members swearing chastity and obedience and a full-time commitment to reside in a Hospitality monastery?
Perhaps there is a middle ground.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Too soft?

Some may criticize me saying, 'Why should I help those people who won't help themselves?' 'I won't give money to a man on the street because he may use it for drugs. It's better to give to charity.'
Is that so? Really? I don't remember the Lord walking up to anyone and saying "Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps!"
It is not for us to judge those in need. Some may be lazy, or mentally ill or genuinely in need. It doesn't matter. If someone comes to you in need of food and you turn them away you will have to answer for that at the pearly gates. If you give money to someone on the streets and they buy heroin with it, they will have to answer for that as well.
However, like the Lord said to the women who was to be stoned, 'Go and sin no more.' Lets not forget that the spiritual works of mercy go hand in hand with the corporal. Giving a hot meal to a prostitute is different than distributing condoms to her. Your actions must lead souls to heaven, not hell. So admonish the sinner and feed the hungry.
If we can offer a Catholic home for people to retreat to, we offer the first step towards hope and a new start. It is only through love and charity we can lift up people who have fallen to temptation and ultimately the devil. When people come to know God and want to live for him, they cannot fall prey to old habits.


So I say, lets not leave it up to the government. Let's not leave it up to the big charities. Let's take care of the problem ourselves. Let's be responsible for one another. I know responsibility is a novel concept in these times but hear me out. The government and it's money is spent on the whims of an administration and/or a political party. Budgets are cut, regulations change and next thing you know a homeless program (or say adoption) program your running is out most of its money. And if you want to run a truly Catholic house of hospitality you're going to run into all sorts of Church and state crap you probably don't want to deal with. I'm not taking down my statue of the Virgin because it offends the government. Oh, does the crucifix in the dining room 'infringe on your religious freedom'? Tough.
Keep operations small and local. Take care of the community and the community will take care of you in return. See how they love each other.
I want to provide services to people that the government shouldn't be responsible for. If we all acted like Christians maybe our taxes wouldn't be so high. Perhaps?

Passing the buck

Imagine if every Catholic Church in America had a hospitality house associated with it? Or if every Christian Church even? If we all followed the Corporal works of mercy in a very hands on way, daily, would we need a welfare system? If every family kept their homes open to those in need, friends, family, even strangers, would we need shelters?
A quote from Maurin I keep coming across is a reference he makes to early Christians. The Romans said (of the Christians) see how they love one another. Of Christians today, society says, see how they pass the buck.
Do we give money each week at church or during the annual United Way Pledge and then sit back and say, 'I've done my part.'? I have. Do we pay our taxes year after year and expect the government to make poverty go away with our money?
It is easier to let others get their hands dirty. It is easier to do the bare minimum of what our faith asks of us. When the rich young man approached Jesus and was told to sell all he had and follow Him, he turned away sad. In today's world most of us our like the rich young man, we have much in the way of material things and we are good people. We expect to go to heaven because we go to Mass weekly and treat others we encounter in our daily life nicely. We're content to live in our bubbles. We know only of the poor through TV and movies.
The Lord did not stay in a bubble and minister 'in his comfort zone.' He went out and found those who needed help and served them. As did the apostles. Peter didn't keep his job as a fisherman on the side in case the whole disciple thing didn't pan out. Following Jesus isn't a part-time job.
Being a Christian is uncomfortable at times. If you're always comfortable in your faith, than you're doing something wrong. We all need to find the tax collectors, prostitute, lepers and lame of today's society, swallow hard, smile and invite them into our homes with arms wide open.
This is very scary to me. But I know it is what I must do. When I feel I can't do something I just imagine talking to Jesus and trying to convince him of my reasons against whatever it is. Then, when I get that awkward feeling in my stomach (like a 13yr old explaining to his dad why they were crawling in a window at 1am.) I just start praying for the grace to do His will.