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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

This is what I wanted to say

Here is a great article posted on the American Chesterton Society Blog that sums up everything I was trying to convey in yesterday's big post. It talks about urban distributism and its too good for me to cut apart and try to explain so just go check it out.
(H/T The Distributist Review)

Monday, October 30, 2006

Weapons of Mass Creation

So in the midst of my internal dialogue I stumble across this great website, Path to Freedom. And it all clicks into place. The Dervaes family lives on 1/5 of an acres in downtown Pasadena, CA and they manage to produce enough organic produce to feed their family, some animals plus excess to sell. And they only cultivate half their land!
"The ultimate goal is to live as simply as possible in harmony with nature and ourselves. A back-to-basics lifestyle that will re-establish us to the land, healing the disconnection of our lives and leading to the restoration of the earth. ...
It is time to move beyond the unsustainable, unfulfilling, mainstream culture. We need to research WHOLE solutions, doing more than reduce, reuse and recycle, going beyond the fragmented and narrow band-aid solutions which postpone consequences for a time but don’t change anything permanently, especially ourselves, the source of the problems.
As the world faces ever increasing danger based on its dysfunctional system, there is a critical need to look ahead with a new vision, a vision which sees that a step backwards is progress. With the severe shortage of hand-to-mouth workers only getting worse, we intend to use our hands, to employ them as weapons of mass creation."
Excerpt from Mission and Vision statements: Path to Freedom

I don't need acres and acres. In fact learning to be self sufficient on a smaller parcel of land could prove much more beneficial. What's the use of having a large Jersey farm to teach people the agrarian lifestyle if they'll never be able to afford Jersey land for themselves? However, being able to offer real options for cutting food and energy costs on a suburban or city lot makes a difference to those on a fixed income right now. Dare I hope for a .7 acre city or suburban lot where I can safely raise my family, grow our food and daily serve those in need without ticking off the local zoning officer or neighbors? An East Coast Path to Freedom with a radical Catholic twist? Keep praying.

We are a family

"Sometimes I think the purpose of the Catholic Worker, quite aside from all our social aims, is to show the providence of God, how He loves us. We are a family, not an institution, in atmosphere, and so we address ourselves especially to families who have all the woes of insecurity, sin, sickness and death, side by side with the joys of family. We talk about what we are doing because we constantly wonder at the miracle of our continuance."
"Fall Appeal - November 1953" By Dorothy Day The Catholic Worker, November 1953

A Recomendation

Be sure to check out this post over at Benedictus Deus. In Part II of a series on Deus Caritas Est, the blogger talks about how our spiritual life becomes stagnant when we don't practice the corporal works of mercy. Check it out.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

An ongoing discussion with myself

I'm having a real hard time pulling my thoughts together on this matter so bear with me during this post. As a writer by training, I'd like it to be perfect, but the thoughts are banging around inside my head, one on top of another and so that is how they might spill forth onto the screen.
I want to help people in the Catholic Worker tradition.
There are tons of people in Camden (the poorest city of it's size) who need true Catholic charity.
I live near Camden.
I want to be a short drive from family.
South Jersey is close to family, but not too close (no surprise visits) or too far (day trips are possible.)
We're only 15 minutes from an awesome traditional/indult parish which I love.
Indult parishes are hard to come by. (At least for now...)
I want to live on a small homestead of about 5 to 10 acres where we grow the majority of our food, raise animals and provide some of our own power through alternative means. I would like to have little or no mortgage therefore enabling my husband to stay at home and allow us to work on the homestead together raising what little money we need through small home based businesses. I would like to teach others the skills to become self sufficient as a means to eliminate poverty.
THE PROBLEM: New Jersey is one of the most expensive states to live in with THE highest property taxes in the country.
So while I feel God wants us here in Jersey I'm having a hard time figuring out how to afford even afford a modest home without my husband having to work some 40+ hour a week job. It's hard to be a Catholic Worker when you're a slave to the man. As you may remember from an earlier post, we're starting over after a failed business venture so even saving up a down payment is a long time coming. I'm an impatient person by nature. I want a homestead now and this whole thing is very discouraging. We're having a hard time squeezing good deeds into our suburban life. I just read the story of the poor widow who gave her last coins at the temple vs the rich man who only gave some of what was left over. I'm just not giving my all yet and I know it. Part of me thinks we should just go hardcore; have my husband quit the job and start doing volunteering and Catholic things with the faith that God will provide. However, jumping into things just might have been what caused the aforementioned failed business venture. So then I think, we need to be cautious, take our time, save our pennies and plan. But at what point do you make the transition? How much to save? How big of a place do we really need to buy? Does God really want my husband slaving away for another 3-5+ years instead of devoting his life to his family and charity work? I feel the whole Worker farm, or homestead, is an important part of our future plans but should I just be happy with some little row home? And what about the children? How do we fit them into this without horribly scarring them for life?
I just don't know. But I'm working on finding a middle ground. More to come.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Back to the Start

For the past week or so I've become obsessed over my SiteMeter. It's to the point where I started writing posts in the hopes of getting a link from a larger blog to bring in more readers. I was so focused on getting more traffic that I lost sight of what I started this blog for; documenting a radical personal journey, with a dash of Dorothy Day on the side. So while the things I wrote about interest me, and relate to Catholic Worker ideals, somewhere along the way, I accidentally strayed too far off course. There are many other worthy blogs that provide commentary on current events; that is not what I set out to do and it is not my goal to become another such site in the search for SiteMeter hits. So, if you jumped on board recently, you might see a shift in content. If you're one of the few who have followed from the beginning you might start seeing some of the more introspective pieces I started with. If you enjoy what I write great, tell a friend, if not, I won't obsess about not seeing you back. My thanks to those who tag along for the ride.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Quick Quote

"Well, when it comes down to it, do we of the CATHOLIC WORKER stand only for just wages, shorter hours, increase of power for the workers, a collaboration of employer and worker in prosperity for all? No, we want to make "the rich poor and the poor holy," and that too is a revolution obnoxious to the pagan man. We don't want luxury. We want land, bread, work, children, and the joys of community in play and work and worship."
"Beyond Politics" , By Dorothy Day , The Catholic Worker, November 1949

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A Mockery of Traditional Values

If you're on the fence this election season here's a website to help you narrow down your choices. If Michael Shiavo is supporting a candidate in your state, chances are that candidate ISN'T worth voting for. Unless of course you agree with the political persuasions of a man who's only claim to fame is killing his wife.
"The sanctity of marriage and personal privacy – the right to make life’s most personal decisions for ourselves and our families free from government interference – are fundamental freedoms and American beliefs that I hold dear. Politicians in Washington and Tallahassee made a mockery of these traditional values when they forced the government into the middle of my family’s tragedy and the personal decisions that were rightly between me and my wife and our god."
Michael Schiavo

I'm all for keeping the goverment out of our business. As mentioned in earlier posts, they tend to screw up anyway, HOWEVER, murder is a crime in all 50 states last time I checked and most of the world seems to agree with us in that respect. I wonder if Schiavo's god follows the 10 commandments as well, because I'm pretty sure the God who gave those to Moses was against murder as well.
Why is it liberals were all up in arms when the legislative and executive branch tried to stretch their powers to save a woman's life, but they're willing to let activists on the judicial branch reinterpret the constitution anywhich way? They want lefties on the bench to call the unborn 'tissue' or 'a womens choice' and call euthinasia 'a personal family decision'. As long as we keep it in the family, I supposed murder is okay. But yet, liberals scream foul about parents who want the right to teach their children at home without state interference. We can be trusted with killing our children and infirm but not educating them?
And then if we get behind our president and legislators to put a stop to the judicial abuse, people like Schiavo take to the soap box screaming;
"And make sure the folks don’t forget where their representatives stood when it came to forcing government into my family’s most personal and agonizing decisions. Because if they could do it to us, they can do it to you. We need to elect leaders with true, traditional American values and some backbone to stand up for them – who respect the sanctity of marriage and put our fundamental right to privacy before political opportunism." M.S.

It's amazing what some people consider to be private in this day and age. And sound bites on marriage from a man who fathered two children with another woman while his wife was in a "semi-vegitive state." Political opportunism indeed. Be sure to visit Schiavo's blog and leave him some comments on the great job he's doing supporting the party of death.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Death Toll of State Care

Recently the Philly Inquirer revealed serious flaws in the city's Department of Human Services.

Based on public records and interviews, The Inquirer article focused on three cases in which relatives and neighbors told of danger signs that DHS caseworkers either had missed or discounted. In four other cases, the newspaper raised questions about what DHS did before a child died of abuse or neglect. All told, 20 children in families that had prior contact with the agency died from abuse or neglect from 2003 through 2005. On Friday, the city disclosed five such deaths in 2006.
Philly Inquirer 10/22/06 Ken Dilanian

When we turn the supervision of helpless innocents over to the state and we are left with a body count that includes children under DHS care, elderly residents abandoned in nursing homes and terminally ill hospital patients euthanized via feeding tube removal. When we trust the state with our schools we are left with corrupted young people who turn to guns or sex for solace. When we put our faith in the state to save us, we wind up with rows of abandoned homes in Louisiana and people unable to go home. Indoctrinated in a culture of death, the state can offer no hope and no real help to those in need.
When Catholics step up to the plate and do their job we have hospitals that minister to the sick and dying, oblivious to profits. We have schools that teach solid Catholic doctrine not watered down, self esteem centered 'I'm okay, you're okay' garbage. If a family is unable, the extended Catholic parish family picks up the slack.
So there is a solution to our problems and it is Catholic through and through. We are only numbers to the state but we are individual souls to the Church. We must maintain our Catholic identity to protect ourselves and help others. We cannot allow the care of the helpless to fall to those whose primary motivation is a paycheck and whose interaction is dictated by state guidelines instead of the Gospel.

"We are dealing with human beings, and human beings always need something more than technically proper care. They need humanity. They need heartfelt concern. Those who work for the Church's charitable organizations must be distinguished by the fact that they do not merely meet the needs of the moment, but they dedicate themselves to others with heartfelt concern, enabling them to experience the richness of their humanity. Consequently, in addition to their necessary professional training, these charity workers need a "formation of heart": they need to be led to that encounter with God in Christ which awakens their love and opens their spirits to others. As a result, love of neighbor will no longer be for them a commandment imposed so to speak, from without, but a consequence deriving from their faith, a faith which become active through love (cf. Gal 5:6) ...
We contribute to a better world only by personally doing good now, with full commitment and wherever we have the opportunity, independently of partisan strategies and programs. The Christian's program-the program of the Good Samaritan, the program of Jesus-is "a heart which sees". This heart sees where love is needed and acts accordingly."
Pope Benedict XVI Deus Caritas Est31 a-b

Friday, October 20, 2006

Why not for the common good?

Word from Dorothy, emphasis mine.

"Love of our brothers, and voluntary poverty. Those are the things I began to talk about, and those are such fundamental topics that one could not talk about them without getting on to the subject of the modern State and war. The paternalistic state, the servile state, the coercive state that tries to do away with personal responsibility, that builds great institutions to take the place of the family, the parish. The coercive state whose prosperity is founded on preparations for war rather than on work to supply human needs. You get a lot of reading done when you are travelling, and one of the books I read on this trip was "Through Eastern Eyes," by Fr. Von Straelen, published by Grailville, Loveland, Ohio.
The East is not impressed by our great institutions, Fr. Von Straelen quotes a critic as saying. Our orphanages, mental hospitals, homes for the aged, -- all the other great buildings that loom on the horizon mean that there is no longer a loving family, no longer help from friends and neighbors to care for the sick, the orphaned, the cripple, the poor. It is the failure of Christianity that those buildings express, not its successes. ...
And since it all does depend on each one of us, that means that we must each try to have a Christ room in our homes where we can shelter others. Better still if there were an extra floor in our house (Oh those lucky people who live in houses!) that could be turned into a little apartment for a family. The fact of the matter is that so-called Christian people will not rent to families any more. No children allowed! Let them get in a housing project! Let the state, the city, bring that pressure to bear on them to limiting their families! ...
The children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light. They build up fortunes and lose them. They bring pipe lines from west to east. They put up gigantic skyscrapers, they build factories, they venture much, not for the common good but for profit. And why not these risks for the common good?"

"On Pilgrimage - November 1951"
By Dorothy Day
The Catholic Worker, November 1951

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Planning for retirement

As I contemplate the ideal activities of my future worker farm and/or house the needs of the elderly are at the top of my list. As expressed in my previous post, I have seen my maternal grandmother who did nothing but take of family her whole life be turned out of Christian homes, despite her request, and into an apartment.
There are many seniors, like my grandmother, who are not wanted in their children's' homes not because of a lack of finances but due to a clash of personalities and the unwillingness to make sacrifices or changes in an otherwise cushy lifestyle. In my case however, I know that as my grandmother's health declines, her children will step forward and make sure she gets the medical care she needs, constant visitation and ultimately, comfort at the time of her death.
The greater problem is those seniors whose families abandon them to care facilities or seniors who have no family to begin with. (The later could become an increasing problem as couples have fewer children or avoid having children altogether.) We struggle through 60 hour work weeks and sacrifice bonding time with our children to provide the luxuries of life. Or we forgo children altogether in pursuit of material goods. When we are left alone at age 80 with limited abilities, a large bank account and no visitors is it any wonder euthanasia comes to mind? Family gives us something to live for and faith helps us through the suffering together.
As the elderly population grows with the aging boomers, the care and visitation of seniors needs to become a concern for Catholics. Living on a fixed income is a struggle for some elderly who need expensive prescriptions and medical care or devices. Many homeowners in our area are burdened with outrageous property taxes on old homes that already require more money in upkeep. Since society made the immediate family two generations per household instead of three, we are struggling to find ways to support people who traditionally have never had to take care of themselves. We've created whole government programs to take care of seniors and help keep them independent, so they're 'not a burden' on their families. But in the process we've created a population of people trapped in their homes; nursing or private.
We need to rethink how we help seniors. As I mentioned earlier, bringing elderly relatives home is the first step. Secondly is reaching out to those whose families cannot or will not do so. Meals on Wheels is great idea. So is offering rides to seniors to appointments or to see friends and visiting seniors in their homes, especially at the holidays. We also need to help seniors plan for the end, through proper explanation of medical procedures and forms so they can choose a truly Catholic response to whatever condition may arise.
I'm still working on serving the homeless, but I am helping the elderly. It doesn't take much to send that extra card, make the call or visit. Most importantly, I'm trying to raise my children to respect and value their elders. I know my retirement depends on it.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A new TV or a room for grandma?

According to the Philly Inquirer, elderly people in Pennsylvania need more money from taxpayers to be taken care of in their homes by strangers. By 2020, the article estimates 18.8 percent of state residents will be over 65 and the number of seniors over 85 will increase by 52 percent.
Am I the only one who remembers a time when family members took care of their elderly residents? My paternal grandmother nursed her dying husband in a bedroom off of their gun shop before his death (while she still ran the store out front) and then took care of his stepfather until his death more than 10 years later. My maternal grandmother lived with and took care of her father until his condition necessitated a round the clock nursing facility and then she took care of my grandfather until he was moved to a handicap accessible hospice care home and died.
Sad to say, my maternal grandmother now lives in an apartment by herself despite her expressed desire to live with one of her three children, all of whom have homes with 2-3 empty bedrooms and ample space. If there were not 5 of us in an 1100 sqft apt. you can bet I would have offered her a room here.
We are arguably the most prosperous country on the face of the earth and we want the government to take care of the people who raised us. We want to stick them in homes, or have others watch them in-home and have it covered by someone else. Why is it preposterous to have children foot the bill of their parents care? It isn't. Drive an older car, by a smaller TV, get less cable channels or buy fewer presents for your kids this Christmas (or Easter, Halloween, their Birthday, etc.) Would it be difficult to live with your parents again? I don't doubt it. Offer it up. If I am needed to take care of my parents I'm sure many opportunities will arise when I am called upon to suffer. Parental mortification. As a teenager you didn't know it could serve a higher cause. The fourth commandment, honor thy mother and father, doesn't become irrelevant the minute one moves out of the house. Now I understand some medical conditions merit specialized care and are outlandishly expensive but if you would do it for your child (or your dog), why not your parents? If you can find a way for one, why not the other? Is it because as a society we value the lives of our senior less? Perhaps. We try to convince them to not burden us with their illness and caregiving, and so we encourage euthanasia or maybe a' do not resuscitate' order. We stopped seeing them as our mothers, fathers, grandparents and loved ones and instead saw them as excess baggage. Can you imagine if we started inviting our parents back into our homes? If we lived as extended families again? I'm not dreaming. With the baby boomers aging and a seriously lacking social security system plus a nation $4 trillion in debt, how much longer do you think the government will pay someone to granny sit for you? We should have a Christ- room ready in our house at all times. Sometimes we do not need to look very far to find someone in need of a place to stay.

If birth control and government intervention didn't work then...?

These words from Day express some of the message I was trying to convey in an earlier post.

"For the first week I have been covering the government migrant camps from Yuba City, north of San Francisco, down the valley. There are thirteen of these and they house three thousand families. If you count five to an average family, that takes care of fifteen thousand people. But the estimate is that there are three hundred thousand migrant workers in the state. The season of peak labor, when 250,000 are used, lasts only five months, and the rest of the time only 50,000 are needed, according to the findings of the governor’s reemployment commission. From this it will be seen that the problem of the rural proletariat is most acute in this state, although it is present all through the country.
I must say that my first view of the government camps made me anything but happy. The pressed steel structures, each costing $195, quite aside from the concrete base, making one-room shelters for the entire family, are anything but adequate. They are hot in Summer and cold and draughty in Winter and the rain gets in. In one camp I saw how the campers used the yellow corn meal and flour to sprinkle around the edge of the room to take up the leak so that the water would not form pools under the beds. Mother, father and children all sleep in one room, and through statistics show that the average family is between four and five, there are many large families of six to eight children. Margaret Sanger has sent her agents around, and there are birth control clinics at every camp. ...
Here there is room for personal responsibility, for the "Christ’s room" in every house and on every ranch that the early Father’s talked of, instead of leaving everything to the government, which in spite of all they have done that is good, still think in terms of corporation farming and birth control clinics for the rural proletariat."
Disgraceful Plight Of Migrant Workers On California Farms
By Dorothy Day
The Catholic Worker, May 1940, 1, 2.

Fast forward to 2006.
Tons of migrant workers in the country? And they're having lots of kids? What about our jobs? We'd better step in with some tough government programs and maybe introduce those crazy Catholic Mexicans to our more civilized birth control methods...oh wait...
To review: Birth control does NOT, I repeat, does NOT help or empower poor people.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Final Point on Peace Prize

The Distributist Review points out some other problems with recent Nobel peace prizewinner Muhammad Yunus. Not only does he feel it's okay to charge exorbitant interest rates on his micro-credit he also thinks it okay to push smaller families i.e. contraception and abortion. Ah yes, it makes perfect sense, convincing women to murder their unborn so they can work more to pay off their loans quicker. And this guy only got the peace prize? Don't they give one for economics, too?
The idea that large families cause poverty is popular among liberals. They're the first to suggest exporting Planned Parenthood to the 3rd world along with the bags of rice and grain. If Catholic missionaries even mention 'Family Planning' within a 500 mile radius of an impoverished nation the UN is up in arms. The mere suggestion of a truly Christian response to poverty is offensive to these people, as if we are making the problem worse. The view that children are a drain on society, and women in particular, shows how far society has fallen away from the natural order of things. That women could be made to believe that children could keep them from becoming something greater (i.e. richer) is incomprehensible to me. I look at my children and can't imagine a greater return on my investment.
Large families are not the problem. If that were the case, half of my parish would be on welfare. It is the way we handle large, poor families as a 'civilized society' that is the problem. Wide spread acceptance of usury, abortion and contraception has only helped eliminate God from Western civilization, not the poor. Exporting our godless ways to the developing world is not the answer to poverty. I cannot address all the issues that effect world economics (war, natural disaster, etc.) but generally speaking large families can be kept out of poverty on all parts of the globe by reliance on God, hard work and Christian charity. That is what we need to offer. UN programs and micro-credit are a poor substitute for hope and compassion.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Book Recomendation

I want to recommend the book 'Parish Priest, Father Michael McGivney and American Catholicism' by Douglas Brinkley and Julie M. Fenster. I breezed through it in about a week and thoroughly enjoyed it. It tells the story of a parish priest in New Haven, CT during the late 19th century. McGivney would become the founder of the Knights of Columbus, a men's fraternal organization created to care for working Catholic families and provide a Church approved social outlet for Catholic men.
It not only discusses McGivney's life but talks about the role of the parish priest at a time in US History when immigrants were rapidly changing the religious makeup of America. As the Catholic population soared, bishops scrambled to find enough priests to cover parishes and build churches. These immigrants often faced harsh working conditions upon arrival and if the family's primary breadwinner fell ill or died, it was not uncommon for widows with several children to be turned out unto the street. (Kind of puts into perspective the plight of many 'poor, welfare mothers' of today. )
Consistent with subsidiarity, and the ways of the Catholic Worker Movement (still a half century down the road), McGivney envisioned an organization that would pay a death benefit to member's widows. The money would pay funeral expenses as well as keep bill collectors at bay. The Knights were also a response to the many popular secret societies of the day that pulled men away from their families and made them swear oaths of loyalty-a practice forbid by the Church. Local councils provided for the Catholic men in their parishes and their families long before the idea of a state run welfare system was created. Today the Knights number in the millions as do there charitable contributions.
I would recommend picking up the book when you're looking for something informative but not overwhelming. One person can make a difference, especially by following sound Catholic principles. McGivney's accomplishments show how ordinary Catholics can cause radical change by actively living the Gospel.

Friday, October 13, 2006

An Award for Robbery

Welcome to those from C-L-S!

I'm going to take a quick break from my posts on subsidiarity to comment on the recent Nobel Peace Prize winner, Muhammad Yunus. Yunus created banks, called Grameen, that give small loans known as microcredit to the poor to help them fund small business ventures that, ideally, lift them out of poverty. How noble. However, if you jump down to paragraph 16 or so, you'll see that Yunus's banks charge 20 percent interest on these loans which are usually less than $200. Yes, 20 percent. I think the interest rate on the first credit card I got in college was less than that. So while Grameen claims a 99% payback rate, others argue those borrowers whose ventures fail often borrow from other high interest sources to pay back microcredit. I can't believe we live in an age where we are rewarding a man with a $1.4 million peace prize for usury. If he wants to help the poor give them loans with no interest or maybe up to 5%, but 20%? Robbing the poor of the little bit of money they make does not solve problems, it creates a whole new host of problems. We need only to look at the amount of debt most Americans carry on their credit cards to see where usury ultimately leads. It always starts out innocently enough, "Just for emergencies," or "I just use it for the frequent flyer miles," and then BAM! you have thousands of dollars in debt that came out of 'nowhere.' Should you lose your job, how long would it take to have everything seized from you? Now imagine you're a poor villager in Indian who is living hand to mouth everyday. You borrow $70 and unfortunately your business venture fails. You're already in poverty, where else do you go? Now you're living hand to mouth and you owe $84. How long will it take a person in this position, who earns pennies a day to pay that back? It is as oppressive as any $4,000 Visa bill any American carries around. People can argue his banks have helped millions of people. Fine, that's great, I'm glad there are borrowers in India who can manage small amounts of credit. But it is a slippery slope and when it comes to usury, something the Church has always spoke against, things tend to head downhill fast.

Usurers Are Not Gentlemen

1. The Prophets of Israel
and the Fathers of the Church
forbade lending money at interest.

2. Lending at interest
was called usury
by the Prophets of Israel
and the Fathers of the Church.

3. Usurers were not considered
to be gentlemen
when people used to listen
to the Prophets of Israel
and the Fathers of the Church.

4. When people used to listen
to the Prophets of Israel
and the Fathers of the Church
they could not see anything gentle
in trying to live
on the sweat of somebody else's brow
by lending money at interest.

Peter Maurin, Easy Essay

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Related writings on subsidiarity and the Perfect State

" order to spare them the shame of begging, the Church has provided aid for the needy. The common Mother of rich and poor has aroused everywhere the heroism of charity, and has established congregations of religious and many other useful institutions for help and mercy, so that hardly any kind of suffering could exist which was not afforded relief. At the present day many there are who, like the heathen of old, seek to blame and condemn the Church for such eminent charity. They would substitute in its stead a system of relief organized by the State. But no human expedients will ever make up for the devotedness and self-sacrifice of Christian charity. Charity, as a virtue, pertains to the Church; for virtue it is not, unless it be drawn from the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ; and whosoever turns his back on the Church cannot be near to Christ." Rerum Novarum 30, Pope Leo XIII

"Just as it is gravely wrong to take from individuals what they can accomplish by their own ability andeffort and entrust it to the community, so also it is an injustice and at the same time both a serious evil and disturbance of right order to assign to a greater and higher society what lesser and subordinate organizations can do, for every social activity ought of its very nature to furnish help to the members of the body social, and never destroy and absorb them." Quadragesimo Anno 79 (Forty Years After) Pope Pius XI

"The perfect state is a thing to fight for. Christ said, "Be ye therefore perfect even as your Father in Heaven is perfect." "Go ye therefore and sell what you have and give to the poor." "If you have two coats take one and give it to your brother, and if your brother ask you for your coat, give him your cloak too." People do not scoff at these words because they are the words of Christ. A great many regard them hopelessly and falling back on their poor humanity they admit their inability to live up to these words. But nevertheless these words (hard words) go down through the ages, and through them many have followed the precept as well as the counsel. And have influenced humanity greatly thereby. (As for those who don't God knows that we are but dust and he is a kind and tender father.) The Catholic Worker stands opposed to Communism, Socialism, and Fascism. The Catholic Worker regards the existing system of labor unions as a poor and faulty one, far below that of organization described by Pope Pius XI in his Encyclical, Forty Years After. ... We believe with the Pope that whenever the general interest of any particular class suffers and is threatened with evils which can in no other way be met, the public authority, the state, must step in to meet them."If within the walls of a household there occur grave disturbances of mutual rights, the public power must interfere." But not the italics - "which can in no other way be met." ...we continue to cling to the ideal as held up in the gospel and in the encyclical on St. Francis of Assisi [Pope Leo XIII's Renum Novarum]. We shall not reach it we know. But that does not mean that there is no use trying."
Dorothy Day , Days with an End, Catholic Worker, April 1934

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Ignoring Lazarus?

I've been reading a bit about subsidiarity and its meaning as it pertains (or could pertain) to the role of our government in public assistance. Subsidiarity means "decisions should be made at the lowest social level appropriate to the issue being decided."(Gregory Beadbout This Rock 4/06 pg 30) I'd like to share some quotes from various encyclicals and Catholic writers and tie these ideas into the mission of the Catholic Worker movement and in general our role as Catholics. I might also imply how subsidiarity and Distributism could improve our country, thus improving the condition of the poor, but I'll try not to stray to off topic. For now I'll offer a quote from our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI (emphasis mine):
"We do not need a state that regulates and controls everything but a state that, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, generously acknowledges and supports initiatives arising from the different social forces and combines spontaneity with closeness to those in need. The Church is one of those living forces: It is alive with the love enkindled by the Spirit of Christ. This love does not simply offer people material help but refreshment and care for their souls, something that often is even more necessary than material support. In the end, the claim that just social structures would make works of charity superfluous masks a materialist conception of man: the mistaken notion that man can live "by bread alone"(Matt. 4:4 cf. Deut. 8:3)-a conviction that demeans man and ultimately disregards all that is specifically human"
Deus Caritas Est 28

We cannot, and should not, expect government programs to take care of the poor man/woman/child who lives nearby. People such as these are like a Lazarus at our door. (Luke 16: 19-31) What happened to the rich man who passed by Lazarus everyday? Welfare programs are not a substitute for Catholic love and charity towards our fellow man. Can we not see the difference in the person run ragged through the bureaucratic, state run assistance program and the person who has been invited into a Christian home and welcomed with love and compassion? Who will be better off in a year? Who will be ready to strike out on their own, filled with hope and resolve and a desire to help others? Lazarus could well have made do on the table scraps of the rich man, but didn't Lazarus deserve to be invited to the banquet? Are we offering the poor of our country our scraps, a banquet or are we letting them sit outside alone? Let's stop expecting the government to pass off scraps as hope and charity. Invite Lazarus to your table.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Thy will be done

Thought these quotes would be of interest in light of recent North Korean activities.

The happy news on the radio this morning is that the Vatican Council has passed with an overwhelmingly majority vote, the Schema on the Church in the Modern World, included in which is an unequivocal condemnation of nuclear warfare. It was a statement for which we had been working and praying. We will report further on the details of the condemnation of modern war in next month’s issue. ...
... As to the questions this condemnation will raise in the hearts and minds of all men, Catholic or otherwise—I can only feel that such questions and the attempts to answer them will lead to more enlightened knowledge, more enlightened conscience on the part of all men. It will lead, as Peter Maurin was always fond of saying, to clarification of thought, a state of mind which should precede all action.
As to what change will be brought about by the pronouncements of the Council? None immediately, just as there was none when Pope Pius XI spoke out against Fascism in Italy. (And was it not Cardinal Spellman who flew out with that encyclical, which was suppressed in Italy under Mussolini?) Popes speak out, as Paul VI did recently at the United Nations, but wars go on. There are cheers and rejoicings, and seeming assent to what they say, but action does not seem to be influenced, that is, immediately. They are respected for what they say because of their lofty position. But a Father Daniel Berrigan, S.J. is "given another assignment" to Latin America. But in the long run, these words, these pronouncements, after much blood has been shed, influence the course of history, which progresses more and more towards a recognition of man’s freedom, his dignity as a son of God, as made in the image and likeness of God, whether he is Communist or imperialist, Russian or American, "North" or "South" Vietnamese. All men are brothers, God wills that all men be saved, and we pray daily, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
"On Pilgrimage - December 1965"
By Dorothy Day , The Catholic Worker

May we all continue to pray for peace.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


This will be the last post for about three days as I head out for another long weekend.
Some thoughts on two posts Rod Dreher has over at his Crunchy Con blog.

The Amish and us
Read this:

A grieving grandfather told young relatives not to hate the gunman who killed five girls in an Amish schoolhouse massacre, a pastor said on Wednesday.

"As we were standing next to the body of this 13-year-old girl, the grandfather was tutoring the young boys, he was making a point, just saying to the family, 'We must not think evil of this man,'" the Rev. Robert Schenck told CNN.

"It was one of the most touching things I have seen in 25 years of Christian ministry."

Could you do that? Could you stand over the body of a dead child and tell the young not to hate her killer? I could not. Please God, make me into the sort of man who could. ...

And this;

The Imitation of Christ

Can you believe this? The Amish are raising money for the family of the man who murdered their own children. Yesterday on NBC News, I saw an Amish midwife who had helped birth several of the girls murdered by the killer say that they were planning to take food over to his family's house. She said -- and I paraphrase closely -- "This is possible if you have Christ in your heart."

Says journalist Tom Shachtman, who wrote a book on Amish culture, in today's NYT:

“This is imitation of Christ at its most naked,” Mr. Shachtman said. “If anybody is going to turn the other cheek in our society, it’s going to be the Amish.”

He continued, “I don’t want to denigrate anybody else who says they’re imitating Christ, but the Amish walk the walk as much as they talk the talk.”

The goodness of these people is beyond words.

As mentioned earlier, I have great admiration for the Amish. They do walk the walk. That's not to say there are not hypocrites among them, as with any Christian denomination, Catholic included. But why are they're actions so hard to believe? Why are the actions of the Amish not the standard actions of all Christians? Why do not all Catholics or Christians have that sense of unity? Why can we not all turn our cheeks as they do?
Amongst the Amish religion there are many communities; like local parishes. It's not like Lancaster has one large Amish mega church with stadium seating. Neighboring families rotate Sunday services between their barns. When a problem arises, the local church community helps the family in crisis. The larger the problem, the more churches get involed. I can only image the astronomical cost of healthcare the four hospitalized girls are racking up minute by minute. This burden will fall on the shoulders of the family and their church community. (In this situation, many non-Amish are donating as well to help cover costs.) Without fail, and regardless of circumstances, these communities pull together. They can be depended on. The system always works.
Many aspects of the Amish personify the ideals outlined by Day and Maurin. And I would highly recommend reading The Amish in Their Own Words by Brad Igou. It is a compilation of articles and letters written by Amish for an Amish publication. It paints an honest and frank portrait of these people. It is easy to see the paralelles between these workers of the land and Catholic Workers.
While not without fault, the Amish provide us with an example to follow, one that mirrors our Lord very closely, as well as the early communities of His disciples. The Amish would make better saints than some Catholics. When faced with adversity maybe we would do well to ask ourselves What Would the Amish Do?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

And what of the devil in Lancaster?

I have tried to avoid dwelling on the school shootings that have hit the nation this past week but alarmingly the most recent tragedy occur ed in my hometown of Lancaster County, less than a half hour from where I grew up.
Although I now live two hours away, my family is there and my roots run deep. I now reside in New Jersey, but a short conversation confirms my accent as PA Dutch. I do not know any of the victims or the gunmans family. I was never close with any Amish, however, I have worked with them, ate with them and most recently hosted them in my house when I ran a B&B. I admire their beliefs and their way off life and I could devote an entire post to gushing about them. But that is for another time. Suffice it to say, I will be happy when this media frenzy is over for the Amish sake so they can go about their lives (and mourning) in peace. I also hope you will offer up many prayers, as I have, for the injured and deceased involved in this case.
What I want to address is the question often asked when these horrible atrocities occur; Where is God? I do not doubt the existence of God, and I know, as the Amish families do, that only God can help them through this terrible time in their lives. What I want to know is, how can someone watch a story like this unfold on the news and still question the existence of Satan. Even some Catholics still doubt that Lucifer, as an individual being, exists. I think the fact that a man can molest children, hold onto a grudge for 20 years, murder children and commit suicide is proof that Satan is busier today than ever. A great priest I know said to me, Lucifer means 'bearer of light' and he leads man to sin by placing temptation in the best light possible. People don't usually go out seeking to do evil, making that bad decision just looked so good at the time compared to everything else. The man who opened fire on a room of bound children held unto anger for 20 years because it was easier than forgiving. It consumed him and when he lost a child it became hate because that was easier than accepting God's will. His hate built up for 10 years. He was ripe for temptation. Taking children hostage, doing unspeakable things to them and then ending it all looked better than living life another day as it was. Something pushed him over the edge and when he saw the news footage from Colorado last week, he got an idea and it seemed like the best thing to do. God exists and he was with the gunman his entire life, but so was Lucifer and it was to the devil on his shoulder that the gunman turned when he had a problem, not God. When you have lost all hope, I can only image how easy it is to sit in the darkness with Lucifer offering you a candle to find your way out, stumbling and falling as you go. But the light of Jesus is the Sun that drives all darkness away; all is made clear. So don't say to me the devil does not exist. I saw him yesterday on the news in my hometown. I do not ask 'Where is God?' when men give in to temptation because He is there lamenting their decision. I see God clearly in the outreach of neighbors, the prayers of a community and at the hospital beside of each child. Who feels their suffering more than He?

Monday, October 02, 2006

Consider Distributism

I would like to pass on some information on Distributism, a virtually unknown economic alternative to capitalism, communism and socialism. Yes, another way does exist; there is hope! Although Day never said she was a distributist, she often wrote of it and her son-in-law ran a mail order distributist book store. The values of distributism, the Worker Movement and personalism all go together. The theory most closely relates to the feudal system of the middle ages (not the dark ages mind you) and was written about in the early 20th century by the likes of Belloc and Chesterton. I believe Belloc coined the term Distributism. I am still learning about it myself but it is a fascinating idea. I do not think we will ever create a heaven on earth, but a Distributist system would sure be nice. I will not try to summarize it here as I would more likely confuse than clarify so let me pass along these websites. First The Distributist Review is a blog that, what else, reviews international news and passes along stories of distributism at work in the world today as well as painful examples of capitalism gone astray. Distributism: The Third Alternative of the New Christendom offers a basic overview of distributism that anyone can understand with lots of direction on where to head next for more info. Finally, I will recommend the Distributism and Catholic Social Teaching Home Page. Lots of links on where to find all sorts of info on distributism and how it relates to the Catholic Church. If anyone knows any other good sites, feel free to post them in the comments section. I'm ordering up some Belloc and hopefully will have some more input on the topic in the near future. Until then, consider this Day's thoughts on the matter.
"Articles on Distributism - 2"
By Dorothy Day
The Catholic Worker, July-August 1948, 1,2, 6. Summary: (DOC #160) Argues that distributism is the only alternative to the US economy. Distributism is an alternative to capitalism and socialism built around "the village economy" and a more just distribution of wealth. Quotes four modern Popes in its support. Summarizes its principles with the following Statements: "land is the most natural form of property" "wages should enable man to purchase land" "the family is the most perfect when rooted in its own holdings" "agriculture is the first and most important of all arts." (See also DOC #159 and DOC #161) For complete article via