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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Am I My Brother's Keeper?

Hope y'all had a happy Thanksgiving. Sorry blogging has been light. I'd like to get back into the swing of things, but I want to be able to offer new stuff. Not just my same tired old thoughts. Our homeschool breaks for all of December (one of the many perks of homeschooling) so hopefully the Advent season will lend itself to some fresh insights and meditations.
In preparation of Advent, my husband and I are once again trying to figure out how to incorporate works of charity into the season; something beyond passing on a choice parking space for another driver or dropping a few quarters in the Salvation Army pail. Charity is the work of Christians. It is what we are called to do through out the year, although opportunities abound this time of year. But how many Christians have forgotten what charity really requires? We've grown into a society where 'handling' the poor, the sick and the mentally ill is the work of the government. Today's charity opportunities consist of feel good monetary donations, once yearly soup kitchen visits with friends and or awareness ribbon purchases. We've turned over our duty to the government and what have they done with such a great responsibility? How many people are helped by social programs versus those who've come to rely on the system?
Doing works of charity is good for the soul, it's spiritually uplifting when done right. The end result should not be a bursting sense of pride or an emotional pick me up. True charity leaves you humble, you are the servant not the master. You're not coming down out of your ivory tower to mingle with the commoners. (I'm talking to you celebrities/politicians and your staged photo ops.) Are you worthy to bow before them and wash their feet? If you didn't get the point; charity is not about you.
But the problem with a government run system is you don't have humble people meeting the needs of the less fortunate with compassion and love. And how can you have charity without love? The recipients of government handouts certainly don't love the government agencies that 'serve' them. But yet many have come to rely on the handout and to expect government assistance with every pitfall. Christian charity in a crisis has become a bonus. We couldn't expect fellow Christians, neighbors, church members, friends and family members to shoulder all the responsibility of serving the needy could we?! The suggestion to most people seems preposterous. By why should it be?
We look at our prosperous country and still see homelessness, poverty, hunger, troubled youth, abused children and we sit in our cushy homes, begrudgingly pay our taxes and wonder why the government hasn't used our money to take care of these problems. Is the solution to these problems really higher taxes? How many committees and special dialogue sessions do we need to pay for before we realize WE are the solution. Christians helping everyone, serving one another and making sacrifices for the good of mankind. Stop passing the buck. Stop expecting Uncle Sam to play Christ for the country's less fortunate. What a lousy substitution.

"But who is to take care of them if the government does not? That is a question in a day when all are turning to the state, and when people are asking, "Am I my brother's keeper?" Certainly we all should know that it is not the province of the government to practice the works of mercy, or go in for Insurance. Smaller bodies, decentralized groups, should be caring for all such needs.

The first unit of society is the family. The family should look after its own and, In addition, as the early fathers said, "every home should have a Christ room in it, so that hospitality may be practiced." "The coat that hangs in your closet belongs to the poor." "If your brother is hungry, it is your responsibility."

"When did we see Thee hungry, when did we see Thee naked?" People either plead ignorance or they say "It is none of my responsibility." But we are all members one of another, so we are obliged in conscience to help each other. The parish is the next unit, and there are local councils of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. Then there is the city, and the larger body of charitable groups. And there are the unions, where mutual aid and fraternal charity is also practiced. For those who are not Catholics there are lodges fraternal organizations, where there is a long tradition of charity. But now there is a dependence on the state. Hospitals once Catholic are subsidized by the state. Orphanages once supported by Catholic charity receive their aid from community chests."

"More About Holy Poverty. Which Is Voluntary Poverty."
By Dorothy Day
The Catholic Worker, February 1945

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The degree of separation

"And we are part of it all, part of this whole movement throughout the country, but of course we have our own particular talent, our own particular contribution to make to the sum total of the apostolate. And we think of it as so important that we are apt to fight and wrangle among ourselves on account of it, and we are all sensitive to the accusation that we are accenting, emphasizing one aspect of the truth at the expense of another. A heresy overemphasizes one aspect of the truth.

But our unity, if it is not unity of thought in regard to temporal matters, is a unity at the altar rail. We are all members of the Mystical Body of Christ, and so we are closer to each other, by the tie of grace, than any blood brothers are. All these books about discrimination are thinking in terms of human brotherhood, of our responsibility one for another. We are our brother's keeper, and all men are our brothers whether they be Catholic or not. But of course the tie that binds Catholics is closer, the tie of grace. We partake of the same food, Christ. We put off the old man and put on Christ. The same blood flows through our veins, Christ's. We are the same flesh, Christ's. But all men are members or potential members, as St. Augustine says, and there is no time with God, so who are we to know the degree of separation between us and the Communist, the unbaptized, the God-hater, who may tomorrow, like St. Paul, love Christ."

On Pilgrimage
By Dorothy Day

Rational, emotional, spiritual or hormonal?

Back from a blogging break. The failure to close on yet another house plus another recent surprise have resulted in several weeks of asking, 'what are we supposed to be doing?' My husband and I feel we have two paths before us, both with their pluses and minuses, it's a matter of choosing the right one. I don't think either would be wrong per say, but which is best for right now. Everyday one of us changes our mind. We're praying, maybe pleading, at this point for a clear sign but past experience leads us to believe we won't be seeing angels in our sleep. My concern is making a major decision based on emotion rather than rational thought and genuine spiritual direction. We pray for what we want, knowing that maybe God has something else in mind instead. So then, do we spring for option one because it's what we want now for our family, even if we have to sacrifice some principles or do we charge headfirst into option two because it's closest to our religious ideas but, in all honesty, it would be crazy and impossible to explain to everyone.
At what point do you just want something so bad you rationalize everything about it to fit into 'what God wants' or 'it's the answer to our prayers'? How do you know when the crazy option on the back burner is really the crazy leap of faith God wants you to take?
And like all our life changing decisions, we're on a deadline. I don't want elaborate too much, but where we are now is not going to be suitable in say, nine months. Like I wasn't emotionally charged enough...
God calls everyone and the static of the world can make receiving the message so difficult. Some people miss the call entirely and others are there screaming into the receiver, 'I can't understand what your saying!' It's only the saints who get visions, have conversations with divinity and suffer gladly with whatever comes their way.
Somewhere along the way, I've lost the zeal for the mission, for the Movement. Charity for others is scarcely mentioned now. The focus is squarely on the family and there is simply no energy or time for worrying about others when everything here is in such disarray. And because if I remind myself of the Movement, I only remember how little I've done and I'd rather not feel dismayed over yet something else.
Intelligent decisions, emotional decisions, spiritual decisions; or just are they all just the same decisions with different consequences?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Month of the Dead

"It is so hard to find a balance.

We have the knowledge that this life is a passageway to another fuller life which is to come, that we are heirs to a richness and a joy beyond all telling, and that we are working toward a new heaven and a new earth, where all is love and peace, where justice dwells. We also know that what we do now will count, that we are exercising our faculties to this end, and that, although sometimes our work seems futile and without result in these fields of justice and peace and love, (Ammon's work for peace, Charlie's work with teenagers, Pat's with the Ninth Street kids, and all of ours at Spring Street and at the farm) we know that is all preparation, like that of a farmer, and God will give the results, the increase, the crop. If we do not do this work, we are dead souls, no matter how vital our bodies, and there is no health in us.

We also know that religion, as the Marxists have always insisted, has, too often, like an opiate, tended to put people to sleep to the reality and the need for the present struggle for peace and justice.

"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.

One World

We are all members one of another, we are all heirs, we are all brothers, no matter how far apart we have strayed. We live on one world and that seems to be a pretty small one now that there is all this talk of space ships and satellites and trips to the moon.

St. Paul, when he talks of God's power, talks of the "mighty exercise of God's power when He raised Jesus from the dead and, in Him, gave us a promise of the same resurrection for ourselves."

Man, in his pride, is always trying to create life out of nothing and to raise men from the dead, but we don't hear so much about that now that he is thinking of interplanetary exploration.

Men of science are just as much distracted from the things of this earth as those they have charged with putting too much emphasis on religion and the next life. While billions of dollars are being spent on missiles, we still have our poverty, the hungry and homeless in our midst, the needs of our families for bread, for shoes, for shelter. We explore outer space, and families of ten are crowded in one room in New York. Are they crowded in slums? Let them practice birth control! It is now legal in New York, which has a Catholic mayor and Catholic borough president, to give out birth control information to all who ask, in city hospitals and clinics. In Japan, under our complacent acceptance, they have abortion clinics. Remedies are on the side of death. And what deathly remedies are offered! Let them stay in Puerto Rico. Send them back to their shacks where they can starve more comfortably in tropical surroundings, while the rich steal their land for sugar and missile bases. [snip]

The Womb of This Life

I am writing this column about death and life, because it is the month of November, which, in the Church, is the month we commemorate the dead. All Saints Day is on November first. (Halloween is the holy eve of the day which commemorates all those great ones who have gone before, who most nearly resembled Jesus Christ in their lives.) All Souls Day is for the rank and file who have gone before us, the "dear departed" as the Irish say. Yes, this is all very true and real to the "faithful," to those who grow in faith by the constant exercise of it. Greater than faith is charity, caritas, love. Without this wedding garment of love we cannot enter into the next world. Hope goes together with faith and charity.

Fr. Guerin of the Marists on Staten Island gave us a series of conferences one winter, and in one of them, dealing with death, he said that this life is like life in the womb. If the child in the womb was asked if it wished to be born, it would say "No I am quite comfortable where I am." And, if it had control, it would not bother to grow those organs which fit it for life in the world; lungs to breathe with, legs to walk with, the life of the exterior senses.

Holding Fast

And, it is the same in this world. We are all holding fast to this life, no matter how bad it is. It is the only life we know and we keep deluding ourselves that, if we had this or that, if we had the love we craved, the material means to develop our talents, we would be happy. I called my last book, The Long Loneliness, recently published in the Image edition for 65 cents, because I tried to point out with St. Augustine, that, no matter how crowded life was with activity and joy, family and work, the human heart was never satisfied until it rested in God, the absolute Good, absolute Beauty, absolute Love.

Those conferences were very stimulating, and I thought of C. S. Lewis's statement that, unless the egg develops, unless it hatches and grows wings and flies, it becomes a rotten egg. A homely and startling thought

I thought too, of those sad lines of Francis Thompson, "Life is a coquetry of death/ which wearies me/too sure of the amour. A tiring room where I/death's divers garments try/till fit some fashion sit./It seemeth me too much/I do rehearse for such/A mean and single scene." I quote from memory, and am not sure even of my divisions of the lines.

Yes, death confronts us all. And life is precious, this practice ground where we are given such opportunity to use what talents we have, what resources of mind and body, to so order the present that the future will be different and try to make this world, as Peter Maurin said, a place where it is easier to be good. [snip]

Life, Grace, Love. Beautiful words to dwell on these fall days.

I have written this after reading St. Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians, which is all about the Body of Christ, of which we are all members or potential members. We are one flesh, one family, one brotherhood. And God is our Father, giving us what we ask, bread, not a stone, life, not death, freely, with love, not because we deserve it. He will save us, in spite of ourselves! Because Christ has, once and for all, overcome Death, the enemy.

"How rich God is in mercy! With what an excess of love He loves us!""

"Month of the Dead"
By Dorothy Day
The Catholic Worker, November 1959

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Paradise Lost

Sigh. Another house deal hits the dust. Twice in one year. I'm right back to square one, again. I don't have much to write on the matter. "Wasn't meant to be," yes, thanks for reminding me of that AGAIN. But if it wasn't meant to be, what the hell are we meant for?! What are we doing wrong? What signs are we missing? I'd like to know so I could stop getting my hopes up over nothing. Perhaps I need to stop hoping? Maybe I need to admit the follies of the Worker Movement and distributism and just shift into happy suburban housewife mode. Oh, maybe I could even stick my kids in public school get my tubes tied and go back to work! Yea! Than we could have a really big house with a tiny chemically treated yard, three SUVs in the driveway and I could pay to have everything done for me! Whoop-de-doo! Living the American dream! Wouldn't that be the easy, painless way to go I wonder. But, I guess we know better and there's no going back, although going forward is damned near impossible. Pray that our way is revealed to us, that our path is made clear. If you know any houses with acreage for sale at a reasonable price near a nice Latin Mass/Parish/Community let me know as I am open to anything and anywhere at this point.
"I should know by this time that just because I feel that everything is useless and going to pieces and badly done and futile, it is not really that way at all. Everything is all right. It is in the hands of God. Let us abandon everything to Divine Providence."
House of Hospitality,
Chapter Six
By Dorothy Day

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Important reference point

Benedictus Deus hits the nail on the head. Please, check it out.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Roots in rich soil

I recently finished reading 'The Rural Solution; Modern Catholic Voices on Going "Back to the Land"' . It's a quick read at only 102 pages, but the seven essays each provide compelling arguments for a return to our agricultural roots. There are no dates provided, however the references to the forties date some of the "modern" voices. Despite this, it would be a great book to hand to someone to give them a basic idea of what the Catholic Land movement and distributism is about.
That said, I have one complaint, and it's not directed only at some of the writers of these articles; and that's the supposed need for fathers/husbands to have a job away from the home, "in the city or town" to make homesteading possible. This opinion seem especially appalling when you read in the same essays the horrible temptations of the city and the working world. We homeschool our kids to protect them, we keep off our TVs and read balanced media, we socialize with like minded Catholics, but we send our husbands and father's into the lion's den 'out of necessity' and expect them to be immune to the world? At what point did sending men away from their families become the only way to make a living? If you are reliant on a paycheck to buy all your needs and refuse to furnish any yourself from your land, then a 'city job' is the only option. If you're homesteading, sending the head of the family away for 8 to 10 hours a day hardly seems the smart thing to do unless you love working every possible hour. How can a man slave 40+ hours for a company and work the land to the level needed to sustain a large family? When does such a man get the chance to be a model for his children and a partner for his wife? He can't unless he wants to kill himself. Especially when you consider the average commute nowadays and the cost of gas. To find sizable, affordable land within a reasonable drive to a metropolitan area is almost impossible; it's been our goal for the last two years. The homestead IS the full time job. Worst case, the husband needs to find a part time job away from home but ideally, money to buy anything you can't raise or grow comes from something you sell (extra produce, eggs, honey, etc.) or a service (website design, graphic design, writing etc.) from your homestead. Modern society has come to accept the absence of the father from the home, and to an extent even the mother, but should Catholic agrarians accept this? Keeping the man at home with the family should be as much a goal as keeping mom home with the kids. The Internet makes home based businesses more possible than ever before. Or remember when families had the storefront and an apartment behind the counter or upstairs? These businesses will prosper, and the families behind them, when other like minded families spend their money inside. Such families would be the backbone of a successful Catholic community. The Amish excel at this model and their communities thrive, while Catholic communities are few and far between (and struggling at that.) What can we learn? So as we (and maybe you?) plan our move 'back to the land' consider the costs of keeping Dad at home.
"Now it might be argued-tendentiously-that the return to the land is something vouchsafed to a particular kind of Catholic; that it is a legitimate vocation, if a minority one. But is that really so? Granted that, in a period of immense societal decadence, it will be missionaries"possessed" by a vision, by a vocation, who will lead the return to the land and to sanity, it remains nonetheless the case that the call is made to the majority of Catholics- not to the mere enthusiastic few. Why? Because life on the Land gives the Faith roots in rich soil, whilst life in the City for the Faith is sterile an ultimately destructive of the Catholic Church."
Intro to 'The Rural Solution', pg 11

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Nothing else worth writing about

"I should be afraid to write about love, because I have seen the terrible things it can do to you, but I have set out upon the path and I cannot turn back now. Especially now when I begin to learn what it means, the height and the depth of it, the terror, the deep peace, the joy. No, there is nothing else worth writing about. What are all our lives about, what are we looking for, what do we want of each other? There is not one of us who has not gone thru the first stags of love and found them so enchanting that never in our lives can we go further. Always we want to stand in that first light, that first fullness of life and let it possess us utterly. And when love would take us on thru the darkness which is light-unutterable, we are blind and can go no further. We hold back.We clutch at our memory, our own understanding of love and refuse to be taught.
But we had better look out! There are two dangers. We either fall into a snare of pleasure-sink into the immanence of love or we presume, we fly to high-and in our confusion get lost in the transcendence of love...We pray for love. We get it, and it comes in strange forms and ways, and we are likely to pass it by in pride or find ourselves grasping phantoms.
There is no end to the folly of love. We had better not presume to ask for love. God may take us at our word. We will not know what is happening to us. If only we did not struggle. If only we did not make a move. We throw our own perverse wills into the balance and there are strange results in this search for love. You see it everywhere, on Broadway and 42nd St. Love, sex, pleasure, tenderness, fellowship, light, warmth, satiety-it is all so bound up together even on that low level. Or you might go still lower and find it in the teen-age gangs, the neighborhood clubs, the brothels, the lust for money, to get women, to get love.
It is sad-it is horrible, but it is not o be despised. Should we hate and judge our brothers-we who also want love? Even in the perversity, so openly spoken of today, there too is the search for love. When we search for love in creatures, when we turn from God to creatures instead of seeking God thru creatures, then all is perversity. There is not natural love, or unnatural love, not human sin, or inhuman sin, as people try to flatter themselves. "Me, I'm just human! I'm not a pervert."
We are all a perverse and stiffnecked generation. Oh, if God would only compel us to lie quiet, to know that underneath are the everlasting arms."

Undated mediation on love found in one of Day's notebooks
Related on page 363 of 'Dorothy Day, A Biography' by William D. Miller

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Under difficult circumstances

It always amazes me when I tell people I've started homeschooling and they say, "Oh, I'd love to homeschool my son/daughter but I just couldn't do it, I don't have the patience." Or when they learn I bake bread instead of buy it at the store or cook breakfast for my children in the morning instead of giving them cereal. The exclaim, aghast, "I don't know how you do it, I don't have time or patience for that."
I'm always at a loss for words because I have no patience, with my children, my husband, my parents, traffic, the stove; nothing. I usually stammer something about God giving me the strength to whatever it is I'm doing and then we change the subject.
I don't do anything special, especially when compared to the homeschooling mothers of 5, 9 or 12 children at my parish. My day would be called easy when compared to the daily grind of women 50 or 100 years ago. So why has my 'ordinary routine' become so uncommon and downright unusual to many modern women?
One hundred years ago, women had to bake, cook, sew and wash everything by hand. All school was homeschool unless you had a school you could walk to. All mothers did what I did and much more and no one praised them for their patience or extraordinary abilities. They did what was necessary to survive. What makes us different from previous generations? Certainly nothing genetic.
We often don't know what we are capable of until we are put in a tough spot. A friend didn't realize she could homeschool three children and watch a baby until the Catholic school she trusted started teaching new age garbage to her kindergartner. I realized a family of four could live in a third floor loft for two years when finances demanded it.
We live in a time with wonderful conveniences but with so many things, and 'professionals' to do things for us, we often feel we can't do things for ourselves. We have a choice to rely on others or ourselves and many times because of 'stress' or 'time constraints' we insist we 'need' to choose someone else. And then we wonder why we wind up with so much debt?
It's not that we can't do something, like homeschooling, it's that we won't. We don't take the bull by the horns and just go for it. And it's not lack of patience or time, it's a lack of faith in God. Showing up on Sunday, singing in the choir and teaching CCD are great but does it take a leap of faith do complete those tasks? Don't wait for difficult or uncomfortable circumstances. Take a difficult stand, make the choice to do the right thing not the easy thing and see if you don't rise to meet the occasion. Faith in God is the necessary ingredient for success. Just be sure to give credit where credit is due when someone complements you on achieving something they think is unattainable. Because only God's grace can keep you from screaming and crying, again, after dinner winds up on the floor and another art project jams your printer.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Our mission

"If we had a better social order we would not have so many destitute to care for. If we had better indoctrinated Catholics, we would not have so big a job to do, it would be spread out throughout the families and parishes." -DD

I feel the need to clarify. One of our goals is still to offer charity in typical Catholic Worker fashion, but charity is not the only aim of the Worker movement, though, it is the most well know. Day is remembered for her Houses of Hospitality, not her writing on distributism and the back to the land movement. Immediate needs for mercy and charity consumed Day but the long-range plan was always to encourage a movement back to the land, away from the city, the factories, the breadlines and day to day grind of the wage slave. Unfortunately, the need for Houses of Hospitality still exists. Society has yet to be convinced of the benefits of an agrarian or distributist system, one ideally rooted in Christ. The failures of our God-less, bureaucratic, welfare state are evident in any major city. Catholic Worker based charity is needed but so is the CW land movement. We (my family) are going back to the land as best we can; we are hoping to contribute to the long term solution. However, our work would be in vain if we did not find a way to share it, and our bounty, through charity. So don't think we're running away to the country to escape the 'hard work' faced by Workers in the Hospitality Houses. May God guide us in finding the balance between immediate needs and the long term program. Servant of God, Dorothy Day, pray for us.

"Peter Maurin talked much of men with a mission, and the need for men to have a sense of mission, that they were sent into this world to do some particular work. One of his little essays was about men with missions and about the women who followed the men who had the mission. I rejoiced in being a follower of Peter Maurin, and thanked God that he had been sent to me to direct my thoughts and writings.

His program certainly was simple enough. Round Table discussions for the clarification of thought, houses of hospitality for the works of mercy, agronomic universities to teach the workers to be scholars and the scholars to be workers. He called the latter "farming communities" also, and he was flexible enough to take in the single family on the land, and the growth of the community about it, and the idea of the village economy, and the southern agrarians and the decentralists, and the English distributists.

What Are We Accenting?

Not a month passes but some visitor comes to us who asks us gently if we have not given up emphasizing some one or another aspect of Peter's program. Didn't it used to be labor? one will say.

Peter thought more of agrarian labor than he did of industrial labor. He referred us to A.J. Penty and the Guildsmen's Interpretation of History and Means and Ends; Tawney's Religion and the Rise of Capitalism; Velblen's Theory of the Leisure Class and such books as David Hennessy lists in each C.W. He hated the machine unless it was the extension of the hand of man. He hated mass action and pressure groups and feared unions deteriorating into political action. He hated class war and wanted us to love the enemy, the capitalist and industrialist and munitions maker, even while trying to "put business out of business."

Didn't we spend more time on pacifism than on unemployment? Didn't we over-emphasize the works of mercy and under-emphasize the land? Didn't we exalt the idea of personal responsibility and the single apostolate and ignore the family and the community which begins with the family? Didn't we over-emphasize liturgy, or later, didn't we tend to neglect to emphasize liturgy?

And many a time, no matter what we talked about we were ridiculed. Either our readers were enthusiastic and read the CW from cover to cover, or they despised what we were writing because of their disagreement with one or another aspect of the work, and threw the paper to one side. Just yesterday there was a mixed letter, addressed to Ammon Hennacy. It is pretty typical.

Friend Hennacy: The enclosed five dollars is to continue my subscription to the Catholic Worker. Several times I have been about to suggest that you stop here whenever you pass nearby on your way to Arizona or back east. I would enjoy having you. There is always an empty room here, and even more empty space on the farm. We are about a hundred miles southwest of Kansas City. I have hesitated to get in touch with you as probably we don't have much in common. As a more or less successful farmer I am familiar with hard labor but for me it is happy labor. Twenty five years ago when I tried to get an education and taught a while, I didn't get much pleasure out of life. Now I hope you can forgive it-I even enjoy paying taxes! However, I am an independent sort of cuss myself and admire a man with the courage of his convictions, especially when they are of the sort that can be easily misunderstood by the ordinary public. I read everything in the Catholic Worker. I just like to suffer, I guess! And I have liked your experiences very much. Also some other articles like Bill Gauchat's article on farming a couple of years ago. He really hit the nail on the head. Some of the other references to farming have seemed ludicrous from out here in Kansas. Write me if you can. You have my best wishes in your work.

    • H. S.

Such a letter makes us feel that we have accented so many things that we misfire on practically all. Anyway, H. S. has a philosophy of work which Peter Maurin emphasizes and it is good to see someone getting joy out of their life on the land. We get too many letters of pessimistic gloom from back-to-the-landers, and one can only say that anyone who feels that way about it has missed his vocation. He wasn't cut out to be a farmer. He should find a trade, run a store, teach in a school, go in for village life rather than farm life. Caussade says that we know our vocation by our delight in it.

I feel that in our desire to stress the whole life of man, we fail to hammer in one or another point. As a paper, we take up so many issues. As individuals, we are prone to hammer away at our pet project and go single mindedly towards one aspect of the work.

Have We Failed?

I know that I will give much satisfaction to many of our fellow workers when I admit that we have failed and that on every front. We have failed to clarify thought and probably will till the end of our days. We have failed in running houses of hospitality, in that they are not indoctrination centers and places to teach "cult, culture and cultivation" as Peter wanted, and all out time is taken up with the immediate practice of the works of mercy there. We have failed in establishing farming groups, whether as agronomic universities, or farming communes of families. This is in spite of the fact that we have fourteen houses and eight farms around the country associated with The Catholic Worker, with these ideas, or some of them. The houses flourish in that there are always the indigent, the destitute, the poor to flock to our doors. There is plenty of obvious work being done and far more than enough to keep every hand and heart busy. But have we even begun to build the new social order that Peter envisioned?"

"Have We Failed Peter Maurin's Program?"
By Dorothy Day
The Catholic Worker, January 1954

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Putting it into operation

The purchasing of our house is going smoothly. I've become less interested in The Next Worker and more obsessed with working on the house and working the land. Since the purpose of my blog was to document my transition to a radical life, I wonder if living the agrarian lifestyle (or our best attempt at it) will complete that mission. I will no longer be in a state of flux; I will be a Catholic Worker, a title I would not have given myself up to this point.
The next phase requires not a new blog, but a whole new online identity. This is all still, 4 or more months down the road but our new goal (my husband's and mine) is to have a website devoted to the homestead, yet unnamed, and document our agrarian Worker lifestyle. Day mentioned many times the young families with 'a toehold on the land' who were eking out an existence. Some failed, some succeeded and their voices would be so valuable to us now. Thankfully, many new families are heading back to the land in one way or another and there are plenty of resources and people to talk to. Technology has brought the radicals together in an international online arena where stories can be shared, debated and left to inspire others.
Of course, the obvious difference between our website and other homesteaders wold be the emphasis on the Catholic Worker mission; the vision of Maurin and Day, and utter reliance not only on ourselves but the Church. It is our goal to live on the land, as Day envisioned and prove such a thing is possible for the modern family. Hopefully, we'll even benefit from it. Maybe someone else will too. So stay tuned for more developments. Blogging will be light as I read every book from my local library on chickens, root cellars and gardening.

Up To Catholics

1. Ralph Adams Cram says:
What I propose
is that Catholics
should take up
this back-to-the-land problem
and put it into operation.

2. Why Catholics?
Because they realize
more clearly than any others
the shortcomings
of the old capitalist
industrial system.

3. They, better than others,
see the threat
that impends.

4. They alone understand
that while the family
is the primary social unit,
the community comes next.

5. And there is
no sound
and righteous
and enduring community
where all its members
are not substantially
of one mind.

-Peter Maurin, Easy Essay

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Community Conference

"Last month there was a meeting of the Fellowship of Intentional Communities (Regional Branch) at Pendle Hill, Pennsylvania, at which Robert Steed and I were present. The other groups represented were the Glen Gardner Community, made up of Catholics and non-Catholics, the Society of Brothers, Hidden Spring, Gould Farm, Tanguay Homesteads and Pendle Hill itself, which is a community of study and so a very good place for the conference. The discussions were on sharing within the community, sharing between communities, and the relationship with the state and the "outside" world in general.

Emphasis was placed on the impossibility of any land movement today in the face of growing industrialism and centralization, without community as a way of living. The trouble with all the communities represented was that none of them have time or talent to report or write practical articles on what is going on -- finances, family relationships, relations with the state, so it is good to have these quarterly conferences to keep close contact with each other.
The Community of Brothers at Rifton have a magazine The Plough which can be obtained by writing to them at Rifton, New York. And we will try in succeeding issues to present more material on this movement which would have been dear to Peter Maurin's heart. there is an interesting chapter in Edmond Wilson's To the Finland Station on the growth of communities in the United States which he calls the great nursery for these experiments, from the time that Robert Owen came to America in 1824 and was helped by Horace Greely in the New York Tribune to propagandize his movement, which resulted in forty groups going out to build what they called phalansteries (including Brook Farm in its second aspect). Katherine Burton has written a very good book on Brook Farm, Paradise Planters, which can be obtained at any library.

The hardships of many of these early communities is dealt with in Part II, chapter 4 of Wilson's book, which is the briefest account available. Calverton and Morris Hillquit have also written books on the community movement in the United States.

The foundation of the Community of Brothers is a religious one and Tom Potts who represented them at the conference emphasized their basic desire for a church community rather than a community of families. But the fact remains that it is just as a community of families that their work in South America, England and the United States is so impressive. Recently they have united with one of the Hutterite communities in North Dakota, so there is constant emphasis on the dynamic quality of their witness. They have not only a deep religious sense, an emphasis on the importance of the interior life, but also an acceptance of voluntary poverty, hard work, discipline, a practical working out of that scene at the last supper, where Christ in washing the feet of his disciples, told them that as He had done, so were they to do likewise. I would love to see a community of Catholic families established near them, in either New York or North Dakota, so that they might learn from them some of these profound truths. The nearest beginning we have ever had to a community of families was at Upton, Massachusetts, where four families lived on St. Benedict's farm, and although the men worked individually and supported their families, there was community of land, and a great sharing in many ways with each other. This community has divided up the land, however, and now they are a community of neighbors. The same has happened at the Detroit farm at South Lyons, Michigan, and at the Holy Family Farm at Rhineland, Missouri. There have been many attempts at farming communes, beginning with Maryfarm at Easton, Pennsylvania, and spreading over the country, but there has been nothing we can point to as success. We can only say that we have lived, we have suffered, people have married, brought forth children and somehow have managed to keep going. But the suffering of it all is what stands out the most and with faith we may conclude that this dunging the ground, this ploughing the field, will eventually bring forth fruit. The vision of community is not yet clear, there are not yet those in The Catholic Worker movement who have the vision, or the time, the skill, the ability to work it out. Or even the spiritual foundation.

In the face of war and taxes, however, it still seems to me the only practical and workable method of getting away from the cities and to the land. The ever changing editorial staff of the Catholic Worker has had its hands too full with Houses of Hospitality and the issuing of the paper, meeting head on with the sufferings and anguish of the present day, to be able clearly to work out this aspect of the program of Peter Maurin. And it is true that faith in it has been lacking, the vision obscure. Given the people to carry it out, we are sure that God would send the means, as He always has to houses of hospitality. The fact remains that we have never been able to take the funds sent for the poor, to establish families on the land. What farms still remain are given to caring for the poor so that they too have become hospices on the land. Our farm at Pleasant Plains, Staten island, is a farm only, because Father Duffy, and now John Filliger concentrates on that aspect of it. The vision there is to raise as much as possible for the soup line in New York, besides providing those who live there with fresh vegetables and wholesome labor and to have days of recollection monthly and summer conferences and retreats.

The Glen Gardner community is built around an industry, a printing press, and though they have gardens and a cow, it cannot be said to be a farm. The Rifton community is materially building itself up around a toy industry, a factory where many of the men and women work in making blocks and other constructive and durable toys for children. What with an office force and salesmen who are also missionaries on the road, there is plenty of employment. Their difficulty is lack of housing. But there are already around 150 people there, with well-run kitchen, bakery, schoolroom, laundry, nursery, and so on. It is a joy to visit the place.

There was a good deal of talk at the conference about means of livelihood, from the raising of peanuts to the making of overalls and all the work that could be done between communities. But the conclusion that I reached after a day and a half of sessions was that we must deepen our own interior life and pray for understanding and that the dear Lord would send laborers into His harvest so that this work can grow.

The conference took place between blizzards on Friday and Sunday, though the proper promise of spring was before our eyes, with the children of Pendle Hill tapping the sugar maples for syrup."

"Community Conference"
By Dorothy Day

The Catholic Worker
, April 1956, 6.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Tradition; Past, Present and Future

This weekend I'm going to be here . Although, I've never been to the official Oktoberfest, this festival in my hometown is probably the closest I'll come to Munich in the near future. What I like about it is how family friendly the atmosphere is. Most Oktoberfests in the U.S. (or any ethnic festival where alcohol is served) can quickly become overrun with drunken people just out for a good time. At the Liederkranz festival, the focus is on the culture and the people. And the beer, while enjoyable, is in its proper place. The German influence is still strong in Lancaster, and those accompanying traditions and customs are passed down. There is no shortage of children in braids and liederhosen at this Oktoberfest.
When I picture the ideal Catholic community I want to raise my family in, I think not only of self-sufficiency, families lending one another a hand and communal prayer; I think of traditions and culture. I think of a time when all small villages had their own identity, clothing, customs, food and local dialect. Was it so long ago when acceptance was sought amongst your neighbors instead of comparing your lifestyle to those in the entertainment industry? The Jones' next door don't matter so much anymore as the Catherine Zeta-Jones'.
Most media outlets would lead you to believe the only two cities in the world worth inhabiting are NYC and LA. If you live anywhere else, you need to move, and the media tries its darndest to prove anyone 20 miles outside a city is an ignorant country hick. You need the fashions from the East Coast and the gossip from the West for a meaningful existence. If you absorbed all the media had to tell you about your hometown, whether they'd been there or not, you'd likely run screaming to the city.
We've stripped ourselves of any distinct cultural identity in an effort to assimilate into a mass-marketed culture devoid of any meaning or history. America is the great melting pot, but does that mean we can only display our Irish heritage in March and our German in September? And when is the last time you saw anyone publicly take pride in being an American? September 12, 2001? We take more pride in being "unique" and "an individual unencumbered by traditional values." We don't want to be linked to anything or anyone because "we think for ourselves." It's as if celebrating anything besides Gay Pride is offensive anymore.
Certainly, we can't live an exclusionary existence, totally removed from mainstream society. But we shouldn't allow all that is beautiful, innocent and unique to be discarded for a cheap, sexualized, generic society as a means to gain acceptance and approval.
If a tween today told her friends, "Sorry I can't go bump and grind with total strangers at the local teen club with you guys this weekend because I have to perform at the Liederkranz;" what would their response be? If even a twenty-something said he was going to the festival because he enjoys the schuplatller and not the beer, would the response be any different?
Tradition is not cool in today's society, and maybe it never is to teenagers, but mature adults should not be so quick to accept modern customs. They are as meaningful to pass on as an STD. The acceptance of true traditions are not forced down a persons, or populations, throats. They are loved, cherished and passed on carefully so as to maintain the crucial link to the past and the memory of those gone before. Children may reject them at some point, but in maturity turn to them in comfort and embrace them joyfully. I do believe the Amish and many Mennonites exhibit these characteristics.
A community where children are formed with solid Catholic teachings, traditions and local customs is where I want to settle; living in the world, but not of it. Where my children can enjoy the benefits of living in a free country and all it's abundance but not be corrupted by it. Where a small town life still exists, neighbors still look out for one another and everyone attends the local firehouse ham dinner, Memorial Day observance and parades joyfully through the streets behind the Blessed Sacrament.

A New Home At Last?

Your prayers please as we prepare to sign another sales contract. We're excited about this house and we don't anticipate the same problems we faced before. It should be smooth sailing but a couple hollers to St. Joseph couldn't hurt. Many thanks in advance.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

A Price to Pay for Such Beauty

"Within a radius of a mile, there are four or five farms for rent either for five or ten dollars a month. The houses can be lived in, and if one owned them (the price range is from two to three thousand), repairs could be done little by little. The ground is good bottomland. There are streams for fishing, and there is hunting. There are pines and black walnut and locust on the gentle hills, and there is pulpwood to be cut for selling and plenty of wood for the fires in winter. Taxes are low, and there are no gas or electric bills. But, and here is the rub, the nearest town, of 1,500 inhabitants, is twelve miles away with its church and schools and hospital. The larger towns of Martinsburgh and Winchester are each about thirty miles away. But it's surprising how much company one has, how neighborly people are. And the joy for the children in such surroundings! But there is a price to pay for all this beauty, and that price a willingness to accept the poverty of the people on the land. Old houses, oil lamps, wood heat, water to be carried in pails, the tattletale gray of clothes so washed, and the quiet, the solitude of life with neither radio, newspaper, nor telephone, . . . where the daily mail becomes the event of the day.

People are more afraid of such a life than they are of the atom bomb! And so Peter talked of agronomic universities, farming communes, so that people could go in groups, and in groups hold each other up. Man is not made to live alone; he is a social being. So where there is a crowd, they flock together. Peter used to say, "They are not communitarian; they are gregarious."

Let us hope that Maryfarm at Newburgh will give a taste for the simplicity of life on the land and the courage to face it, and that other Maryfarms throughout the country will be performing the same function. A place to make retreats, to learn to meditate, to think in the heart, "to be quiet and see that I am God," a place to learn to work, and a place to go from, as apostles, and make a life for the family."

On Pilgrimage,
July - August
By Dorothy Day

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

New Blog Worth Reading

Please check out the newest blog addition, Take the Poor With You. Someone else is seeking to strike a balance between service to others and service to her family. Sacrifice is not always a black and white issue. Check out Tienne's unique perspective.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Where it is easy to be good

After a wonderful baptism yesterday, conversations with some of my friends turned to moving from Jersey. My husband and I are not the only ones considering an escape to the country and I'm not always sure in these conversations who is trying to convince who to move where. But I have one close friend my husband and I are always talking to who can't seem to grasp the concept. I mentioned to him about maybe fleeing to Kansas and would he join us and he made the comment that he didn't want to leave behind his good salary and his 12 weeks of vacation. (He's a public school teacher.) I said, (to paraphrase because I'm probably remembering myself as being more articulate than I was), "If you would sell your home here, you could buy a small home outright in Kansas and have no mortgage. And if you live where costs and taxes and lower and you grow or raise the majority of your own food, you don't need that salary. Imagine covering expenses by just being a substitute teacher." He had his concerns about the hard work of farming but I told him I'd rather work for myself and provide for my family than spend hours slaving away for someone else. Besides, ideally in a community we'd all help each other. I also made the point that living in Jersey can be a hindrance to a deep spiritual life because the effort (and stress) spent earning money to pay for the taxes, housing, and over priced necessities takes away from time we could be spending with our families or in prayer. In addition, we're surrounded by an overwhelming amount of worldly distractions; malls, shopping centers, designer cars, McMansions, etc. It's easier to do good and to be good in an area with less distractions. It's amazing what you learn to live without, what you learn you never needed to begin with, when it's not a quick drive from your house.
He did pause in thought for a moment or so, but I don't think I completely converted him this time. It's not about who's right or wrong, it's just trying to get people to think in new ways about how to live, one conversation at a time.
"A philosophy of work is essential if we would be whole men, holy men, healthy men, joyous men. A certain amount of goods is necessary for a man to lead a good life, and we have to make that kind of society where it is easier for men to be good. [snip]
A philosophy of work and a philosophy of poverty are necessary if we would share with all men what we have, if we would each try to be the least, if we would wash the feet of our brothers."
"On Pilgrimage - May 1948"
By Dorothy Day
The Catholic Worker, May 1948.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

One Year Later...

"May 2. Although the Communists and socialists had their hundreds of thousands out in the streets yesterday, we feel that the CATHOLIC WORKER made its presence felt, too. Fifteen or more high school and college students, from Manhattan, Fordham, St. John's College, Cathedral College and from City College, distributed papers and leaflets In the streets all afternoon and in the evening up around Columbus Circle and Madison Square Garden.

The man who was selling the I.W.W. paper in Madison Square came up to get a copy from me and said, "I was a Catholic myself once -- I'd like to see your paper,"' and people of all nationalities were anxious to get it.

One young woman came in this morning who said she had seen a copy in the square and wanted to find out about the House of Hospitality. She had been living down on the Bowery, paying 25¢ a night for a bed and, now her money was all gone and she had no place to go. She was telling me about her friend, who was also down and out, who went to take a room, or a bed up in Harlem, was seduced by a young Spanish American, and threw herself under a subway train a week later.

Her lips were trembling as she talked (it was only eight-thirty in the morning), so I invited her out to have a cup of coffee.

* * *

Last week a colored woman who has been staying up at the Municipal Lodging House came in for a bite to eat. She looked in need of a shelter where she could stay in bed and rest for a few days instead of having to walk the streets from morning to night as the guests of the lodging house have to do.

So that evening I went up to talk to the girls at the Teresa Joseph co-operative to see if it would be all right with them to invite Mary to stay up there. After all, I did not want to run the risk of submitting her to insult on account of her skin -- nor did I expect too much of the girls in the way of freedom from race prejudice, since I know very well that Catholics of means and better education are not free themselves from it.

I talked to the girls, reminding them how our Lord washed the feet of his disciples the night before he suffered and died for us, and told them how we all should serve each other, whether we are white, black or yellow. The girls were perfectly happy to welcome the new guest, and it was like a special birthday present for the paper to find this continuing of the co-operative spirit among them.

Mary took the paper up to Harlem to distribute for us yesterday, and all the other girls up at the house went to Mass or Communion to offer it up for our special May Day work. Margaret, despite her condition, for she is expecting a baby in six weeks, went on the subways yesterday, passing out papers from Times Square to Astoria and from Manhattan to Brooklyn. I was much touched and grateful at the help they all gave us.

An old Irishman of 73 came in this morning for his copies of the paper. He lives down In the Bowery and has a thirty dollar a month pension, from which he insisted on giving us a dollar. He also takes twenty-five copies of the paper to send out to his friends, and every morning at Mass, he says, he prays for us.

* * *

A few weeks ago I went over to St. Zita's to see a sister there and the woman who answered the door took it for granted that I came to beg for shelter. The same morning I dropped into the armory or Fourteenth street, where lunches are being served to unemployed women, and there they again motioned me into the waiting room, thinking that I had come for food. These incidents are significant. After all my heels are not run down -- my clothes were neat -- I am [missing text] girls, and women, who to the average eye, look as though they came from comfortable surroundings are really homeless and destitute.

You see them in the waiting rooms of all the department stores. To all appearances they are waiting to meet their friends, to go on a shopping tour -- to a matinee, or to a nicely served lunch in the store restaurant. But in reality they are looking for work (you can see the worn newspapers they leave behind with the help wanted page well thumbed), and they have no place to go, no place to rest but in these public places -- and no good hot lunch to look forward to. The stores are thronged with women buying dainty underwear which they could easily do without -- compacts for a dollar, when the cosmetics in the five-and-ten are just as good -- and mingling with these protected women and often indistinguishable from them, are these sad ones, these desolate ones, with no homes, no jobs, and never enough food in their stomachs.

"I often wonder what God thinks of the scribes and orators who thunder terrors at poor women for their desperate attempts at contraception and never have a word to say to the Bank of England and the Treasury which have so obviously chosen birth-restriction as the solution for unemployment and are enforcing this policy on the poor by every means in their power. . . . Indeed, our domination by money lenders is nowhere so disastrous, as in the sphere of marriage and family life. The right to marry is a human right like the right to breathe and eat -- equally the right to bring up a family. The family is the basic social unit, ordained as such by God Himself. Economic systems must be arranged to suit the family, and not the family to economic conditions. When Leo XIII demanded the living wage it was the family wage he meant. All this is ordinary Catholic teaching. For bringing up a family the first requisite is evidently an income. Under the savage economics of the past two years the children of the unemployed have been allowed two shillings per week."

(Fr. Drinkwater in the Sower, a journal of Catholic education.)"

"Day by Day - June 1934"
By Dorothy Day
The Catholic Worker, June 1934

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Failure, the future and perserverance

As The Next Worker prepares to turn one, I've been going through early entries and replaying in my mind all the reasons I started this blog. I wanted to document my journey down the path less travelled and capture in words my new life as a Worker. I started with pretty high hopes. And while I wouldn't say I'm discouraged by my lack of progress, I've come to realize how hard it is to leave the comforts and security of suburbia for a radical life. Even creating a plan to get from here to there has been hard. On a 1 to 10 scale of impulsiveness, my husband and I are probably a 6 or 7. However, how impulsive can you be with three small children under 5? Do you haul them all to downtown Camden to feed the poor? Do you move them hundreds of miles from friends and family to set up a homestead on affordable land? Part of me says, "Go for it, let's follow this through hard core! Let's buy and RV, traveling the country and stopping at Worker Houses and farms from coast to coast!" And then a voice says (is it my conscience?) "But if I'm wrong, what lasting negative impact will I leave with my kids?" My husband's long hours at work and the little bit of homeschooling I do, consume so much time I feel we haven't even made baby steps in our charity towards others. It's still something we're planning for, something in the future we can barely wrap our heads around. If it's this hard for us, a family with a goal of become agrarian Workers, how hard will it be for us to change society at large; to even convince friends of ours to come along on our journey? We're working against such a larger system. I sometimes wonder if we'll ever reach our goals or if we'll be stuck here forever reading books, writing fiery articles and bitterly sipping Starbucks.
But a year is only a year. And since last August I've become much more familiar with Day, distibutism and the back to the land movement. While my faith is nothing to boast about, it keeps me going and never once have I doubted the truth of my mission here. In fact I am usually encouraged by what I do read (encyclicals, articles, Church documents, etc.) Through the Internet I've developed a circle of blog acquaintances struggling along the same path, trying to fit their square pegs in the world's round holes. We're doing the best we can with what we have here and now and that's nothing to scoff at.
So my goals for the coming year are more realistic, maybe? If one can be realistic and radical at the same time. Best case, we have a small homestead and my husband goes down to part-time: worst case, we're still in an apartment and my husband is working overtime. Obviously, with the first case, the added time will allow us opportunities to garden, volunteer and write. Time will tell. Just finding affordable housing in Jersey with enough land to garden will be a miracle. I hope the last year has made you wiser with more wisdom, and grace, in the year to come for us all.
"About all the above failures, I must say that I am not much concerned. I think that such failures are inseparable to a work of this kind, and necessary for our growth in holiness. Such failure, for those of us who have dedicated our lives to this work, is our cross. As a matter of fact, our failure is so continuous that we never think of it, we just go on working, without judging ourselves, as St. Paul tells us to. We can list our accomplishments as glorious examples of God's providence, and of our faith in it. We grow in faith in it and in our very persistence, we are growing in hope and charity. God grant that we persevere." [snip]
"But in this happy season, and even while writing of failure, I am filled with a sense of great joy that God has entrusted to us a mission, that we have been given a work to do. In twenty years we seem to have accomplished little. The same long breadlines continue at our houses. Throughout the land many a Catholic Worker family struggles and seems to get nowhere. But meanwhile the children are born, and are fed and launched into life with a more vital sense, let us pray, of God and their place in the body of Christ."

By Dorothy Day
"Have We Failed Peter Maurin's Program?"
The Catholic Worker, January 1954

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Beatific Vision

"Sex is a profound force, having to do with life, the forces of creation which make man god-like. He shares in the power of the Creator, and, when sex is treated lightly, as a means of pleasure, I can only consider that woman is used as a plaything, not as a person. When sex is so used it takes on the quality of the demonic, and to descend into this blackness is to have a foretaste of hell, "where no order is, but everlasting horror dwelleth." (Job x.22) Aldous Huxley has given us a glimpse of this hell in "After Many a Summer dies in the Swan," showing the sexual instinct running riot like cancer cells through the body, degenerating into sadism and torture and unspeakable violence. I speak in extreme terms I admit. But long before I was a Catholic I felt how prevalent was the demi-vierge attitude. I certainly felt that the teaching of Jesus, "He who looks with lust after a woman has already committed adultery in his heart." There is no such thing as seeing how far one can go without being caught, or how far one can go without committing mortal sin.

On the other hand, the act of sex in its right order in the love life of the individual has been used in Old and New Testament as the symbol of the love between God and Man. Sexual love in its intensity makes all things new and one sees the other as God sees him. And this is not illusion. In those joyful days when one is purified by this single heartedness, this purity of vision, one truly sees the essence of the other, and this mating of flesh and spirit, the whole man and the whole woman, is the only way we know what the term "beatific vision" means. It is the foretaste we have of heaven and all other joys of the natural world are intensified by it, hearing, seeing, knowing."

"On Pilgrimage - September 1963"
By Dorothy Day
The Catholic Worker, September 1963

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Back for good

Would you believe I was away again? Family trip to the shores of Lake Ontario in Upstate New York plus an overnight train ride to Chicago. A nice trip overall but very exhausting.
Sorry to leave you with so little reading material. Now that September is inching closer I can start thinking about the fall routine and hopefully pencil blogging into my planner more regularily. My travels have given me ample ideas for posts and the 1st birthday of The Next Worker is just around the corner as well. Methinks it a good time to examine my mission and see what a year's worth of posts has done for me.
So stay tuned, things will be picking up again!
"The next day was the feast of the Assumption, which always reminds me of that saying of St. Augustine's "The flesh of Jesus is the flesh of Mary," and emphasizes to me the dignity of her humanity, just as the feast of the Sacred Heart emphasizes the love of God for man. The feast of the Assumption together with the doctrine of the resurrection of the body makes heaven real, and goodness knows we need to grow in faith and in hope of heaven in this perilous life which we nevertheless so treasure and cling to."
"On Pilgrimage - September 1961"
By Dorothy Day
The Catholic Worker, September 1961

Monday, July 30, 2007

Pedaling Forward

I'm back from another week at the beach. Constant sand in my shoes, (and diaper bag) are some of the perks of living in South Jersey. I've never gone through so much sunscreen as I have this month.
Bike travel is popular in Ocean City, although renting a bike for a morning jaunt on the boards is as overpriced as anything else in town. I often think how nice it would be to have the option to bike everywhere. Stores, family visits, church; only a pedal away. In our town they have bike paths on the sides of some roads and through out the state I see signs to "Share the Road."
Ideally, bikes would be a viable option for the average Joe. We cut down on emissions and gas consumption, get exercise and avoid the hassles of car ownership. However, realistically, today's world is very bike unfriendly. Suburbia was not designed with the two wheeling commuter in mind. On our way to church, our van approached a family on bike. They filled the lane, disobeyed traffic signals and otherwise annoyed motorists who tried to squeeze around them without hitting oncoming traffic in the small town we were passing through (already congested with construction cones.) Our roads are designed for cars and although I try to be charitable, these streets are not made for sharing. Which is a shame for all the above mentioned benefits. Those few who do try to take advantage of pedal power are at great risk for injury (or death.) Nothing will change because more of us can't switch to using bikes as our primary form of transportation because our lifestyle won't allow it. How many live within biking distance to our jobs? How many of us want to bike in the rain to an appointment in our designer clothes with a helmet smashed on our coif? Where will our $300 in weekly groceries fit? That tiny basket in front? And most of us just couldn't stand the blow to our egos if we had to part with our luxury vehicles for a Huffy. So, we'll pump money into the roadways via taxes, which fuels the construction that clogs the commuter arteries, which feeds the anger and frustration of road rage which leads to accidents and violence...and so on. Who is willing to go simpler and smaller and live closer?
If you visit an old small town, everything is in walking or biking distance and most properties (save for a few downtown locals) have enough of a yard for a garden or a game of catch. People didn't need cars to go to the store or visit with friends so roadways were less jammed and safer for kids on their bikes heading to the park. Maybe you even had the neighborhood trolley or bus. The communities I'm talking about are too small for subways or major public transportation. Now these communities are surrounded by sprawl and their roadways are packed to capacity during normal daylight hours. Most stores have moved out to strip malls and have been replaced with specialty boutiques, pizza shops, bars, etc. if the town is lucky. How many small towns so you know are struggling to "revitalize?"
So it's a kind of a catch-22; cars and an expansive road system allow us to spread out and see the world, however, cars and an expansive road system spread out the *community* to encompass a larger area and so many aspects of the community and the principles of subsidiarity are pollution, gas prices, yada, yada.
How we can move from a sprawled, cookie cutter development, copycat strip mall society to smaller, localized neighborhoods I don't know. But secretly, I hope rising gas prices will force us to stay closer to home. What will we decide; work from home, bike down the street or work two jobs to pay for gas for our daily commute? Only time will tell.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The New Distributist League

Well, I guess if you blog long enough and don't totally suck, someone will eventually ask you to write for their blog. I'm just lucky that I was asked by none other than Athanasius to contribute to The New Distributist League. As I do here, I will be passing along the teachings of Dorothy Day and hopefully clearing up some misunderstandings about her message along the way. Her writings on Distributism and the Church's ethic of work provide a breath of fresh air amongst our suffocating capitalist culture. You will recognize other contributors Roy F. Moore from The Distributist Review, Gen Ferrer from The ChesterBelloc Mandate and Leo from A Voice Crying in the Wilderness. Hope I can keep up with these guys. No promises on when the first post will be but hopefully within 48 hours. Be sure to swing by before then to check out the great stuff already up.

"No one should bear the burden of their behavior"

Charlotte over at IWF has a great article. Check it out.

Friday, July 20, 2007

In the face of a scorning world

"In our eulogies of poverty which we have printed again and again in The Catholic Worker, one of which is running in this issue of the paper, we write with the recognition that we stand as Americans, representing in the eyes of the world the richest nation on earth. What does it matter that we live with the poor, with those of the skid rows, and that those in our other houses throughout the country are living with poverty which is so great a scandal in a land of plenty. We know that we can never attain to the poverty of the destitute around us. We awake with it in our ears in the morning, listening to the bread line forming under our window, and we see it lined up even on such a day as the gale of last Saturday when glass and tin and bricks were flying down the street.

The only way we can make up for it is by giving of our time, our strength, our cheerfulness, our loving kindness, our gentleness to all. We have to overcome our Leon Bloy tendencies to bitterness and recrimination.

Let us pray that we do not hear our Lord call out to us, "Woe unto you rich!" "Woe unto you who judge!"

What are we to do? Young men in the draft age feel caught and torn in their humility and in their desire to share the sufferings of others, and in their very real desire to fight the gigantic evils of this world under what ever name they are called. Some of them are having the grace to resist, to oppose the draft, to oppose participation in fruitless slaughter. But if they do it with pride, with condemnation of others, with bitterness, then their stand is questionable also. It is true they will suffer with bitterness, and even the little Flower herself said that bitterness was a part of suffering that made it harder. If they are jailed there are plenty of opportunities for the works of mercy in jail among the poor there. They will be even more on the side of the poor.

If they obey the call as we have seen quite a number go, against their convictions, let us pray that they have opportunity to minister to the suffering. There is no due deliberation and full consent of the will in wartime, but a blind instinct for self preservation. We can make no judgements on the armies involved, but on war itself, the means used of atomic warfare, obliteration bombing, the ever increasing use of destruction to wipe out ideas, philosophies. We can quote Ezekiel who wrote "Woe to the Shepherds who do not feed their sheep the gospel of peace."

It grows ever harder to talk of love in the face of a scorning world. We have not begun to learn the meaning of love, the strength of it, the joy of it. And I am afraid we are not going to learn it from reading the daily papers or considering the struggles that are taking place on the other side of the world and in the United Nations halls here at home."

"The Message of Love"
By Dorothy Day
The Catholic Worker, December 1950, 1, 2.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Cleaning up the house

I hope in my brief absence you've all had the chance to read Summorum Pontificum and the CDF's recent release. I sipped champagne and Chartreuse in celebration on the 7th and then retreated to the shore, ignoring all ignorant media coverage for a whole week. Why ruin a good thing? A 40 year detour into the desert is coming to an end and I can only hope the radical changes so quickly accepted through the last 40 years will be as easily forgotten.
The notion of rebellion seems to figure into much of popular culture. Children outsmart their clueless and uptight parents in sitcoms, women wear revealing clothes to (somehow) liberate themselves from our male dominated culture and gay couples press for equal marriage acceptance against all known cultural and societal norms.
Many in the Church seemed to take the Second Vatican counsel as an opportunity to act out and push the limits; like a teenager whose parents went away for the weekend. Who wouldn't hold a party? Now it's up to the JPII generation and B16 to clean up the mess and straighten up the house. If you want to rebel, and do something different, join in the effort. Children, respect your parents and parents, don't get walked on by your children. And for heavens sake, get them to an extraordinary mass. Ladies, cover yourselves, dress modestly. Who's really shocked by anything that comes off the runways nowadays? Wear a long skirt everyday this week and you'll turn more heads than with any mini. If you experience same sex attraction, live a chaste life. That is rebellion. Don't indulge in every desire and perversion because our society is so morally depraved they say it's okay. It's not. Self control, deprivation and chastity will raise more eyebrows than another gay pride rally. To fit into current society you *must* rebel against all that is good and true. Today, piercing your lip and dying your hair is not as shocking as living an authentic Catholic life. I, for one, am ready to rebel against the culture and against the relativism that has invaded the Church. Turn off the TV, break out the ankle length skirts and mantillas and let the good times roll.

"In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Friday, July 06, 2007

To be a Worker like Day, tradition is the only way

This blog fills a small niche in that not only am I writing about the Catholic Worker Movement, it's issues and it's founder Dorothy Day, I am also of the "traditional" persuasion. Usually, the the two are viewed as mutually exclusive. I hate that I have to identify myself as 'trad' or even 'practicing' because to me, it should be enough to say Catholic. Would it be too much to have universal beliefs held by all? But, alas, current divisions in the Church require me to identify my allegiances, confusing as they might be to some. Thankfully, I'm not alone with my split personality. Perhaps the best mix of 'trad' and rad is found in Day herself. Her love for the poor was driven by her love of Jesus, and His Church on Earth. Her daily routine included helping the poor, yet she made time to read the bible, attend Mass, attend retreats, study the saints and meditate over her missal. Can you still find her faith today amongst most Catholic Workers? Can you still find such faith amongst most Catholics? Where has all the love, devotion and reverence gone? Why do so many from the inside try to change the Church and the message Jesus sent rather than obediently serve Him? The key to the renewal is the Mass. The Mass that nurtured Day was the Tridentine Latin Mass. She wasn't holding hands, clapping, singing pop tunes and chatting it up with the Jones before and after Mass while our Lord sat ignored in a tabernacle off to the side in some dim chapel. The Mass is the summit of our faith. When we treat It like a social gathering and consider our Lord to be some hippie who loves everyone no matter what, we make a mockery of almost two thousand years of tradition. And for what? Why bother? What's the point? With the misinterpretations and abuses that came out of the Second Vatican Council we've distorted everything that nurtured people like Day and centuries of saints before her. When you put God in His proper place, as in the Tridentine Mass, your life finds immediate direction. The Mass represents the ultimate sacrifice, and your life should be a sacrifice. The Novus Ordo has become about accommodating and giving everyone what they want to hear. The fruits of such an approach are apparent. If Tridentine was good enough for Day, it's good enough for me. The Next Worker welcomes Summorom Pontificum and hopes the feeling is universal.

"This is probably my last chance, this issue of the Catholic Worker for me personally to write about some things that are in my heart about the Mass, for instance, that holy sacrifice, which is the heart of our life, bringing us into the closest of all contacts with our Lord Jesus Christ, enabling us literally to "put on Christ," as St. Paul said, and to begin to say with him, "Now, not I live, but Jesus Christ in me." With a strong consciousness of this, we remember too those lines, "without Me, ye can do nothing," and "with Me you can do all things."

The New Man

We know through long experience how hard it is to think in these terms, and only through constant exercise in the works of love and peace, can we grow in faith, hope and charity. Only by nourishing ourselves as we have been bidden to do by Christ, by eating His body and drinking His blood, can we become Christ and put on the new man.

These are great mysteries. Most of the time we do not comprehend at all. Sometimes the Holy Spirit blows upon us and chases some of the fog away and we see a bit more clearly. But most of the time we see through a glass darkly. Our need to worship, to praise, to give thanksgiving, makes us return to the Mass daily, as the only fitting worship which we can offer to God. Having received our God in the consecrated bread and wine, which still to sense is bread and wine, it is now not we ourselves who do these things except by virtue of the fact that we will to do them, and put ourselves in the position to do them by coming to the Holy Sacrifice, receiving communion, and then with Christ in our hearts and literally within us in the bread we have received, giving this praise, honor and glory and thanksgiving.

How inadequate words are to say these things, to write them. [snip]
But the Mass begins our day, it is our food and drink, our delight, our refreshment, our courage, our light. [snip]

With this recognition of the importance of the Word made flesh and dwelling among us, still with us in the bread and wine of the altar, how can any priest tear through the mass as though it were a repetitious duty? This is the impression they give people when they do this, like the children at Fatima who used to say only Hail Mary, or Our Father, and think they had said their prayers, and perhaps they had if they realized the holiness of these words. The priest often says the first words and slides through the rest in meaningless mutter. And some of the best priests I have met do this, abusing the prayers of the Mass in this way.

I am begging them not to. I am begging them to speak as though the words were holy and inspired and with power in themselves to produce in us the understanding--the participation that should change our lives."

"The Council And The Mass"
By Dorothy Day
The Catholic Worker, September 1962, 2

Monday, July 02, 2007

Warning! Journalism ahead.

"I shouldn't care what people think or say. It's just the fact that everyone knows I'm the kid. It was bigger than Houston. It was bigger than Texas. It was bigger than America. Everybody in the world knew what had happened and everybody knew the details of it."
-David Ritcheson

I can always depress myself by reading headlines. I came across this story and was reminded once again on how much today's media fails us. Here's a young man who was made a victim, not once, but twice. First by the deviant actions of some classmates and second by a media hell bent on exposing every disturbing detail of the crime to the world at large in the hopes of scoring more viewers and readers. This is a disturbing trend. Not only do we have to worry about excessive sex and violence in our movies, video games, websites and TV shows (many of it fictional, and grossly exaggerated) ; we have to be weary when reading the headlines and watching the news with our families after dinner. No longer is the journalist concerned with passing along information, he or she seeks to expose the gritty details better left unsaid. We've moved beyond the "if it bleeds it leads" motto which allowed us to show a twisted wreck of a car on the news to showing bodies in sheets, detailed descriptions of injuries and in depth interviews with grief stricken families. And don't think for a minute, these newsmen give a damn about what they're covering. Maybe I'm a skeptic or maybe I'm just ignorant of how things have always worked. I know it's not entirely recent; I've got a book of Weegee prints. But when did graphic depictions of sex and violence become newsworthy at even the highest levels, beyond the cheesy tabloid? This young man was attacked. Do we need to say how? Does everyone need the details? Why do people in Maine need to know about this party in Texas? What does that sensationalism do besides contribute to the desensitization of sane people and over-stimulation of the rest? Is it just me or does it seem like every abduction, party gone bad, or hazing ritual now involves sexual assault-all of which is given in detail on the 6 p.m. news for junior to hear. Where are these misfits getting the ideas for these attacks? Does the news normalize this violence? I don't know, but it does make it seem common. I would never suggest restricting freedom of speech. But what steps must be taken to stop people from consuming such media filth? I'd like to think that as decent people, we are abhorred by perverse and violent behavior and would do everything to prohibit it's spread. However, when one continues to consume violent and overtly sexual movies, TV shows, video games and support media outlets who profit from proudly detailing events *stranger than fiction* I see no end in sight. It wears us down and chips away at our morality when exposed to this trash day in and day out. What would have made our grandparents blush, is commonplace for most Saturday morning cartoons. The media believes this is what we want and they are ruthless in their hunt for the most private, personal and ultimately painful memories and details of *the story.* What control did David Ritcheson have over the media frenzy around his story? What control does any deceased victim of violence, or their family, have over the flashbulbs and microphones if their tale has been dubbed newsworthy? Yes, the attention may also bring forth prayers, donations, community support but that is not reason the story is being told over the airwaves and survivors are foolish is they believe so. If we truly want relevant news that affect us instead of frighten, educate instead of brainwash, we need to be selective in our media choices and more than likely, we need to limit our exposure. There is good journalism, and good journalists, we just need to find and encourage them. St. Frances de Sales, pray for us!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The right ordering of work

"It is natural that the worker should seek an increase of wages and shorter hours. There is no longer any relationship between their work and themselves, other than that of its being a marketable commodity, to be governed by the same laws as govern other commodities. Such work is a curse and the only hope of the worker, of the country, is that the periodical revolt for higher wages and shorter hours will be diverted into what should be its real end, a demand for a return to the right ordering of work in accordance with the nature of man. The greatest of all dangers is that men shall accept this state of things and consent to their complete degradation, for the spiritual outlook was crushed out in the early days of the [industrial] revolution. The great strides made in the perfecting of the system, the enormous extension of the use of machinery and the greater efficiency of the same, the blind acceptance of the system by the people generally as being inevitable, and greatest of all, the physical comforts made possible at the price of his soul, all combine to make it very difficult for the workman to visualize a state of things more in accordance with the dignity of labour."

George Maxwell
From his essay, "The Reconstruction of the Crafts"
which was Chapter IX in the book, 'Flee to the Fields, The Founding Papers of the Catholic Land Movement'
Originally published in 1934, currently available through IHS Press

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Where it is easier to be good...

"A thousand years are as one day" in the history of the Church, so of course the Church has not gotten very far in the solving of this problem which started with Constantine. Actually if the State, City, and the whole secular world with its "inspector generals" and bureaucracies did not demand our conformity to such insane standards of luxury, Holy Mother the Church would not have to be pleading for funds for schools, and books, and buses, and health and welfare aids. (As St. Hilary wrote a thousand, (or a few days) ago, "The less we ask of Caesar, the less we will have to render to Caesar." This was his commentary on Jesus' words--"Render to Caesar the things of Caesar and to God the things of God.")

How good it would be to see the Church closer and closer to poverty and the poor; little schools set up on every block, in idle rooms, in empty buildings, with the students themselves helping repair them and getting meanwhile some sense of the joy of manual labor (and the pains of it, too). And idle Church-owned lands given over to the disorderly poor, the unworthy poor, to build up little villages of huts, tepees, log cabins, yes, even outhouses. Which might come to resemble (if a Church of sorts were built in the center) an ancient Irish monastery. Ireland used to be called the land of Saints and Scholars.

Actually, we see some of these attempts today in "communes" all over the country and among the dreamers, the "freaked out." Even the shacks of the farm workers on the lands of the growers could be made into a community of common purpose--"to make the kind of society where it is easier to be good."

Overcoming our enemies is slow work indeed. Loving our enemies is commanded of us by Christ. And I can lie here on my couch on a snowy January afternoon and dream dreams, and write this letter to our readers. But of course our greatest enemy is ourselves, our lethargy, our neglect of those most powerful means--prayer and fasting (and the sacraments)."

"On Pilgrimage - January 1973"
By Dorothy Day
The Catholic Worker, January 1973, 2, 6.

The Middle ground

My husband and I have been having many discussions of the importance of community. More specifically, a Catholic community of friends to stay close to when all the temptations of the world seem to be creeping in. We talk with friends about starting a community off some where in the hills away from the barrage of sexual stimulation and consumerism that runs unchecked through mainstream society. Most think of such things as pipe dreams or fantasies. I read of earlier attempts at a Catholic Land movement or Catholic 'communes' and see their strong points and their failings. My question is, how far away does one have to be to insulate themselves from the unholy distractions of the modern world but yet stay close to those who most need our charity and our example? My greatest concern is for the souls of myself, my husband and our children. It would be so easy in one sense to pack up and move away and cloister ourselves away in a cabin somewhere; but should concern for our own eternal salvation keep us from leading others to Christ through our work? Are we selfish for wanting to avoid temptation? Is it wrong to avoid helping others for fear of leading one's soul or the soul of a child astray? But perhaps, I'm worrying about nothing. If our intentions lie in helping others, wouldn't He protect the innocence of our children along the way? Is their a *safe* charity that does real good? There is also the argument that we do our children a disservice by shipping them off somewhere and living in an exclusive Catholic community or commune (although I dislike that word.) After seeking out a community I would be devastated if my children left the faith, because it has happened in the past. So I guess I could screw up either way. Can you see my dilemma? We're looking for the safe middle ground and I guess, it doesn't exist. For now, I pray for guidance and strength and always for my children.