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Wednesday, May 30, 2007


I'm heading away for another family visit butt I wanted to put up a quick post on the whole Cindy Sheehan thing. I've avoided mentioning her in the past but some comments she made in an AP story actually reminded me of the Pro-Life movement.

"I have tried every (day) since he died to make his sacrifice meaningful. Casey died for a country which cares more about who will be the next American Idol than how many people will be killed in the next few months while Democrats and Republicans play politics with human lives.
"It is so painful to me to know that I bought into this system for so many years and Casey paid the price for that allegiance. I failed my boy and that hurts the most."
She said she had lost faith in the anti-war movement's ability to make change and even in Democrats, who are largely opposed to the war and who took control of the House and Senate last year.
"Bush will never be impeached because if the Democrats dig too deeply, they may unearth a few skeletons in their own graves and the system will perpetuate itself in perpetuity," she said.

What strikes me is that, whether you agree with the methods she employed in protesting the war, she is pulling out because she feels she is now getting lack of support from those who originally stood by her; ie liberals, specifically Democrats. This should be a lesson to anyone who hopes to change the state of our country or the world by aligning with a political party. Pro-Life republicans, take note, you're going to get burned next; if you've held on this long. Our two party system is not working in this country. I don't know what a better option is. Obviously something along distributism lines but beyond that, I'm no political pundit so your guess is as good as mine. The lesson to be taken away is this; if you wish to help people, just do it. Don't align yourself with any government or political entity because they will take it upon themselves to build you up, if it suits them and smash you into the ground if you stand in their way. And along the way, they'll try to dictate your every move and word. In fact, I would run the other way if too many people on one side of the fence started defending what I do or say. Cindy Sheehan became like any Hollywood celebrity basking in their five minutes before some gossip rag, which previously heralded their triumphant debut on the red carpet, trashed their reputation. You will not succeed in your mission if you become a liberal media darling. We'll see if Sheehan learned her lesson. Let this be a warning to the rest of us fighting the powers at be.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Yet another new link

Another new link for the Catholic Worker Digest blog. If you don't get the Catholic Worker paper out of NYC, it'll let you know what you're missing.

A philosophy of work

"One night, just as we were beginning compline, two young boys came from Mott street, hitch-hiking, to pay a call on us at Maryfarm, Easton, 75 miles from New York. They would not come upstairs to the chapel, so while I fed them bread and milk and tomatoes (that was all that was left of supper), I talked to them. One is half Polish and half Italian, and the other Italian. They are both sixteen, smooth-cheeked, round eyed, young, strong and soft. Both have been in trouble with truant officers and probation officers for years. The reform schools are all crowded, accommodating sometimes twice as many as they have room for, so the boys know that there is no penalty for their minor misdemeanors. They merrily go on their way of petty stealing from their mothers and families, hanging around street corners and social clubs, of which our neighborhood is full, loafing, swearing, smoking, drinking--well on their way to more serious crime. The courts are full of just such young ones. How to reach them? They are cynical, they gamble, they want to get rich quick. They play the numbers, the horses. They don’t want a job, because they want big money. They see others making a killing. Everyone wants to get ahead, to be better off. This is what they are taught in the school, public schools and in the Catholic schools. But they are not taught to work--they are not taught a philosophy of work. They are not taught a philosophy of poverty which will make them use their talents rather than seek wages.

Begin at the Beginning

"You'’ve got to begin at the beginning," a priest said to me when I was talking to him about the Carmens and the Pasquales of our acquaintance.

You cannot talk to these boys on religious grounds because they are not convinced there is a God, nor that the Bible is His inspired truth. They don'’t believe in the ten commandments, nor in the Gospel of love of the New Testament. And they don'’t believe because they do not see it worked out in the lives of religious any more than they see it worked out in the lives of lay people. We live in a business world just like everyone else, and we live by investments, usury, big business; by our present industrial system which is materialist and as godless as Communism. So how can we talk to them. It is too late to reach them in ordinary ways. They need a conversion. A shock treatment. They are too old. Only a revolution will change them. That’s why people accept Hitlerism, Fascism, Communism. They accept it like a religious conversion." [snip]

"It is significant that it is in reformatories that boys are taught crafts and trades. It is significant that it is in insane hospitals that the patients, some few of them, are taught to use their hands to do creative work.

But the sad part of it is that though they have these schools, teaching skills, and some learn to do things very well, and probably get great joy out of doing them, they do them with the sad sense of futility, of boondoggling, of having been given something to do because they are either criminal or insane--and not that they are doing things which are good and natural to man that they can continue doing when they get out, creating, making, using mind and body to work on beautiful things God has given man, raw materials He has provided, and in so working on God’'s good things, getting a sense of the sacramentality of life, the holiness, the symbolism of things."

"Reflections on Work - November 1946"
By Dorothy Day
The Catholic Worker, November 1946, 1, 4. Emphasis added.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The smugness of fools destroys them...

'Wisdom builds her house, but folly tears hers down with her own hands.'
Proverbs 14:1

What makes a well-rounded person? I was discussing this question with my husband during a long drive. My dad, and my father-in-law are both, what I consider to be, well-rounded. Both men are self employed and as such they know all the ins and outs of small business management, marketing, advertising, finances, etc. Both know basic car maintenance and in addition, my dad can do a lot of major car repair. Both can do home repair such as plumbing, electric, painting, drywall, as well as basic landscaping and gardening. They are both published writers, and could be considered experts in their respective fields. I know I can ask either a question on a variety of topics and get a straight answer. However, I believe their's is a dying breed. Most people don't even want to learn these skills, they just want to spend money to make whatever problem they may have, go away. Doing things yourself is for the poor man unable to hire a landscaper, a pool boy or a plumber when the toilet keeps running. My father's knowledge is viewed as useless and he is seen as a relic because he can't list the top 25 iTunes downloads or the latest summer fashion trend for women. My children's grandfather's are role models. I will not have my son idolizing sport stars or celebrities who father numerous children to various women, drop thousands of dollars on clothes and grooming and who's only passion is things material. Today's "man" relies on a laundry list of hired specialists to tackle basic problems around the house while he memorizes sports stats, discusses Hollywood at the water cooler and reads the latest NY Times fiction bestseller (if he reads at all.) Seventy years ago, such men could not exist. If you couldn't or didn't fix something yourself, you went without. The same goes for women. Women in my family can cook, clean and raise children and I'm proud of that. My great-grandmother, Elma, lived in a home with her husband, his two sisters and his parents. Soon two children joined them and Elma took care of them all. She sewed and knitted all the kids clothes, baked all the bread, canned food etc. Today, women seek out a career, a good daycare for their children and boxes of instant food to pop in the microwave for them all. She hires a housekeeper, shops for the latest fashions and knows all the gossip at church, across town and from all the tabloids. And this is considered progress? Society would argue Elma was oppressed and overworked. But in a crisis I would take a hundred Elma's over a hundred dollars hands down. We need to reexamine the qualities we value in one another. Convenience and expediency should not replace old fashioned know how and hard work. The ability to gossip, sit all day at a desk and memorize pop trivia is worthless and yet we devote so much time and energy to such things. When we become well-read, well-rounded and self-reliant we are worth emulating. We gain knowledge to pass on and teach others; knowledge and experiences that in time become wisdom, an invaluable asset.
Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the open squares she raises her voice; Down the crowded ways she calls out, at the city gates she utters her words: "How long, you simple ones, will you love inanity, how long will you turn away at my reproof? Lo! I will pour out to you my spirit, I will acquaint you with my words. Because I called and you refused, I extended my hand and no one took notice; because you disdained all my counsel, and my reproof you ignored- I, in my turn, will laugh at your doom; I will mock when terror overtakes you; When terror comes upon you like a storm, and your doom approaches like a whirlwind; when distress and anguish befall you. Then they call me, but I answer not; they seek me, but find me not; because they hated knowledge and chose not the fear of the Lord; they ignored my counsel, they spurned all my reproof; and in their arrogance they preferred arrogance, and like fools they hated knowledge:Now they must eat the fruit of their own way and with their own devices be glutted. For the self-will of the simple kills them, the smugness of fools destroys them. But he who obeys me dwells in security, in peace, without fear of harm. Proverbs1:20-33

New Link

Another new blog link to check out; Domine Non Sum Dignus. Good stuff, cute kids and he attends an awesome church!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Telescopic Philanthropy

"A long time ago I read Bleak House and I'll never forget the phrase Dickens used about one of the characters, her 'telescopic philanthropy.' I forget the name of the person, but she was someone who neglected her own family while being preoccupied with the problems of distant natives in Africa or Asia or wherever. For a while the two words kept ringing in my ears: an accusation. I was in the middle of my Greenwich Village life, full of concerns for people everywhere, but not doing the best job with my personal life. I would get angry with myself for letting those words bother me. I said to myself: Someone has to stand up for people far away from us who are being exploited or who are starving to death. What's wrong with telescopic philanthropy? I would ask the question, and I would mobilize my answers to it, but I was still upset. I felt - inside me, someplace - that Dickens had someone like me in mind when he wrote those words. I remember, once, feeling torn between the desire to throw that book [Bleak House] out the window, and a desire to brand myself with the initials T.P., my 'scarlet letters.'
"I'm being foolish now - I was being foolish then" melodramatic. But seriously, we have our risks to run, all of us, and I think Dickens had taken the measure of many of us when he gave us telescopic philanthropy."
-Dorothy Day, "...A Radical Devotion," pgs 155-156

Friday, May 18, 2007

College Debt

I saw an article on Yahoo! yesterday that advised parents on what job advice they shouldn't give to their recent college grad kids. One piece of advice was that most parents tell their children to get a job that pays their rent. The Yahoo! columnist said today, kids leave college with so much student debt and earn so little at their entry level jobs, they should move back home for awhile to save money. When I shared this information with my husband he relayed a story from his freshman economics class at a pricey private college. The teacher showed a chart of a student getting a job right out of high school vs a college grad. While the high school grad made less after graduation than the college grad after his, the college grad started out with $120,000 in debt (after attending a $30K a year private college for four years.) The college grad started so far in the hole that it took him until almost retirement to actually earn as much as the high school grad. And this doesn't count the kids who spend six years "deciding on a major" or those who continue on to get a masters or PhD. Honestly, how many people you know are still doing what they went to college for? Is college worth it? I'm beginning to think not. The majority of people spend the majority of their waking hours from the age of 5 to 21 in a classroom. When they graduate college everything changes. I've seen many of my friends falter. The job that sounded so good at 18, that they studied about between parties and liberal arts classes, is a lot different when you spend 40 hours a week at it. Plus, no longer do you have a meal plan and parents pumping you cash on the weekends. You leave college with mountains of debt, a crappy entry level job you soon hate and no idea what to do with yourself. Most people don't return home to save money, they return home because they don't know what else to do. Up to this point everything has been fed to them. It makes me wonder if the reason most people don't question things is because school doesn't teach kids to think for themselves. It just loads them with information to memorize, without context or meaning. A degree used to be special, only a few pursued it and were rewarded. Today, college is expected. Students are taught they'll be homeless losers unless they ace the SATS and go to college. This pressure has created some disturbing trends and what for? While my husband and I are saving for our children's future, we both agree college is overrated. If my daughter wants to get married and have children, I'm not going to force her off to college so she can get a career when all she wants is a family. If my son doesn't want to be a priest, I hope he selects a field that doesn't make him a wage slave for the rest of his life. It's not about pushing my kids to make as much money as possible. Hopefully, they will find mentors or tradesman to help them learn about a field before we commit major moolah to it. Then, if eight months into, say, a photo assistant's position my child decides, photography isn't for them, they he/she moves on and we're not out $30K for a lost year at art college. I had a few good professors but most of what I learned, I learned on my internship and getting a part time job in my field. My husband's degree helped him get a job but everything he does at work now, he taught himself at work. If you want to do social work, try working as a Catholic Worker before getting a degree that will stick you behind a desk with mountains of bureaucratic paperwork while children die. I admire those who go to school to become teachers because they want to help children but maybe, you should just be open to having a large family and then raise them strong in their faith (homeschooling is good too.) There will always be some fields in which a degree is the best way to succeed, however we need be more active in seeking out work through alternate means. I will encourage my child to volunteer or work "in the real world" for at least a year before entering school. 'The Teenage Liberation Handbook", which I believe I've plugged before, offers some great ideas for higher education with additional resources listed.
We've come to value a piece of paper over real learning and the consequence is tons of graduates unable to get by in the real world. Seek knowledge over diplomas, and satisfaction over money and see where that gets us.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Not this time

So, less than two weeks from our closing date, the whole deal for this 2+ acre property tanks. Of course I'm disappointed, but I don't feel too bad. Previous experience taught us to be diligent and I'm confident we explored all avenues before walking away. Had the property been better represented from the get go, we probably wouldn't have even gotten our hopes up. Thankfully, the Lord led us away what would have been a disaster with very clear and definite signs. Sometimes, it's hard to figure what the Lord is telling you to do. Other times, you're so sure of what you think the Lord wants you to do you ignore everything telling you you're wrong. And then there's times like these where, God made it very clear, it just ain't happening.
I kept thinking, and praying for it to work out, telling God that this was the perfect site for all our hopes and aspirations. His will was surely for us to get this property at all costs. Luckily, we didn't ignore all the warning signs. We made sure God wasn't telling us to go about things in a different way either. Its hard when you realize what you thought was an answer to a prayer (aka this property) was just another milestone on your way to what God really has planned for you. I know something better awaits. I hope I know it when I see it and don't get distracted by something else. This lesson was not as costly as our previous real estate transactions so I'm thankful for that, and now we'll be that much more prepared when the real deal shows up. Until then, it's back to the daily grind which should be easier since I'll be spending less time arranging furniture and planting crops in my mind.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Fools for Christ

"When I was young I would wake up and wonder about the new people I'd see or what new and interesting thing I might end up doing. I would be full of new plans, and I would be interested in the newest ideas. I'd want to read everything 'new and interesting': those words always went together. Then we got our Catholic Worker family going, and all of us have the same kind of lives. We aren't looking for new twists on this life. We're not hoping to meet so-and-so and then a new so-and-so. We've already met everyone who counts - the Lord and those who followed Him, His disciples, and some of the saints of the church, who help remind us what He was really like. And we've met one another here in St. Joseph's House or in other hospitality houses, and we know that together we're all that any of us could ever hope to find: a big bunch of 'fools for Christ.' We're foolish kin, you might call us."
Dorothy Day, "...A Radical Devotion," pg 140

Friday, May 04, 2007

A shrug of the shoulders

I'll admit to being a John Mayer fan. I'm not the die hard, throw my bra on stage type, but I do buy his music and visit his blog. On his latest CD is the single "Waiting on the World to Change," maybe you've heard it. I don't listen to the radio much, so I'm not sure if it's in heavy rotation or not. Anyway, I've always been disappointed in the lyrics and the general message of the song. Today, after perusing Mayer's blog I came across his solution to global warming, a method he calls Light Green. To summarize, it's a cure for global warming like lite beer is the cure for obesity. The lyrics of 'Waiting...' and the Light Green approach assume individuals are so overwhelmed by the worlds problems they feel powerless and do nothing. Mayer advises that the horrible scourge of global warming can be combated through a third way, "A laid-back, panic free approach to environmentalism." For instance, even though he drives a Porsche SUV, his tour bus is biodiesal. And if you have to drive your gas guzzler to the supermarket, just take some reusable grocery bags. It reads like the presentation my fourth grade teacher gave on Earth Day. Mayer's mindset is reflected throughout mainstream society. It's why people like Al Gore make movies like 'Inconvenient Truth' but justify living in a huge mansion because they can afford to buy all that power from green sources. Or why Mayer travels the world singing "Waiting..." but the best he can do for the environment, or his country, is introduce his fans to plastic alternatives via his blog. These people want solutions to problems that don't require sacrifices. Do you think it's Mayer who retrofitted his tour bus and is responsible for tracking down and filling up the tank with biodiesal? They want other people to solve the world's problems or, if they feel moved, they'll help out in ways that don't disrupt their daily lives. It's like answering the call to feed the hungry by scrapping the leftovers off your plate after dinner and dropping them off at a soup kitchen. As Christians, we're called to sacrifice in service to others. Unfortunately, many celebrities and politicians think service means offering lip service and donations while living a life that never brings them in contact with those in need. With all his money and starpower, if Mayer thinks the best he can do for global warming is Light Green, we can be glad he's not leading the fight against poverty. What gets me, is the mainstream media eats this stuff up and hails initiatives like this as 'making a difference.' Mayer is called a celebrity worth emulating. So then, people who start following this plan actually think they're helping the greater good and can become self righteous over nothing more than a glorified reduce-reuse-recycle plug.
Yes, poverty, global warming, war, hunger, etc., are large overwhelming problems that can seem beyond our power to change. Sometimes, we may believe that such problems can only be solved by large, far off committees or federally funded government agencies. Or we may convince ourselves of such to justify turning a blind eye to the needy in our neighborhood. We must be willing to start small to tackle the problems. Rosa Parks was one woman who didn't give up her seat. Mother Teresa started helping the poor of India by herself. Dorthy Day and Peter Maurin started with one paper and one hospitality house. If we start small and are willing to sacrifice we make a difference. It's unfortunate that many people, some Christians included, do not see the value in sacrifice. Unless we are willing to lose everything we won't gain anything. People who value the comforts of this life have the hardest time sacrificing in an effort to help others. Those of us who aspire for heavenly reward are the ones who must lead the charge to overcome our communities, our state's, our country's and our world's problems. We cannot rely on those who cling to their riches while extolling easy solutions or pass more laws.
So, in conclusion, I don' t hate John Mayer. I still enjoy his music and will continue to read his blog. (Not that he'll care either way.) But I think his flawed views are representative of many people in the country in regards to how we tackle society's ills. As long as we are content with, and popularize, such surface treatments, we will never make a dent in the underlying cause. Until we wake up, and embrace self sacrifice-the total giving of oneself- as the means to end all problems, we will struggle along in our selfishness. If you think you're not up to the challenge, that you're not strong enough to tackle even the problems in your town, you've failed to learn from those before you and given in to the temptation of sloth and apathy.
"We would like to see more small communities organizing themselves, people talking with people, people caring for people, people coming together in order to make known what they believe and what they would like their nation to do. Apathy, like sloth, is a sin. Why do we have to think that a shrug of the shoulder is being realistic, that indifference to the bureaucratic power of federal officials or the power of some of those union officials who behave like the company folks they bargain with is the only sane alternative?"
Dorothy Day, '...A Radical Devotion', pgs 107-108

Thursday, May 03, 2007

New Blog Link

Check out the link for the new blog, Athanasius Contra Mundum. Be sure to read his current, and previous, posts on Distributism.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

St. Joseph was NOT a communist.

First issue of Catholic Worker Distributed May Day in Union Square

"The crowds in Union Square stopped to gaze on May 1, not only at the massed parades, blary bands, and various red banners, but also at the caption, The CATHOLIC WORKER, being displayed and distributed everywhere. Communists who make soap-box speeches were frankly shocked at its appearance, refuting as it did their claim that the Church is interested only in squeezing money from the people to send to Rome. Even more surprising to them was the revelation that Catholicism has a definite social program to aid the worker.

One old Italian, turned Communist because of unemployment and near starvation, remarked after reading a copy of our paper, "Ya know, da Church, she wanta help us after all. I t'ink I drop da red flag an' take up da ross again."

Some comments, of course, were not favorable. A young fellow, unshaven, his hair almost to his shoulder, and wearing a variety of red ribbons on his coat, reminded the writer of a scotch terrier that had won a half dozen second prizes at some kennel show. Glancing at our title, he muttered, "Aw, ya can't fool us . . . you're just tryin' to put the comrades we've liberated under the yoke of capitalism again."

If only he bad taken the trouble to look over our program he would have realized that that is exactly what we are not trying to do. We are entirely in sympathy with demands for better labor conditions, decent wages, and unprejudiced justice. We who edit and contribute to this sheet are unemployed ourselves, barely eking out an existence. Yet because of our desire for better conditions we see no reason for renouncing Christianity-the religion that has helped and elevated mankind for nearly 2,000 years.

Although the Communists may not as yet be aware of it, they witnessed in Union Square on May Day the inception of a new struggle for social justice. A germ of more than mere passive interest was planted in the minds of many who either read The CATHOLIC WORKER or saw its headlines displayed.

As soon as the worker realizes that the Church Militant is interested in man's welfare as well as his soul, he will stop to consider before embracing Communism and its atheistic ideas. The Scriptures, history, tradition and common sense will tell him that without God there is neither happiness, security or prosperity, either in men or in nations."

"The Listener"
By Dorothy Day
The Catholic Worker, June-July 1933, 1, 5.