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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.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Early summer thoughts

At what point in life does time suddenly go into hyper drive? For my three and four year old, days seem never ending, weeks eternal, their last birthday is a distant memory their next birthday is a lie, a carrot I dangle in front of their nose whenever they ask for a new toy: "Just put it on your birthday list. " They think I mean never. For me, I have to stop and think every time someone asks my age, mentally I'm still fresh out of college, physically...well, I've started purchasing Oil of Olay.
For my children, summer is just starting, they have so much to look forward to. I've manged to fill practically (read: overschedule) every weekend through August and there's still tons of people and places we won't get to see. The older I get the faster the years go because I'm living life on the weekends. People waste five days a week at work and try to do what matters in two. I think 'weekend living' intensifies in the summer. Why doesn't somebody plan something to help me through those long, dark, cold January weekends?
I've been less motivated to blog since my passions haven't been aroused with any current events lately, or maybe, I'm just too distracted to notice much these days. Sometimes, I think I have nothing left to say but then I'm struck with an idea I forget to write down. Eventually, these brilliant insights might make it into cyber space but until they do, please excuse any gaps in posting. Until time slows down, my children find endless ways to amuse themselves and social events and far flung travels are spread neatly during the week and through out the year I leave you with something from someone who always has something to say.

"Children, too, need to be taught a mysticism of labor. Peter Maurin used to call it a philosophy of work. Fr. Jimmy Tompkins used to say that all work should be considered in the light of the works of mercy. Is our work that we are preparing to do in life helping to feed, clothe, shelter people? Are children being taught a reverence for the soil, out of which all things come, since we are but dust? The table we work at, the food we eat, the bed we lie on, the covers on it, all come from the soil. To dig, to sow and reap, to build and construct,--all children love to do these things at first. But in school literacy takes first place and reading is no longer taught, beginning with the Little Office, Our Lady's Primer.

I remember one of my young nieces coming home from school with a project book she was making. Her task was to furnish a home, to cut out all the things one would need in that home, and she pored over magazines, and cut out linoleum, furniture, kitchen sets, parlor sets, gadgets, and had a lovely time doing it. And all the while standards were being set up in her mind desires were being stimulated to buy what the advertisers present and to get the job, to get the money, to buy what the advertisers present. [snip]

Are our children being taught not only to work for what they need, not what they want, and also to work for others, so that they will always have a surplus to give away? Are they taught to tithe themselves to give even one-tenth of what they are going to earn, to the poor?"

"Education and Work"
By Dorothy Day
The Catholic Worker, September 1953, 2,6.

Thursday, June 14, 2007


I recently finished reading 'Ten Acres Enough', by Edmund Morris. Written around 1864 it is a fascinating account of the authors family moving from Philadelphia to South Jersey and establishing a small farm on 10 acres. When I first received the book, I didn't realize the close proximity of the author's homestead to my suburban apartment. It is sickening to me to read the prices he quotes for acreage and the descriptions of rural solitude, yet close proximity to urban entertainment. He lived in Jersey when it truly was "The Garden State." Yes, prices go up everywhere over the course of 150 years, however, the New Jersey of today would seem alien to Morris. Reasonably priced, affordable homes are nonexistent and the closet *farmers* market to my home sells mostly cheap imported plastic doo-dads and fast food. There is one butcher and in the summer I think maybe two tables of produce. The way the locomotive opened up Jersey for farmers supplying Philly and NYC, the automobile opened up Jersey for suburban sprawl extending from those same locations. Reading Morris's book allowed me to escape back to a simpler era in Jersey's past. It's funny how even in the early 1860's Morris was itching to escape to the country, and today many suburbanites and city dwellers aspire to the same goal. How do so many country folk find themselves in the city or the vast suburban wasteland? What lies have we been telling ourselves and false goals have we slaving towards before realizing that true happiness lies in self sufficiency, not consumerism.
"I knew that I was not rich, but it was certain that I was not poor. [snip] The millionaire could not have more than his share of the pure atmosphere that I was breathing, while the poorest of all men could have as much. God only can give all these, and to many of the poor he has thus given. All that is most valuable can be had for nothing. The come as presents from the hand of an indulgent Father, and neither air nor sky, no beauty, genius, health, or strength, can be bought or sold. Whatever may be one's condition in life, the great art is to learn to be content and happy, indulging in no feverish longings for what we have not, but satisfied and thankful for what we have."
Ten Acres Enough, E. Morris pg, 22

If Jersey is where I am to be, than I will find happiness in Jersey. Despite many things, I am happy here, and I will make a 10th of an acre enough, if that is what we acquire.
"It takes mankind a great while to learn the ways of Providence, and to understand that things are better contrived for him than he can contrive them for himself."
T.A.E., E. Morris pg, 89

Monday, June 11, 2007

A.P. eats from hand of dictator

Quick quiz, who recently made this quote;
"The agrarian revolution has arrived."

a. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture
b. National FFA President
c. Hugo Chavez

The answer, is Hugo "Adolf" Chavez. In a recent AP story, Chavez is portrayed as the savior of the nations poor with hundreds running up to his Toyota 4Runner to praise him and, otherwise exalt this god-like being. Sure, he's buying up the nations private companies and putting them under his control but let's talk more about U.S. imperialism. I hope Chavez didn't mind the AP reporter salivating over his notes while discussing Chavez's socialist propaganda. If Mr. James is lucky, maybe he can get a job at one of the new state run papers in Venezuela and write glowing stories about Chavez all day.
Back to that lovely quote, yes, Chavez thinks he's starting a agrarian revolution, but let's clarify how his view may differ with fans of the Catholic Worker and distributism.

"Even as Venezuela is transformed into a socialist state, Chavez promised private property will be respected.

"There will continue to be all the individual freedoms, collective freedoms, fundamental rights," he said. "We accept private education. We accept private health care, as long as it's regulated and in keeping with national policy. ... The same goes for banks." [snip]

His government has also taken over what it considers underused agricultural lands, including the cattle ranch he visited Saturday. He described plans for housing, more cattle and cooperative farms on the giant plot as he circled overhead in a helicopter.

"The agrarian revolution has arrived," he said."

Yes, private *regulated* land and the taking over of *underused* agricultural land. Funny how no where in this article is there mention of Chavez's views of the Catholic Church and the treatment of those who disagree with his new utopia, Catholic or otherwise. For now, Chavez is buying out businesses who disagree or "pose a threat" to his person. Can ghettos really be that far down the road? In 100 years will we remember the Venezuelan martyrs? Pray for Venzuela.

"Another weapon I discovered early was the power of the printed word to sway souls to me. The newspaper was soon my gun, my flag - a thing with a soul that could mirror my own."
Benito Mussolini contributing to the "London Sunday Express,"
December 8, 1935:

Sunday, June 10, 2007

We...can conquer the world.

"Our faith is stronger than death, our philosophy is firmer than flesh, and the spread of the Kingdom of God upon the earth is more sublime and more compelling. We Catholics must pray, act and sacrifice together for Christ the King, for the spread of His Kingdom and the salvation of the world. We Catholics, together, can conquer the world.

The Liturgy, then, is common worship, concorporate worship, worship in one mind and with one heart, and with one mouth. Our common action in the Sacrifice of the Mass, impersonal, anti-individualistic is the best weapon against the world.

"Pius X tells us that the liturgy is the indispensable source of the true Christian spirit.

"Pius XI tells us that the true Christian spirit is indispensable for social regeneration.

"Hence the conclusion: The Liturgy is the indispensable basis of Christian social regeneration.""

"Liturgy and Sociology"By Dorothy Day
The Catholic Worker, December 1935, 4.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Community Improvement Projects

It starts with city counsels condemning waterfront property in order to redevelop downtown. They say the homes are blighted, regardless of their condition and offer the homeowners enough money to move somewhere else. The amount usually falls far short of what it would cost to buy another house in the same area, most especially the new construction. Sometimes, the community does benefit from eminent domain. Perhaps, a new highway...and, um...I suppose there are lots of other legitimate reasons to seize private property. I wonder though, what sorts of compensation the founders of our country had in mind when they drafted the 5th amendment; because it seems to me, compensation is offered at a level to keep the poor, the lower and even upper middle class out of most new "community" redevelopment projects. It is not the current residents of a "blighted" area that most developers and city counsel members have in mind when they are envisioning new high rises, casinos or gaming venues. Cities and communities will improve when the residents of said area take the initiative themselves to improve it. Elected officials, many out of touch with the lowest of whom they *serve* want to attract money and care little for building and saving a community. It is a slippery slope once we start seizing property to create luxuries for the upper crust of society. Where could it lead I wonder?

Beijing to Evict 1.5 million for Olympics
BEIJING (Reuters) - Some 1.5 million residents of Beijing will be displaced by the time it hosts the 2008 Olympics, many of them evicted against their will, a rights group said on Tuesday, prompting a sharp denial by China.
The Geneva-based Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) said residents were often forced from their homes with little notice and little compensation, as the government embarks on a massive city redevelopment to accommodate the Games.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

New Link

Check out the new link at right for BALLE, the Business Alliance for Local Living Economics. Distributism and subsidarity at work. See what's happening in your backyard or get something started. H/T The Distributist Review.

Think small

Thank you for the excellent comment Athanasius;

"Might I suggest the power of local government though the participation of a whole community. Everyone is obsessed with what goes on in D.C., which has nothing to do with the decisions we make. If we vote for A we get B, and if we vote for B we get A.

If people paid attention to their local government, and say, 10,000 people picketed the mayor or 1st selectman every time he did something that gave big business or big government more power, there would be results! If 3rd parties got started by running and creating awareness at the state level, we could accomplish Distributist goals on a small scale, and put us in place at a national level to be recognizable. 3rd parties don't get traction because no one knows who they are. Suppose they started running locally in all 50 states? They might win more often.

Your post is right on. We are Catholic first, not Americans or Republicans. That doesn't mean we can't love our country or be patriotic, but we must put the Church advocates (the Church universal) ahead of what Rush Limabaugh advocates because the social kingship of Jesus Christ is more important than the 1st amendment."

Local political involvement should become the preferred approach in combating 'big government.' However, I'll bet most people don't even know who their local mayor, country commissioner or board of supervisors' members are. Would you know who to picket if the town wanted to seize your house by eminent domain? As a newspaper intern or stringer, I covered many township meetings. Often the board members were my grandfathers age and had held their position for over a decade. I was sometimes the only non-township employee at the meeting and if I had company it was a resident older than the board members or someone looking to build a deck or complain about the trash on a neighbors lawn. It's not until a Wal-Mart tries to set up shop that local government meetings get any attendance at all. If we want to work from the bottom up, and bring distributism to our neighborhoods (and eventually our country), there's a easy way to do it. All we have to do is care about our local government because not many other people do.

1. Start attending meetings. Yes, they can be boring as hell, but you will learn tons about the area in which you live.
2. Get to know the board members. They'll probably notice you if you're a regular attendee. Most will be happy to discuss local goings on.
3. Get to know the people in your town. Community involvement through Chambers of Commerce, volunteering, work the polls, hang out at the local diner, etc.
4. Run for a local government position; start small. These elections are nothing more than popularity contests. It will be easier if a position is opening up-you might not have anyone to run against. It will be harder to oust an incumbent as most people don't care who serves and they will vote for the status quo. Sadly, most voters are ignorant about local officials and their duties so they don't even show up on election day. You will have to present convincing evidence on why this person shouldn't be where he/she is, for example, they approved the destruction of the orphanage for *another* strip club. If you can rally enough friends or outrage enough people who show up to vote, you'll win.
5. Once in office, your opportunities for promoting the cause may be limited but you'll certainly be gaining experience and making more friends who will help you on your way up the ladder. You'll also have the opportunity to convince other like minded individuals the importance of local government involvement and hopefully bring some onto the payroll with you.

It will be much easier to get Catholics, Distributists, etc. into state office if they've made their name in their hometown. If you don't want to hold office, than by all means, at least stay informed and organize against causes contrary to our true faith. Someone has to start the petition, march on the state capital and stand up against some of these local officials who think a county position gives them the right to ignore the wishes of the voters and in many cases, keep them in the dark about what is going on. Learn about Sunshine Laws and the Freedom of Information Act and hold officials responsible for what they do. Given our current system, a third party candidate has no chance, usually, in the presidential election. However, a third party candidate is just another candidate at the local level where party allegiance is not crucial. Let's take back our country one municipality, one town, one city and one state at a time.