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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.