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Dorothy Day, Peter Maurin and the Catholic Worker MovementNewspaperEasy Essays The Easy Essays of Peter Maurin Define the Catholic Worker Movement

Easy Essays The Easy Essays of Peter Maurin Define the Catholic Worker Movement

Peter Maurin

What the Catholic Worker Believes

The Catholic Worker believes

in the gentle personalism

of traditional Catholicism.

The Catholic Worker believes

in the personal obligation

of looking after the needs of our brother.

The Catholic Worker believes

in the daily practice

of the Works of Mercy.

The Catholic Worker believes

in Houses of Hospitality

for the immediate relief

of those who are in need.

The Catholic Worker believes

in the establishment

of Farming Communes

where each one works

according to his ability

and gets according to his needs.

The Catholic Worker believes

in creating a new society

within the shell of the old

with the philosophy of the new,

which is not a new philosophy

but a very old philosophy,

a philosophy

so old that it looks like new.

 

The Law of Holiness

“No man can serve two masters,

God and Mammon.”

“Be perfect

as your Heavenly Father is perfect.”

“If you want to be perfect

sell all you have, give it to the poor

and follow Me.”

•  New Testament

“These are hard words,”

says Robert Louis Stevenson,

“but the hard words of a book

were the only reason

why the book was written.”

In his encyclical on St. Francis de Sales

the Holy Father says:

“We cannot accept the belief

that this command of Christ

concerns only

a select and privileged group,

and that all others

may consider themselves

pleasing to Him

if they have attained

a lesser degree of holiness.

Quite the contrary is true,

as appears from the generality of His words.

The law of holiness

embraces all men

and admits of no exception.”

 

Counsels of the Gospel

Someone said

that The Catholic Worker

is taking monasticism

out of the monasteries.

The Counsels of the Gospel

are for everybody,

not only for monks.

Franciscans and Jesuits are not monks.

Franciscans are Friars,

and the world is their monastery.

Jesuits are the storm troops

of the Catholic Church,

and ready to be sent

where the Holy Father

wishes to send them.

The Counsels of the Gospel

are for everybody,

and if everybody tried to live up to it

we would bring order out of chaos,

and Chesterton

would not have said

that the Christian ideal

has been left untried.

 

Works of Mercy

In the first centuries of Christianity

pagans said about Christians:

“See how they love each other.”

The love for God and neighbor

was the characteristic

of the first Christians.

This love was expressed

through the daily practice

of the Works of Mercy.

To feed the hungry,

to clothe the naked,

to shelter the homeless,

to instruct the ignorant

at a personal sacrifice

was considered

by the first Christians

as the right thing to do.

Surplus goods were considered

to be superfluous,

and therefore to be used

to help the needy members

of the Mystical Body.

 

Feeding the Poor – At a Sacrifice

In the first centuries

of Christianity

the hungry were fed

at a personal sacrifice,

the naked were clothed

at a personal sacrifice,

the homeless were sheltered

at a personal sacrifice.

And because the poor were fed,

clothed and sheltered

at a personal sacrifice,

the pagans used to say

about the Christians

“See how they love each other.”

In our own day

the poor are no longer fed, clothed, and sheltered

at a personal sacrifice,

but at the expense of the taxpayers.

And because the poor are no longer

fed, clothed and sheltered

at a personal sacrifice,

the pagans say about the Christians

“See how they pass the buck.”

 

Tradition or Catholic Action

The central act of devotional life

in the Catholic Church

is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

The Sacrifice of the Mass

is the unbloody repetition

of the Sacrifice of the Cross.

On the Cross of Calvary

Christ gave His life t

o redeem the world.

The life of Christ

was a life of sacrifice.

We cannot imitate

the Sacrifice of Christ on Calvary

by trying to get all we can.

We can only imitate

the Sacrifice of Christ on Calvary

by trying to give all we can.

 

Laborare et Orare

The motto of St. Benedict was

Laborare et Orare, Labor and Prayer.

Labor and prayer ought to be combined;

labor ought to be a prayer.

The liturgy of the Church

is the prayer of the Church.

People ought to pray with the Church

and to work with the Church.

The religious life of the people

and the economic life of the people

ought to be one.

 

St. Francis of Assisi

According to Johannes Jorgensen,

a Danish convert living in Assisi,

St. Francis desired

that men should give up

superfluous possessions.

St. Francis desired

that men should work with their hands.

St. Francis desired

that men should offer their their services

as a gift.

St. Francis desired

that men should ask other people for help

when work failed them.

St. Francis desired

that men should live as free as birds.

St. Francis desired

that men should go through life

giving thanks to God for His gifts.

 

A New Society

To be radically right

is to go to the roots

by fostering a society

based on creed,

systematic unselfishness

and gentle personalism.

To foster a society

based on creed instead of greed,

on systematic unselfishness

instead of systematic selfishness,

on gentle personalism

instead of rugged individualism,

is to create a new society

within the shell of the old.

 

Tawney’s Book

When in 1891 Pope Leo XIII

wrote in his encyclical

on the condition of labor

he emphasized

the lack of ethics in modern society.

When in 1899 Thorstein Veblen

wrote The Theory of the Leisure Class

he emphasized the same thing.

R. H. Tawney, then an Oxford student,

learned that when the Canon Law,

that is to say the Law of the Church,

was the law of the land

there were high ethics in society.

So R. H. Tawney decided to study

how society has passed down

from the high ethics of the Canon Law

to the no ethics of today.

What R. H. Tawney found out

about the history of ethics

of the last five hundred years

is embodied in his book

Religion and the Rise of Capitalism.

 

Five Books

If you want to know

what industrialism has done to man,

read Man the Unknown ,

by Dr. Alexis Carrel.

If you want to know how we got that way,

read A Guildman’s Interpretation of History,

by Arthur Penty.

If you want to know

what it is to be a bourgeois,

read The Bourgeois Mind ,

by Nicholas Berdyaev.

If you want to know

what religion has to do with culture,

read Enquiries Into Religion and Culture

by Christopher Dawson.

If you want to know

what to do with freedom,

read Freedom in the Modern World

by Jacques Maritain.

 

A New Movement

The Nazis, the Fascists and the Bolsheviks

are Totalitarians.

The Catholic Worker

is Communitarian.

The principles of Communitarianism

are expounded every month

in the French magazine Esprit (the Spirit).

Emmanuel Mounier,

editor of the magazine,

has a book entitled

La Revolution Personnaliste et Communitaire .

Emmanuel Mounier

wrote a book entitled

A Personalist Manifesto.

Emmanuel Mounier

has been influenced by Charley Péguy.

Charles Péguy once said:

“There are two things in the world:

politics and mysticism.”

For Charles Péguy as well as Mounier,

politics is the struggle for power

while mysticism

is the realism of the spirit.

For the man-of-the-street

politics is just politics

and mysticism is the right spirit.

In his Personalist Manifesto

Mounier tries to explain

what the man-of-the street

calls “the right spirit.”

 

The Personalist Communitarian

A personalist is a go-giver,

not a go-getter.

He tries to give what he has,

and does not try to get

what the other fellow has.

He tries to be good

by doing good to the other fellow.

He is altro-centered not self-centered.

He has a social doctrine of the common good.

He spreads the social doctrine of the common good

through words and deeds as well as words,

for he knows that deeds speak louder than words.

Through words and deeds

he brings into existence a common unity,

the common unity of the community.

 

They and We

People say:

“They don’t do this,

they don’t do that,

they ought to do this,

they ought to do that.”

Always “They” and never “I.”

People should say:

“They are crazy for doing this

and not doing that

but I don’t need to be crazy

the way they are crazy.”

The Communitarian Revolution

is basically a personal revolution.

It starts with I, not with They.

One I plus one I makes two I’s

and two I’s make We.

We is a community

while “they” is a crowd.

 

Economics

Kropotkin says:

The economic problem

is not an economic problem.

It is an ethical problem.

 

The Irish Monks and the Reconstruction of the Social Order

The Holy Father and the Bishops

ask us to reconstruct the social order.

The social order was once constructed

through dynamic Catholic Action.

When the barbarians

invaded the decaying Roman Empire

Irish missionaries went all over Europe

and laid the foundations of medieval Europe.

Through the establishment of cultural centers,

that is to say, Round-Table Discussions,

they brought thought to the people.

Through free guest houses that is to say,

Houses of Hospitality,

they popularized the divine virtue of charity.

Through farming communes,

that is to say, Agronomic Universities,

they emphasized voluntary poverty.

It was on the basis of

personal charity and voluntary poverty

that Irish missionaries

laid the foundations of the social order.

 

Scholars and Workers

The Holy Father

asks us to reconstruct the social order.

The social order was once reconstructed

after the fall of the Roman Empire.

The Irish scholars

were the leaders

in the reconstruction of the social order

after the fall of the Roman Empire.

Through Round-Table Discussions

scattered all over Europe

as far as Constantinople

the Irish scholars brought thought to the people.

Through Houses of Hospitality

the Irish scholars exemplified Christian charity.

Through Farming Communes

the Irish scholars

made workers out of scholars

and scholars out of workers.

 

Share Your Wealth

What we give to the poor

for Christ’s sake

is what we carry with us when we die.

As Jean Jacques Rousseau says:

“When man dies

he carries in his clutched hands

only that which he has given away.”

 

Fighting Communism

The Catholic Worker

proposes fighting Communism

the way the first Christians

fought pagan Romanism,

through the Works of Mercy.

The Catholic Worker

proposes fighting Communism

the way the Irish scholars

fought pagan feudalism,

through Round-Table Discussions,

Houses of Hospitality,

Farming Communes.

 

The Common Good

The doctrine of the Common Good

of St. Thomas Aquinas

is still a Catholic doctrine.

We don’t need a new doctrine,

we need an old technique

of the first Christians and the Irish scholars.

What was good

for the first Christians and the Irish scholars

ought to be good enough for us.

What was practical for them

ought to be practical for us.

 

Usurers Not Gentlemen

The Prophets of Israel

and the Fathers of the Church

forbid lending money at interest.

Lending money at interest

is called usury

by the Prophets of Israel

and the Fathers of the Church.

Usurers were not considered

to be Gentlemen

when people used to listen

to the Prophets of Israel

and the Fathers of the Church.

When people used to listen

to the Prophets of Israel

and the Fathers of the Church

they could not see anything gentle

in trying to live

on the sweat of somebody else’s brow

by lending money at interest.

 

Out of the Temple

Christ drove the money changers

out of the Temple.

But today nobody dares

to drive the money lenders out of the Temple.

And nobody dares

to drive the money lenders out of the Temple

because the money lenders

have taken a mortgage on the Temple.

When church builders

build churches

with money borrowed from money lenders

they increase the prestige

of the money lenders.

But increasing the prestige

of the money lenders

does not increase the prestige

of the Church.

Which makes Archbishop McNicholas say:

“We have been guilty of encouraging

tyranny in the financial world

until it has become a veritable octopus

strangling the life of our people.”

 

Better and Better Off

The world would be better off

if people tried to become better.

And people would become better

if they stopped trying to become better off.

For when everybody tries to become better off

nobody is better off.

But when everybody tries to become better,

everybody is better off.

Everybody would be rich

if nobody tried to become richer.

And nobody would be poor

if everybody tried to be the poorest.

And everybody would be

what he ought to be

if everybody tried to be

what he wants the other fellow to be.

Christianity has nothing to do

with either modern capitalism

or modern Communism

for Christianity

has a capitalism of its own.

Modern capitalism

is based on property without responsibility,

while Christian capitalism

is based on property with responsibility.

Modern Communism

is based on poverty through force

while Christian communism

is based on poverty through choice.

For a Christian,

voluntary poverty is the ideal

as exemplified by St. Francis of Assisi.

while private property is not an absolute right,

but a gift which as such can not be wasted,

but must be administered for the benefit of God’s children.

 

Rich and Poor

There is a rub

between the rich who like to richer

and the poor who don’t like to get poorer.

The rich,who like to get richer

turn to the Church

to save them from the poor

who don’t like to get poorer.

But the Church can only tell

the rich who like to get richer,

“Woe to you rich,

who like to get richer,

if you don’t help the poor

who don’t like to get poorer.”

 

Utilitarian Philosophers

After a century of Protestantism,

England and Scotland

saw the coming out of a philosophical thought

known in history as Utilitarian Philosophy.

While Luther and Calvin

discarded the authority of the Church

the Utilitarian Philosophers

discarded the authority of Divine Revelation.

They tried to convince themselves

and convince other people

that the Church and the Bible

were a handicap,

rather than a help,

in man’s striving towards the good life.

 

Futilitarian Economists

The Utilitarian Philosophers,

Hobbes, Locke, Hume,

were followed by the Futilitarian Economists.

Adam Smith, Ricardo.

The Futilitarian Economists

thought that religion

had nothing to do with business.

They thought that everything

would be lovely

if everybody took in each other’s washing.

They thought

that everybody should try to sell what he has

to sell to the highest bidder.

 

Cult, Culture, and Cultivation

When the Irish scholars decided to lay the foundations of medieval Europe, they established: Centers of Thought in all the cities of Europe as far as Constantinople, where people could look for thought so they could have light. Houses of Hospitality where Christian charity were exemplified. Agricultural Centers where they combined (a) Cult— that is to say Liturgy (b) with Culture— that is to say Literature (c) with Cultivation— that is to say Agriculture.

 

Unpopular Front

The Unpopular Front

is a front composed of:

Humanists,

who try to be human to man;

Theists,

who believe that God wants us to be

our brother’s keeper;

Christians,

who believe in the Sermon on the Mount

as well as the Ten Commandments;

Catholics,

who believe in the Thomistic Doctrine of the Common Good.

 

Barbarians and Civilized

We call barbarians

people living on the other side of the border.

We call civilized

people living on this side of the border.

We civilized, living on this side of the border,

are not ashamed to arm ourselves to the teeth

so as to protect ourselves

against the barbarians living on the other side.

And when the barbarians

born on the other side of the border invade us,

we do not hesitate to kill them

before we have tried to civilize them.

So we civilized exterminate barbarians

without civilizing them.

And we persist in calling ourselves civilized.

 

War is Hell (Pie in the Sky)

Bourgeois capitalists

don’t want their pie in the sky when they die.

They want their pie here and now.

To get their pie here and now

bourgeois capitalists

give us better and bigger commercial wars

for the sake of markets and raw materials.

But as Sherman says,

“War is hell.”

So we get hell here and now

because bourgeois capitalists

don’t want their pie in the sky when they die,

but want their pie here and now.

Bolshevist Socialists,

like bourgeois capitalists,

don’t want their pie in the sky when they die.

They want their pie here and now.

To get their pie here and now,

Bolshevik Socialists

give us better and bigger class wars

for the sake of capturing the control

of the means of production and distribution,

But war is hell,

whether it is a commercial war or a class war.

So we get hell here and now

because Bolshevist Socialists

don’t want their pie in the sky when they die,

but want their pie here and now.

Bolshevist Socialists

as well as bourgeois capitalists

give us hell here and now

without leaving us the hope

of getting our pie in the sky when we die.

We just get hell.

Catholic Communionism

leaves us the hope

of getting our pie in the sky when we die

without giving us hell here and now.

 

1600—Banker

Before John Calvin

people were not allowed

to lend money at interest.

John Calvin

decided to legalize money lending at interest

in spite of the teachings

of the Prophets of Israel

and the Fathers of the Church.

Protestant countries

tried to keep up with John Calvin

and money-lending at interest

became the general practice.

And money ceased to be

a means of exchange

and began to be a means to make money.

So people lent money on time

and started to think of time in terms of money

and said to each other, “Time is money.”

 

Blowing the Dynamite of the Church

Writing about the Catholic Church,

a radical writer says:

“Rome will have to do more

than to play a waiting game;

she will have to use some of the dynamite

inherent in her message.”

To blow the dynamite of a message

is the only way

to make the message dynamic.

If the Catholic Church

is not today the dominant social dynamic force,

it is because Catholic scholars

have failed to blow t

he dynamite of the Church.

Catholic scholars

have taken the dynamite of the Church,

have wrapped it up in nice phraseology,

placed it in an hermetic container

and sat on the lid.

It is about time

to blow the lid off

o the Catholic Church may again become

the dominant social dynamic force.

 

Ambassadors of God

What we give to the poor for Christ’s sake

is what we carry with us when we die.

Pagan Greeks used to say

that the poor “are the ambassadors of the gods.”

To become poor is to become an Ambassador of God.

 

A Modern Plague

Catholic laymen and women

commit the great modern error

of separating the spiritual from the material.

This great modern error,

known under the name of secularism,

is called a “modern plague” by Pope Pius XI.

 

The Money-Lenders’ Dole

There were no money lenders

on the payroll in Palestine and Ireland

because the Prophets of Israel

and the Fathers of the Church

forbid lending money at interest.

But Uncle Sam does not listen t

o the Prophets of Israel

or the Fathers of the Church.

 

We Need Parish Homes As Well as Parish Domes

Bossuet says

that the poor

are the first children of the Church,

so the poor should come first.

People with homes

should have a room of hospitality

so as to give shelter

to the needy members of the parish.

The remaining needy members of the parish

should be given shelter in a Parish Home.

 

Houston Catholic Worker, Vol. XXVI, No. 3, May-June 2006.