Peter Maurin's Vision for the Catholic Worker, an Idea Whose Time has Come
Date Written: 17/03/2017
Year Published: 2017
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX20566
Today it seems obvious that a return to the land, to a proper relationship with creation and to meaningful, productive work is integral to the aims of the Catholic Worker movement. For much of its history, however, since its beginning in 1933, this aspect of its founder's original intentions was relegated to the margins of an already marginal movement.
In Maloy each winter we host a craft retreat, when up to a dozen Catholic Workers from around the Midwest crowd into our farmhouse to join us and some neighbors to weave, make cheese, carve wood, dip candles, knit, make baskets, cook, eat, pray, dance and sing. We have fun but these sessions were not recreational in the conventional sense nor are we really "on retreat." These gatherings are the Catholic Worker movement going about some of its most serious business. As it happens, the craft retreat often gets scheduled just before or after the annual Witness Against Torture event in Washington, DC, an intense time of fasting and action to demand the closing of the prison at Guantanamo and the abolition of torture that I usually attend. In my mind, these two yearly events have melded into one continuum.
This shift of paradigm has come in part, I think, as people who come to Catholic Worker houses are staying longer. While many still come to Worker houses to donate a "gap year" or two of their lives in service to the poor between college and "real life," from the 1970s on, more and more came and stayed. It has been suggested that some of these moved out to farms looking for a better place to raise kids than an inner city house of hospitality. There may be something to that, but I offer that for many of us, living and working for years with the urban poor made us look deeper into the roots of the worlds problems and see that serving soup, good work that it is, is not enough. Speaking for myself, I needed to live in urban hospitality houses for many years before I could make any sense of Peters talk about revolution on the land.