Words from Workers

Just a space to share links and news from other catholic workers style communities and some inspiriting words from catholic worker founders: Peter Maurin and Dorothy Day….

From http://www.catholicworker.org/

The Aims and Means of the Catholic Worker

Reprinted from The Catholic Worker newspaper, May 2016

The aim of the Catholic Worker movement is to live in accordance with the justice and charity of Jesus Christ. Our sources are the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures as handed down in the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, with our inspiration coming from the lives of the saints, “men and women outstanding in holiness, living witnesses to Your unchanging love.” (Preface to the Eucharistic Prayer for holy men and women)

This aim requires us to begin living in a different way. We recall the words of our founders, Dorothy Day who said, “God meant things to be much easier than we have made them,” and Peter Maurin who wanted to build a society “where it is easier for people to be good.”

* * *When we examine our society, which is generally called capitalist (because of its methods of producing and controlling wealth) and is bourgeois (because of prevailing concern for acquisition and material interests, and its emphasis on respectability and mediocrity), we find it far from God’s justice.

In economics, private and state capitalism bring about an unjust distribution of wealth, for the profit motive guides decisions. Those in power live off the sweat of others’ brows, while those without power are robbed of a just return for their work. Usury (the charging of interest above administrative costs) is a major contributor to the wrongdoing intrinsic to this system. We note, especially, how the world debt crisis leads poor countries into greater deprivation and a dependency from which there is no foreseeable escape. Here at home, the number of hungry and homeless and unemployed people rises in the midst of increasing affluence.

In labor, human need is no longer the reason for human work. Instead, the unbridled expansion of technology, necessary to capitalism and viewed as “progress,” holds sway. Jobs are concentrated in productivity and administration for a “high-tech,” war-related, consumer society of disposable goods, so that laborers are trapped in work that does not contribute to human welfare. Furthermore, as jobs become more specialized, many people are excluded from meaningful work or are alienated from the products of their labor. Even in farming, agribusiness has replaced agriculture, and, in all areas, moral restraints are run over roughshod, and a disregard for the laws of nature now threatens the very planet.

In politics, the state functions to control and regulate life. Its power has burgeoned hand in hand with growth in technology, so that military, scientific and corporate interests get the highest priority when concrete political policies are formulated. Because of the sheer size of institutions, we tend towards government by bureaucracy–that is, government by nobody. Bureaucracy, in all areas of life, is not only impersonal, but also makes accountability, and, therefore, an effective political forum for redressing grievances, next to impossible.

In morals, relations between people are corrupted by distorted images of the human person. Class, race and gender often determine personal worth and position within society, leading to structures that foster oppression. Capitalism further divides society by pitting owners against workers in perpetual conflict over wealth and its control. Those who do not “produce” are abandoned, and left, at best, to be “processed” through institutions. Spiritual destitution is rampant, manifested in isolation, madness, promiscuity and violence.

The arms race stands as a clear sign of the direction and spirit of our age. It has extended the domain of destruction and the fear of annihilation, and denies the basic right to life. There is a direct connection between the arms race and destitution. “The arms race is an utterly treacherous trap, and one which injures the poor to an intolerable degree.” (Gaudium et Spes)

* * *In contrast to what we see around us, as well as within ourselves, stands St. Thomas Aquinas’ doctrine of the Common Good, a vision of a society where the good of each member is bound to the good of the whole in the service of God.

To this end, we advocate:

Personalism, a philosophy which regards the freedom and dignity of each person as the basis, focus and goal of all metaphysics and morals. In following such wisdom, we move away from a self-centered individualism toward the good of the other. This is to be done by taking personal responsibility for changing conditions, rather than looking to the state or other institutions to provide impersonal “charity.” We pray for a Church renewed by this philosophy and for a time when all those who feel excluded from participation are welcomed with love, drawn by the gentle personalism Peter Maurin taught.

–A decentralized society, in contrast to the present bigness of government, industry, education, health care and agriculture. We encourage efforts such as family farms, rural and urban land trusts, worker ownership and management of small factories, homesteading projects, food, housing and other cooperatives–any effort in which money can once more become merely a medium of exchange, and human beings are no longer commodities.

–A “green revolution,” so that it is possible to rediscover the proper meaning of our labor and our true bonds with the land; a distributist communitarianism, self-sufficient through farming, crafting and appropriate technology; a radically new society where people will rely on the fruits of their own toil and labor; associations of mutuality, and a sense of fairness to resolve conflicts.

* * *We believe this needed personal and social transformation should be pursued by the means Jesus revealed in His sacrificial love. With Christ as our Exemplar, by prayer and communion with His Body and Blood, we strive for practices of:

Nonviolence. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.” (Matt. 5:9) Only through nonviolent action can a personalist revolution come about, one in which one evil will not simply be replaced by another. Thus, we oppose the deliberate taking of human life for any reason, and see every oppression as blasphemy. Jesus taught us to take suffering upon ourselves rather than inflict it upon others, and He calls us to fight against violence with the spiritual weapons of prayer, fasting and noncooperation with evil. Refusal to pay taxes for war, to register for conscription, to comply with any unjust legislation; participation in nonviolent strikes and boycotts, protests or vigils; withdrawal of support for dominant systems, corporate funding or usurious practices are all excellent means to establish peace.

The works of mercy (as found in Matt. 25:31-46) are at the heart of the Gospel and they are clear mandates for our response to “the least of our brothers and sisters.” Houses of hospitality are centers for learning to do the acts of love, so that the poor can receive what is, in justice, theirs, the second coat in our closet, the spare room in our home, a place at our table. Anything beyond what we immediately need belongs to those who go without.

Manual labor, in a society that rejects it as undignified and inferior. “Besides inducing cooperation, besides overcoming barriers and establishing the spirit of sister and brotherhood (besides just getting things done), manual labor enables us to use our bodies as well as our hands, our minds.” (Dorothy Day) The Benedictine motto Ora et Labora reminds us that the work of human hands is a gift for the edification of the world and the glory of God.

Voluntary poverty. “The mystery of poverty is that by sharing in it, making ourselves poor in giving to others, we increase our knowledge and belief in love.” (Dorothy Day) By embracing voluntary poverty, that is, by casting our lot freely with those whose impoverishment is not a choice, we would ask for the grace to abandon ourselves to the love of God. It would put us on the path to incarnate the Church’s “preferential option for the poor.”

* * *We must be prepared to accept seeming failure with these aims, for sacrifice and suffering are part of the Christian life. Success, as the world determines it, is not the final criterion for judgments. The most important thing is the love of Jesus Christ and how to live His truth.

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Words from Dorothy Day:

“We confess to being fools and wish that we were more so. What we would like to do is change the world – make it a little simpler for people to feed, clothe, and shelter themselves as God intended them to do. And to a certain extent, by fighting for better conditions, by crying out unceasingly for the rights of the workers, the poor, the destitute, we can to a certain extent change the world. We can work for the oasis, the little cell of joy and peace in a harried world.  We can throw our pebble in the pond and be confident that its ever widening circle will reach around the world.

We repeat there is nothing we can do but love, and dear God – please enlarge our hearts to love each other, to love our neighbor, to love our enemy as well as our friends.”

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(In Response to WWII )

“We are at war, a declared war, with Japan, Germany and Italy. But still we can repeat Christ’s words, each day, holding them close in our hearts, each month printing them in the paper.  Let us remember St. Francis, who spoke of peace and we will remind our readers of him, too, so they will not forget.

In The Catholic Worker we will quote our Pope, our saints, our priests. We will go on printing the articles which remind us today that we are all “called to be saints,” that we are other Christs, reminding us of the priesthood of the laity.

We are still pacifists. Our manifesto is the Sermon on the Mount, which means that we will try to be peacemakers. Speaking for many of our conscientious objectors, we will not participate in armed warfare or in making munitions, or by buying government bonds to prosecute the war, or in urging others to these efforts.”

Words from Peter Maurin 

I want a change, and a radical change. I want a change from an acquisitive society to a functional society, from a society of go-getters to a society of go-givers.

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We need houses of hospitality to show what idealism looks like when it is practiced

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Better or Better off
1. The world would be better off,
	     if people tried
	     to become better.

	2. And people would
	     become better
	     if they stopped trying
	     to be better off.

	3. For when everybody tries
	     to become better off,
	     nobody is better off.

	4. But when everybody tries
	     to become better,
	     everybody is better off.

	5. Everybody would be rich
	     if nobody tried
	     to be richer.

	6. And nobody would be poor
	     if everybody tried
	     to be the poorest.

	7. And everybody woiuld be
	     what he ought to be
	     if everybody tried to be
	     what he wants 
	     the other fellow to be.
	


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