Easy Essays: A Program For Immediate Needs

Social Missionaries

A School of Social Studies
would be the training ground
for Social Missionaries,
priests, laymen and women.
As Al Smith said:
“The social problem
is not a problem
for politicians,
business men,
and lawyers.”
The social problem
is a problem
for Social Missionaries.
The task of Social Missionaries
is not to help people
to adjust themselves
to the existing environment.
The task of Social Missionaries
is to teach people
the difficult art
of creating order
out of chaos.
To be a Social Missionary
requires social-mindedness,
historical-mindedness
and practical idealism.

Study Clubs

Social Missionaries
would be official leaders
of Study Clubs.
The conduct of a Study Club
does not require
a fluent speaker.
As Bishop O’Hara said:
“The purpose of Study Clubs
is to make people articulate;
and lectures do not help
to make people articulate.”
Social Missionaries
would be able
to impart their knowledge
through easy conversations.
Easy conversations
about things that matter
would keep people
from going to the movies,
from talking politics,
from cheap wisecracking.
Easy conversation
about things that matter
would enable Catholics
to understand Catholicism,
to give an account of their faith,
and to make non-Catholics
curious about Catholicism.

Works of Mercy

The best kind of apologetics
is the kind of apologetics
people do not have
to apologize for.
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.

Self-Employing Centers

The remedy for unemployment
is employment,
and there is no better employment
than self-employment.
Self-Employing Centers
are small shops
where repairs can be made
and workers can be found
to do work outside.
With the Self-Employing Centers
could be connected
Houses of Hospitality
where the self-employing workers
could find shelter.
This complicated world
is too complicated
to be dealt with
in an efficient manner
by specialized technicians.
Specialized technicians
knowing more and more
about less and less
do not know
how to simplify
a complicated world.
We need fewer specialists
and more encyclopedists,
fewer masters of one trade
and more jacks-of-all trades.

—Peter Maurin

A Reminder for Christians – 3

Leviticus 25:35-36 – If one of your brethren becomes poor and cannot support himself, help him, yea, even if he is a stranger or foreigner, invite him to live with you as a guest in your home. Fear your God and let your brethren live with you; and don’t charge him interest on the money you lend him.

Luke 14:12-14 – Then he said to the host who invited him, “When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment. Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Proverbs 19:17 – Whoever has mercy and cares for the poor, lends to the LORD; and that which was given, God will repay in full.

Matthew 8:20 – And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.”

Psalms 82:3 – Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy.

Isaiah 55:1-2 – All you who are thirsty, come to the water! You who have no money, come, buy grain and eat; Come, buy grain without money, wine and milk without cost! Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your labour for what does not satisfy? listen carefully to me, and you shall eat well, and you shall be delighted in abundance.

Acts 4:32-35 – Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.

Peter Maurin, Saint and Scholar of the Catholic Worker

The Core Ideas–the Vision

Peter Maurin

The person who created the Catholic Worker philosophy, and in partnership with Dorothy Day, lived the vision of the Catholic Worker movement, is Peter Maurin.

Peter Maurin taught Dorothy Day not everything she knew, but just about everything.

They met in 1933, Peter having been sent to Dorothy Day by George Schuster of Commonweal magazine. He had sought out Dorothy Day particularly because she was a journalist, hoping she would publish a newspaper where his ideas would be expressed. Dorothy Day was not too sure about Peter at first, as he talked too much with a heavy French accent, but her sister Tessa had welcomed him to their apartment and she listened.

Dorothy had gone to Washington, D. C. to cover a hunger march of the unemployed. During this time she felt very strongly the separation from her previo us friends who were protesting under the socialist banner. Where, now that she was a Catholic, could she find a way to use her talents for her fellow workers, for the poor? On December 8 of 1932 (the Feast of the Immaculate Conception) she went to the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception at Catholic University there in Washington and spent the morning in prayer, asking God to help her find a way to integrate her new faith with her concern for the poor. (Ironically, this is the same day, December 8 on which the editors of the Houston Catholic Worker met, years later).

When she returned to New York, Peter Maurin was waiting for her.

Dorothy described her favorable impression of Peter in her autobiography, saying, “I found waiting for me a short, stocky man in his mid-fifties, as ragged and rugged as any of the marchers I had left. He was intensely alive, on the alert, even when silent, engaged in reading or in thought. When he talked, the tilt of his head, his animated expression, the warm glow in his eyes, the gestures of his hand, his shoulders, his whole body, compelled your attention.”

Dorothy noted things at that first meeting, characteristics of Peter that were confirmed in the years she knew him: “He spoke in terms of ideas, rather than personalities. While others were always analyzing, talking about one another, using one another’s lives and attitudes to illustrate ideas, Peter was always impersonal, delicately scrupulous never to talk about others, never to make the derogatory remark.”

According to her book, The Long Loneliness, when he met Dorothy, Peter began at once on what he called her education. For weeks afterward he came every afternoon and talked for hours about his ideas–about a Catholic outline of history, about the lives of the saints, the teachings of the early Church writers, contemporary personalist philosophy and the program of action he had developed to implement the Gospels and Catholic social teaching–the teaching of the Popes. He made many suggestions for Dorothy’s reading.

The program of action that Peter Maurin presented to Dorothy consisted in roundtable discussions for the clarification of thought, houses of hospitality (where Catholics could practice the works of mercy as outlined in Matthew 25:31ff. and in Church tradition), and agronomic universities. These actions were to be taken in the framework of a life centered on cult, culture and cultivation, or in other words, worship, learning and the land.

Peter did not “spoon feed” Dorothy. He used a “soup ladle.” He was very persistent, since he was looking for apostles to share his work.

What Dorothy found to be most striking was Peter’s “correlation of the material and the spiritual.” Here was the integration of work and faith that she had been seeking.

Announce, not Denounce

Dorothy remembered that Peter “made you feel a sense of mission as soon as you met him. He did not begin by tearing down, or by painting so intense a picture of misery and injustice that you burned to change the world. Instead, he aroused in you a sense of your own capacities for work, for accomplishment. He made you feel that you and all men had great and generous hearts with which to love God. If you once recognized this fact in yourself you would expect and find it in others. The art of human contacts, Peter called it happily. But it was seeing Christ in others, loving the Christ you saw in others. Greater than this, it was having faith in the Christ in others without being able to see Him. Blessed is he that believes without seeing.”

Peter Maurin called attention to injustices, but his approach was positive–presenting hope and a vision for the future.

Peter embraced the Word and the richness of the lived traditions of the Church, recapturing for contemporary expression the incredible vision and practice of faith, hospitality to travelers and the poor, the community of early Benedictine monasteries, Irish monks in medieval times, and great examples of the lives of the saints.

From Where did Peter Maurin Come?

At the time that he met Dorothy Day, Aristide Peter Maurin had made his own synthesis of the ideas he had first learned in his devout Catholic family in France, where as they walked back and forth to the village his father taught him about the “shock maxims” of the Gospel, and in his education in schools taught by the Christian Brothers. When he grew up he was for several years a novice in the Christian Brothers, where he received an excellent education in liturgy and theology, in the lives of the saints and in Benedictine spirituality. Both as a novice and upon leaving the order he participated in a Catholic movement called Le Sillon in France. According to Arthur Sheehan in his book Peter Maurin: Gay Believer(Hanover House, 1959–so named before the meaning of the word gay had changed), this movement and study clubs in which he participated emphasized a joyful, yet ascetic, faith like that of St. Philip Neri, a faith which involved the commitment of one’s whole soul, imagination, feelings and emotions as well as the intellect. The dream was that with intense Christian commitment, love, responsibility and action for social justice, social problems would disappear as people noted, “See how these Christians love one another.”

Even when he was a novice in the Christian Brothers Peter was obliged to participate in the French military service. The army contradicted everything he believed in and it was an unpleasant time for him. After two years of service he was periodically called up for the reserves for another two weeks.

This military conscription compromised Peter’s Christian pacifist principles. He knew well the natural law on the right of self-defense and the philosophical conditions for a just war, but his way was that of St. Francis, of following the Gospel counsels of perfection.

Peter Maurin made a decision to leave France, where his family had owned their farm for almost 1,500 years, to go to Canada, where he would not be required to continue military service and where he could join the large group of French immigrants already there. He left the Le Sillon movement in which he had actively participated, recognizing that while it had offered so much encouragement and hope to many, it lacked serious scholarship and had become political. (Sheehan, p. 75)

He had been reading Peter Kropotkin, especially Fields, Factories and Workshops andMutual Aid, where small crafts were presented as a supplement to farming. Before leaving his country Peter Maurin spent some months in the south of France studying small-craft industries.

Peter moved to Canada as a homesteader, a pioneer. After a couple of very hard years on the land there, he came to the United States, where he worked at various jobs and eventually setting up a successful French school in Chicago. He accepted an invitation to teach French in New York. He was an undocumented immigrant in both countries.

It was at this time that he, who had been searching for a way to live out his vocation in this new country and culture, made the decision to no longer accept pay for his lessons, but to offer his work as a gift, allowing students to pay him what they thought they were worth. This was the beginning of his life of voluntary poverty.

In New York Peter developed his ideas and program of action and wrote many essays in his free verse style. He visited priests, editors and others, explaining his program, seeking people to implement it. He was well received by many well-read and active Catholics and invited some of them later to publish articles in the Catholic Worker. He also went often to Union Square and spoke to the crowds about his ideas.

He became friends with Fr. Joseph B. Scully, a New York pastor, helping him without pay at his summer camp for children and making it his home for five years. This was the same Fr. Scully who was asked by Cardinal Hayes about Peter Maurin when he began the Catholic Worker with Dorothy Day. The priest responded, “He knows his stuff.” (Sheehan, p. 88).

How to Begin

In sharing his ideas with Dorothy, Peter asked her to “popularize this program for immediate needs, which would be the seed for a long-range program, a green revolution, by publishing a paper. Dorothy, a journalist from a newspaper family, saw the need for a newspaper, but wondered how it could practically be started. As she recounted, “Peter did not pretend to be practical along these lines. ‘I enunciate the principles’, he declared grandly.” Dorothy asked the practical question, “But where do we get the money?” Peter’s answer set the tone for the functioning of the whole Catholic Worker movement:

“In the history of the saints, capital was raised by prayer. God sends you what you need when you need it. You will be able to pay the printer. Just read the lives of the saints.”

St. Francis de Sales, he told her, scattered leaflets like any radical. St. John of God sold newspapers on the streets.

Dorothy had been reading about the life of Rose Hawthorne, Nathaniel’s daughter, who had started a hospice in New York for the poor who had cancer. Her method of raising money simply by telling people what she was going to do appealed to Dorothy. Perhaps she could start in a small way.

“The thing to do is to start,” Peter kept saying.

Peter thought of asking his friend Fr. Joseph Scully, who had a large parish, for the use of his church basement and a mimeograph machine. Dorothy Day also wanted to meet Fr. Scully and so one day she went to the rectory. When she discovered that Fr. Scully had gone out, whe went to the church for a visit. As she recounts, “There was Peter, the only other one besides myself in the church at that moment, and he did not see me come in, but sat there before the Blessed Sacrament, motionless, quiet, absorbed, gazing altarward. Every now and then I saw his forefinger rise, count off a few points, and then stillness again.”

Dorothy didn’t wait much longer that day for Fr. Scully, but thought instead of printers. She could have twenty-five hundred copies of an eight-page tabloid printed for fifty-seven dollars by the Paulist Press.

And so, The Catholic Worker newspaper began.

Dorothy used her kitchen as an editorial office and her brother John helped to write headlines and with the layout. Dorothy used two small checks she had received for writing articles to pay the first printing bill, rather than the gas and electric.

But Peter Maurin was not very happy with the first issue. He had thought the newspaper would simply be filled with his own ideas. When the first issue came out on May Day with articles about labor, strikes, unemployment, columns written by other people and muckraking accounts, in addition to half a dozen of Peter’s “Easy Essays,” as Dorothy’s brother John named his style of writing, Peter protested.

“Everybody’s paper is nobody’s paper,” he said. Even his name was misspelled on the first issue, as Maurain instead of Maurin.

By the second issue of the paper Peter had removed his name as one of the editors. Since he had a specific program and the newspaper was carrying many viewpoints, he thought it better to be a contributor rather than an editor. “As an editor,” he said, “it will be assumed that I sponsor or advocate any reform suggested in the pages of the Catholic Worker. I would rather definitely sign my own work, letting it be understood what I stand for.”

Arthur Sheehan tells us that the talk by Peter on houses of hospitality was featured in the October issue so that it might be sent to the Bishops’ meeting at a national conference of Catholic Charities of New York. In his campaign to develop houses of hospitality for the poor, Peter quoted a Fifth century Church Council which required Catholic bishops to provide houses of hospitality in each parish church, open to the poor, the sick, the orphaned, the old.

The immediate result, however, was the beginning of the first Catholic Worker house of hospitality. A young woman who read the paper came in to demand that the editors start giving hospitality instead of just writing about it. An apartment was rented that very afternoon and hospitality began. As an educated Christian Peter was not a fundamentalist, but he emphasized literally accepting Christ’s teaching.

Other Beginnings

Along with houses of hospitality, other parts of Peter Maurin’s program were developed during those early years of the Worker.

Prominent professors from Columbia and Jesuit and Benedictine priests came to speak as Peter began his lecture series for the clarification of thought, a tradition that continues to this day in the CW. Peter Maurin knew these speakers and they came at his invitation. They also brought their students to help out in the house of hospitality and to learn about Peter’s idea of scholars and workers sharing and working together.

In 1936 a twenty-eight acre farm was found and farming communes began. This farm and the others that later began to dot the country were a big challenge because many families or single people who came to live and work on the farms knew little about farming. Arthur Sheehan, described the reality: “The new farmers went out to plant hopefully, but when weeding time came they did not have the readiness to work patiently hour after hour at this difficult aspect of cultivation. Peter advised planting in seed frames until plants were an inch high, then transplanting to the harrowed fields. When this was done, weeding could be done quickly with a cultivator.”

Peter didn’t like buying store foods. He insisted that farms raise what they eat and eat what they raise. He believed in eating only what was raised in your local area–for example, if you were in New York or Pennsylvania, you would eat tomatoes instead of oranges.

Peter tried to instill a philosophy of labor at the farms and everywhere, saying, “One must use the whole man to be holy,” with the idea of balancing the intellectual and manual labor. The farms put flesh on the distributist economics of Fr. Vincent McNabb, Chesterton and Belloc which Peter endorsed.

At the Easton farm the church was two miles away; Peter walked to Mass to receive Communion each day. In the evenings the groups joined together in the Rosary, offering a prayer to St. Isidore, patron of the commune.

Peter Maurin also was very supportive of Interracial Councils in their beginning stages and in the struggle for justice for African Americans. He started a house of hospitality in Harlem.

On Meeting Peter Maurin

In one of the first houses of hospitality Stanley Vishnewski, who joined the Catholic Worker at age 18 and never left it, met Peter Maurin when he stayed to dinner after his first day as a volunteer in New York. In his book Wings of the Dawn (published by the Catholic Worker), he tells of Peter’s conversation at that meal:

“I had not yet been introduced to Peter but he did not wait for an introduction. At that moment his face became alive and animated. He pointed his finger at me and said, ‘In the first centuries of Christianity the poor were fed, clothed and sheltered at a personal sacrifice and the pagans said about the Christians: “See how they love each other.”

Peter continued. “I am for tradition and not for revolution. In the Catholic Worker we must try to have the voluntary poverty of Saint Francis, the charity of Saint Vincent de Paul, the intellectual approach of St. Dominic, the easy conversations about things that matter of St. Philip Neri, the manual labor of St. Benedict.”

Peter visited universities, Bishops and people in the financial world, including the Wall Street Journal, to discuss economics and his program.

John Moody, of Moody’s Investors’ Service described his meeting with Peter Maurin:

“Anyone who has met Peter knows that he can, on first appearance, make the shivers creep up your spine when he begins to talk. If, when he starts in, you are leaning back in an easy chair, you will find yourself sitting up erect in that chair before he has talked five minutes. He can cram more truth into your cranium at high speed in a single hour than any ordinary person can do in a week.

That morning his theme was social justice. He gave me, among other things, a gist of Pope Pius XI’s encyclical Quadragesimo Anno, which up to that time I had not digested at all. But Peter had digested it, and he made its contents so clear to me that a short time thereafter I was able to give a brief talk on it to a small group of high-brow Wall Streeters, and actually tell them some things they didn’t already know.” (Sheehan, p. 105)

Critique of Economic Systems

In analyzing the history of the world economy, Maurin concluded that recent centuries had led only to destruction as economics became more and more controlled by self-interest and materialism and consumerism. With Nicholas Berdyaev, he decried the triumph of the will to power and affluence over the will to holiness and genius which had taken place when the center of life, the spiritual, was pushed to the margins.

Peter Maurin looked at contemporary economic systems and found them lacking in the light of Catholic social teaching.

When the alternatives of the capitalist system and the Marxist philosophies were argued, Peter pointed out the deficiencies of both. He presented a practical alternative vision where each person would have creative labor, where workers owned the means of production, and art, handicrafts, skilled trades, cooperatives and agrarian life replaced mass production, material consumption and collectivism.

As Time magazine put it, “His message was simple and uncompromising: Capitalism, with its foundations in usury and its dehumanizing of man by the machine, is just as bad for mankind as socialism with its depersonalizing state.”

The lending of money at interest was critiqued by Maurin as a fundamental problem in our economic system. He quoted the prophets of Israel and the Fathers of the Church who condemned the practice. He may have foreseen the horrendous inequalities and injustices, the lack of care for the human person which exist today because of indebtedness to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Communitarian Personalism

Peter read widely and was especially familiar with and influenced by the personalist writers such as Emmanuel Mounier, Nicholas Berdyaev, Jacques Maritain and Leon Bloy, and translated them from French to English for the paper.

The personalist philosophy emphasized the dignity of the human person and the challenge of taking personal responsibility instead of waiting for governments or bureaucracies to obtain funding in order to act. Personalism was also Peter’s alternative to those who wanted a Catholic political party. He believed in building a new society within the shell of the old.

The personalists, including Peter Maurin, believed that the dignity of the human person could only be affirmed with the revival and primacy of the spiritual. As Marc Ellis points out in his book, Peter Maurin(Paulist Press, 1981), for him “A humanism without God was to set forces in motion that would take humankind into a new Dark Age, where all would be possible and permissible and the person would count for nothing.” This, as like so many of Maurin’s ideas, was prophetic.

The holocaust and today’s culture of death were the result of this new Dark Age.

Maurin saw the inherent dangers in the political theories opposed to the spiritual. He predicted and the Catholic Worker protested strongly in the 1930’s the growing totalitarianism in Germany and other countries, made possible in part by the growth of technology and bureaucracy, where all citizens were registered and became numbers with personal information attached.

Those who extolled human progress as the great goal of life and civilization had, according to Maurin and the personalists, missed the whole meaning of history, centered in God.

Criticize the Church?

William Miller points out in A Harsh and Dreadful Love (Image Books,1973), that Peter Maurin did not waste his energy criticizing the Church. As he tells us, “It is perhaps because he was free and so full of his program that Maurin never seemed to have found it necessary to expend any of his energy as a critic of the Church. Personalist radicalism found the idea of the Church no obstacle to its philosophy or methods; to the contrary, it was only through personalist radicalism that the dynamite of the Church could be ignited. Maurin thus united orthodoxy with radicalism, and this principle was understood and has been faithfully followed by Dorothy Day.” (p.39)

Obituary

When Peter Maurin died in 1949, Time magazine described his funeral:

“Dressed in a castoff suit and consigned to a donated grave, the mortal remains of a poor man were buried last week. These arrangements were appropriate; during most of his life Peter Maurin had slept in no bed of his own and worn no suit that someone had not given away. But to his funeral among the teeming pushcart-crowded slums of lower Manhattan Cardinal Spellman himself sent his representative. There were priests representing many Catholic orders and there were laymen, rich and poor, from places as far away as Chicago. All night long before the funeral they had come to the rickety storefront where the body lay, to say a prayer or touch their rosaries to the folded hands. For many of them were sure that Peter Maurin was a saint.”

L’Osservatore Romano, published in Vatican City, carried Peter Maurin’s obituary on the front page.

— Written by

Dorothy Day declared Peter Maurin Saint of the CW Movement

Dorothy Day credited Peter Maurin as being the heart and soul of the Catholic Worker movement. She would be the first to proclaim him the saint of the movement.

Peter was filled with the history and tradition of Catholicism, as well as an extensive knowledge of papal encyclicals. This was Peter’s common ground. He was able to create a synthesis of these ideas that was simple, but profound. In this he was a genius.

Peter gave new meaning to the word radical, which he drew from the Scriptures and the lives of the Saints, who were so successful in giving witness to Gospel values.

Personalist Radicalism

It was Peter who brought the writings of the personalist Emmanuel Mounier to the Catholic Worker. Mounier rebelled against judging all aspects of life through the economic factor (money and profit) and refused to elevate comfort and consuming to the level of a transcendental value. Instead, he focused on the value of the human person as one having a special vocation besides that of accumulation. He told us, “One does not free a man by detaching him from the bonds that paralyze him; one frees a man by attaching him to his destiny.”

The goal of both Mounier and Peter Maurin was to reform the world. They preferred calling persons and the Church to the works of mercy and to a personalist transformation of the world in Christ to dissent from Church teaching.

Personalist radicalism found the idea of the Church no obstacle to its philosophy and methods; to the contrary, it was only through personalist radicalism that the dynamite of the Church could be ignited.

Peter quoted the prophets of Israel and the Fathers of the Church, who condemned the practice of usury. He may have forseen the horrendous inequalitites and injustices, the lack of care for the human person which exist today because of indebtedness of the Third World to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Peter didn’t judge people. He engaged them and called them to their vocation, to bring Christ’s redeeming love to the world.

Dorothy Day described Peter the Saint very well: “Though Peter went weekly to confession and daily to Communion and spend an hour a day in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, his study was of the material order around hm. He was dealing with this world, in which God has placed us to work for a new heaven and a new earth wherein justice dwelleth. Peter’s idea of justice was that of Saint Thomas-to give each person what is his due.”

Maybe Peter and Dorothy should be canonized together.

— written by MARK AND LOUISE ZWICK, Originally published in Houston Catholic Worker, Vol. XVIII, No. 7, December 1998.

Crucified man had prior run-in with authorities

An incident whose anniversary we commemorate this week.

The gentleman arrested Thursday and tried before the Sanhedrin and Pontius Pilate had a troubled background.

Born possibly out of wedlock, this jobless thirty-something spent the majority of his time in the company of sex workers and criminals.

He has had prior run-ins with local authorities for disturbing the peace — most notably, an incident of vandalism in a community center when he wrecked the tables of several licensed money-lenders and bird-sellers. He had used violent language, too, claiming that he could destroy a gathering place and rebuild it in three days.

He had come to the attention of the authorities more than once for his unauthorized distribution of food and disruptive public behavior.

At the time of his arrest, he had not held a fixed residence for years. Instead, he led an itinerant lifestyle, staying at the homes of friends and advocating the redistribution of wealth.

—The above was adapted from an article by Alexandra Petri which originally appeared in The Washington Post.

We must always remember that Jesus was arrested, charged with crimes, judged by the local authorities, and given a legal sentence. We therefore must, as he instructed us in Matthew 25:31-46, comfort (Visit / Look After) those who are imprisoned, and treat them as we would him. For our Lord was a prisoner, he was declared guilty by both the local authorities, as well as a large group of the local people; because of this we cannot look at someone and say, “They were found guilty by a court, and everyone knows they are guilty, therefore they should rot in prison or be put to death!” For Christ has told us that if we do that, we do that to him; we become like the crowd in the Palm Sunday readings, calling for him to be crucified.

At the recent Palm Sunday Mass, during the Homily, Deacon Mike Johnsen said, “We must ask ourselves, would we go along with the crowd, calling for his crucifixion, or would we faithfully follow him like the Marys and John? It is easy to say that you would, but look at Peter, who denied him three times, and realize that it is all too easy to get caught up with the crowd and swayed by public opinion, even when deep down you know inside it is wrong. I had to ask myself recently, what would I have done, would I have been swayed by the crowd?”

We must remember to see the face of Christ, in every person that we see, and in every prisoner, and to not condemn people with the crowd; we are called to love and forgive.

So on this Holy Week, remember Christ The Prisoner.

—Jack Danya Kemplin

Mi Casa Es Su Casa – A House of Hospitality & Poor Church for The Community

Ever since I was 13 years old, I had a vision, a dream, a goal: To build a community, which like those of Medieval Europe, revolved around The Church. I envisioned a community with The Church at its very heart, the life of the community flowed from The Church. People would live & work around and within The Church, & be inspired to never desire or wish to leave The Church’s grounds, to be born there, to live & work there, to read a book, dance & sing there, to paint & write there, to attend school there, to get married there, to have children there, & to eventually be buried within those hallowed grounds. Isn’t that a beautiful sight, to spend one’s whole life within The Church?

Over the years, I have pondered over the best way to implement this, & drawn up many different designs. A community such as this could be implemented any number of ways, be it like the medieval communities, or like the monasteries & nunneries, the Catholic universities, or some other way; All of these approaches are beautiful & can be done today.

Within the past decade, I have realized a way which would be the easiest, most compact with the most functions, & the most affordable for me: I call it “Mi Casa Es Su Casa”, My House Is Your House. It will be apartments, a library, a concert venue, a theatre, a workshop, a print-shop, a community kitchen, a community cupboard, a community closet, a homeless shelter, a community garden, greenhouse, & more. This all can be contained within one, relatively small, building, & can be built almost dirt-cheap.

By studying architecture throughout human history, & how modern day sustainable architects are reusing those ancient designs & techniques; I have designed a floorplan for one building, no bigger than Sacred Heart Parish, which can be made for less than the cost of a standard brand new home, will last for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, and which will be able to permanently house at least 32 people & be open to the community for all of those things listed above.

The place can be built at such low cost by using ancient, tried & true building materials which come naturally from the very land the building is build on, as well as through recycling or upcycling that which most people consider to be junk and trash. One ancient building style which has lasted for thousands of years, is to build using compressed earth, by digging 6’ or deeper hole in the ground the shape of the building, and then using that dirt to build the walls of the place, compressing it firmly until it is solid, & then stucco it with something like concrete–As can be seen, making your building out of 80% actual dirt from the very ground it is on/in, is dirt cheap. During the World Wars the military used this same design to construct many of their forts, & there are ancient compressed earth buildings which survive to this day. This is a cheap, affordable building method which can be trusted.

The concrete can be made even cheaper by mixing it with large amounts of recycled paper, creating what is called papercrete, which is just as strong as typical concrete, as well as having other beneficial properties.

Then if you had rain collecting cisterns for the water, wind turbines and solar panels for electricity (which yes, would cost money, but the investment would pay itself off overtime), & a leach field for septic, along with the growing of most of the community’s food in the community garden & greenhouse; you have a self-sustaining, affordable place for the community to revolve around.

Now one may ask, “How does this involve The Church though?” & true, such a structure could be built by a purely secular, non-religious community. However, what if we were to integrate this design with the religious life? Like a monastery, nunnery, or medieval village surrounding a Cathedral. What if this design incorporates a church? This is my mission.

I have been inspired by The Houses of Hospitality started by Servant of God Dorothy Day & The Catholic Worker Movement: homeless shelters, intentional communities, & farms where both the less fortunate & the religious inspired live & work, to live out Christ’s teachings of charity, community, & mercy.

Mi Casa Es Su Casa is my House of Hospitality, & we are all called to share our gifts with The Church, be it our knowledge & skill at construction, electrical installation, landscaping, cooking, music, art, etc. So let’s share our gifts with The Church, & freely come together in brotherhood & love, giving our time & gifts to The Church, to build something that will bring a community together, & help improve countless lives.

God willing, if mine ever gets built, remember that mi casa es su casa, my house is your house; for Christ said we are to shelter, feed, clothe, & care for the least amongst us, for in doing so we are doing it for him.

Wherever you are, inspire your church & community to come together to build a House of Hospitality.

– Jack Danya Kemplin

The Church is To Be The Community’s Centre

Historically, in Medieval Europe, The Church was the centre of the community, its backbone, its cornerstone, its foundation. All of the businesses helped build, sustain, & support The Church; & likewise The Church supported the community & the community, the parishioners, were The Church. We are all part of The Church, The Body of Christ, and we must all work in unison, like each system of the body, to remain in good health. The Church employed the stone masons, the glass-workers, the metal forgers, the carpenters, the tailors, seamstresses, Musicians & artists, etc. in the building, maintaining, & operating of The Church; in return The Church housed them, & made sure they were fed; The Church employed farmers to grow food for The Church, the builders & workers, & in return The Church provided fields, equipment, & housing for them–The Church was the main employer in those days.
And look at people’s lives back then! Read how they spoke of The Church. The Church was a major part of their lives, they prayed often and many attended Mass daily; people promoted chastity, charity, duty, fidelity, & faith; they honestly & wholeheartedly believed in The Mass, The Eucharist, the Saints, these were not tired old stories to them, they lived it, they saw it amongst them–we can see it amongst us too! We can feel the transubstantiation, we can experience the miracles, and we can strive to be saints.

Why did so many people attend daily mass, regularly go to confession, & were involved in The Church, when so few today do? What changed?

As noted, back then people lived close to The Church, they worked close to The Church, & they lived & worked WITH The Church: The Church was their community’s centre.

This can give us insight as how to recreate this sense of religious community, how to better integrate the community with The Church: The Church was the centre of the community, all of the community revolved around The Church.

That means that the way to recreate this deep bond with The Church, this deep passion for The Faith, The Church must also be the community centre. It must be a place where everyone gathers often, perhaps even daily, to celebrate en mass, & The Mass is a reverent & solemn celebration.

The Church should be a place that people want to come to, that they want to spend all of their free time at, that they want to work at, that they want to dedicate their entire lives to; be it as laity or in the Religious life. We hear all the time about how there is a lack of people choosing the Religious vocation these days, how the church is so low on priests, monks & nuns–why is that? Why are young people these days not inspired to follow the call to religious vocation? Could it be that since their community, their life, is not centred around the beauty & solemnity of The Church, that not seeing that beauty, they are not being inspired to seek a religious life. They must be shown that beauty, and let it call them to either a religious life in the sacrament of marriage as laity, or the great call to serve The Church in the religious vocations. It is hard for people to be inspired by something they are not acquainted with, they cannot be inspired unless they witness the beauty of The Church & the Religious Community.

If someone wants to have a picnic, The Churchyard should be the best place for that, if they want to play, like in a park, The Churchyard should be the best place for that, if people want to dance, sing, make music & art, The Church should be the place for that. If people want to live close to The Church, within walking distance, they should be able to, if they want to work for The Church, they should be able to. The Church should allow for & inspire people to integrate their lives with The Church, to make themselves part of The Church. The Church doesn’t have to struggle with society, The Church can be society; The Church doesn’t have to struggle with the secular life, The Church can inspire the secular life to be a religious & sacramental secular life, just as the laity are called to make the secular life be.

This can be achieved easily, The Church just has to realise that it is the community’s centre.

– Jack Danya Kemplin

A Reminder for Christians – 2

Acts 2:44-45
“And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.”

Matthew 19:24
“And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”

James 1:9-11
“Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation, but the rich in his humiliation, for as a flower of the field he will pass away. For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than it withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes. So the rich man will also fade away in his pursuits.”

1 Timothy 6:8-10
“And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil.”

James 5:1-6
“Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you.”

Proverbs 29:7
“The righteous is concerned for the rights of the poor; the wicked does not understand such concern.”

Isaiah 1:17
“Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed.Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.”

Luke 1:52-54
“He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful.”

Mark 9:35
“Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, ‘Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.’ ”

Isaiah 58:6-12
“Thus says the LORD:
release those bound unjustly,
untie the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking every yoke;
Share your bread with the hungry,
shelter the oppressed and the homeless;
clothe the naked when you see them,
and do not turn your back on your own.
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed;
your vindication shall go before you,
and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer,
you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!
If you remove from your midst
oppression, false accusation and malicious speech;
if you bestow your bread on the hungry
and satisfy the afflicted;
then light shall rise for you in the darkness,
and the gloom shall become for you like midday.
Then the LORD will guide you always
and give you plenty even on the parched land.
He will renew your strength,
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring whose water never fails.
The ancient ruins shall be rebuilt for your sake,
and the foundations from ages past you shall raise up;
“Repairer of the breach,” they shall call you,
“Restorer of ruined streets.” ”

Matthew 6:24-34
Jesus said to his disciples:
“No one can serve two masters.
He will either hate one and love the other,
or be devoted to one and despise the other.
You cannot serve God and mammon (greed/wealth/money).
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life,
what you will eat or drink,
or about your body, what you will wear.
Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?
Look at the birds in the sky;
they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns,
yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Are not you more important than they?
Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?
Why are you anxious about clothes?
Learn from the way the wild flowers grow.
They do not work or spin.
But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor
was clothed like one of them.
If God so clothes the grass of the field,
which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow,
will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?
So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’
or ‘What are we to drink?’or ‘What are we to wear?’
All these things the pagans seek.
Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,
and all these things will be given you besides.
Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.
Sufficient for a day is its own evil.”

What Can Churches Do To Help Those In Need, & Engage The Community?

Churches often take up large spaces, yet during the night there is usually almost no one in them; when there are people sleeping in the cold streets, this building being locked down so no one may make use of it, is a sin. A Church should be a sanctuary, a shelter, a place of refuge, it should be the open place for the holy family (which is to be seen in every family) to rest, it is to be an open door waiting to take in Christ and his Apostles, ready to take in & entertain angels.

Now some may think, “But if we let homeless people sleep there, what if they trash the place? What if they are irreverent? What if they get violent or hurt someone?” Those are all very understandable concerns, back several years ago a priest at my Parish was assaulted early one morning, & we all know about the priest who was beheaded in France & the African American church goers who were murdered in Charleston; but, we, as Christians must listen to Matt10:28 & Luke12:4-5 & Luke12:11-12
“I tell you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear the One who, after you have been killed, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him!…When you are brought before the synagogues, rulers, and authorities, do not worry about how to defend yourselves or what to say. For at that time the Holy Spirit will teach you what you should say.”
So as Christ said, do not be afraid of people harming you or your loved ones, for if you are doing good & someone murders you, you become a martyr & go to heaven, but if you do not do good, because you fear that someone may harm you, then you will go to Hell; again, Jesus is quite clear on this. So, you must not be afraid to spread the good news, to do good for the least amongst you, this truth is made clear when looking at the lives of the apostles & saints themselves, look at how many of them were martyred, look at how many of them were sentenced to death for helping those in need; The Saints make Christ’s message clear, we mustn’t let fear of bodily harm, stop us from doing good.

Also, we must have trust/faith in humanity, we must tell them “As long as you treat this place with reverence & respect & do not make a mess, & do not fight or threaten people, you may stay here.” & I promise you 99% of them will do as is asked, in thanksgiving for them having a place to sleep, etc. As for that 1%, we covered that issue above, be not afraid.

What else can a church do for the poor?

  • They can make sure that everyone is always invited to perpetual Eucharistic adoration, as long as they are respectful & reverent.
  • They could create a room where anyone can put extra food that they do not wish to eat & where anyone can get food that they would like to eat.

These are just a few things which churches can do to help those in need.

How can a church better engage the community & get more people to spend their free time at The Church?

  • The Church can keep open their religious library so that anyone may come in & read religious books any time they wish & the church can set up a book checkout system so people may take the books home.
  • The Church could celebrate more events like Saint Patrick’s Day, Saint Valentine’s Day, Saint Nicholas’ Day, All Saint’s Day, etc, by throwing big parties which have fun & entertainment, but which also maintain focus on the solemnity and holiness of the day, reconnecting people to the truths about those Saints & how those Saints would want them to celebrate in their memories.
  • Like in Medieval times, The Church can make themselves the centre of the community, it can engage the community in all aspects of people’s lives, it can make itself a place that people want to go during all hours of the day, a place where people can gather, meet up, read, talk, work on projects together, a place where people can spend their whole lives, where people want to go in whatever spare time they have & where people wish to make the time to be at.

The Church is the Body of Christ, we must be His hands on earth, we must tend to the poor, the sick, & each other. The Church must intertwine itself with the community, it must be an active part of the community if it wants people to make The Church an active part of their lives.

– Jack Danya Kemplin

Are Local Churches truly following Christ’s teachings?

I have began to realize that my local church isn’t following Christ’s teachings, at least not as well as they should.

I have for years been deeply devoted to Eucharistic Adoration, & have promoted it to everyone I meet. However, a while back I was doing adoration one weekday morning, around 7AM, when an elderly female parishioner walked in, & signalled for me to exit the chapel to speak with her.

Once outside of the chapel she, in a somewhat angry tone, asked me “Were you in here a few days ago without shoes?!” I was taken aback by this odd question & answered “No.” While at the same time thinking silently to myself,
“Though even if someone had, what is wrong with that? Christ, & discalced monks & nuns only wear sandals, & even if someone was shoeless, does that mean they do not deserve to spend time with The Lord?”

She then asked me another question, “Did you bring a homeless person in here the other night?!” Again perplexed I answered, “No, I brought a friend in the other night, but he was not homeless.” & once more I thought to myself,
“And even if he was homeless, do homeless people not deserve to spend time adoring The Lord?”

After that thought, I expressed out loud to her, “All people are welcome to adore The Lord, even the homeless, the poor, the least amongst us.”

To this she angrily responded, “Do you want to take this to the Pastor?!” To her pure shock, I enthusiastically agreed to do so!

Father was busy, so we spoke to a lay person who runs the parish’s business end. The man could not refute my quotes of The Lord’s, but asked me to stay away from the Adoration chapel until after Easter, as to avoid the woman & her friends. Though I was upset that he seemed to have made it that her & her other elderly friend’s adoration was more important than mine & my friends; I submitted & did as he had asked.

I type this at midnight on a bench outside of the church, it is about 55 degrees outside. I type this where I do, because in going to the Eucharistic Adoration chapel tonight, I see a new sign posted outside it, which in bold letters reads,
“This is not a shelter or a place to sleep!”
I simply disagree with that, for is not the presence of The Lord, to be a place of shelter? Is it a sin to “Fall asleep in the presence of The Lord with the hope of salvation”? Is it not holy to take shelter with The Lord & be in His presence until one falls asleep?

Christ said, “I was a stranger & you gave me shelter, I was hungry & you fed me, I was thirsty & you gave me drink, I was sick & you comforted me, I was in jail & you visited me” he said those who do these things for the least amongst them, will be righteous, & will go to eternal life, but those who do not do these for the least amongst them, will go to eternal punishment (Matt25:31-48).

Jesus clearly says that we MUST give shelter, food, drink, medicine, etc to the poor, the sick, & those in jail; he says if we don’t, we will go to Hell, it doesn’t get any more clear.

So to tell people that they cannot find shelter in the presence of The Lord, that they cannot find rest in his presence, that they do not deserve to adore him because they smell, have ratty clothing, or have no shoes; is a slap in the face to The Lord Jesus.

Before ending this article, I will tell of one more unfortunate incident:

It was early November and I was amidst a 7 day Eucharistic Adoration for All Saints Day, which I had promised to Saint Therese for her being there during an illness I had recently recovered from.

On the 4th night of my adoration, it was snowing heavily outside, winter had came early that year; it was 2AM, & all of a sudden, a man who had come to do adoration, came in, & at seeing me, he opened the door & propped it open, letting snow blow into the chapel. He went out to his car and got a coat, which he put on himself as he came back inside & sat, shivering in his coat. He of course did not offer me a coat and I was left to freeze in that room.

After his hour was up, he went over, grabbed the Monstrance cover, put it over the Eucharist, & placed the Host into a drawer; he then ordered me to “Get out!”

So, now at 3AM with snow falling around me, he forced me to leave the Adoration chapel, & he sat inside his warm car, watching me stand outside in the cold with no coat for 30 minutes; after which he drove away.

Although I had the passcode to re-enter the chapel at any time, right in front of him; I chose not to, preferring to stand outside in the cold as a saint would have.

At 4AM another adorer came & I told them of what had happened & we both went in to adore The Lord.

This incident, above the others, makes me upset, as not only did he basically torture me & attempt to kill me with hypothermia, but also, while there was someone there willing to adore The Lord in the Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration Chapel, he chose to kick that person out & put away The Lord so that no one could adore him, even though there was someone there willing to do so!

What is with these people?! These false Christians! They are such a slap in the face to Our Lord! They act like as if only them & their friends are worthy enough to spend time with The Lord, like as if the poor & the homeless are not worthy to spend time in the presence of The Lord.

This is an outrage!

Christ says that the faith & devotion of the poor, outshines & is worth more than that of rich people (Mark12:41-44); so why is it that this parish seems to cast out the poor faithful, in favour of the rich? Is this place truly following The Lord?

I leave you with this reminder: If you do not give a stranger shelter, then you are not a Christian & will burn eternally. Those are the exact words of Jesus.

If the people who attend church & those who run it, would live out the teachings of Christ, then the world would be a far better place.

– Jack Danya Kemplin