Larry's Blog

A blog devoted to the clarification of thought on T
he Maurin Mandate

A tribute to my friend Don Noll

posted Feb 15, 2018, 5:10 PM by Carmina Chapp

I only knew Don Noll for about four months. And he was already sick with cancer, at age 82, when we first met. My wife, Carrie, first met him at a gathering of people associated with the diocese of Scranton. He invited her to visit his farm and so we did. Don was an organic farmer with a good amount of land and some lovely greenhouses, and we met with him to discuss how his farm could carry on now that he was ill. He was very interested in our farm and its social justice mission and so we had a lovely first meeting. Since then, we introduced Don to another friend of ours who is a horticulturist and the two of them began to make plans for Don's farm. Sadly, Don passed away yesterday at the very beginning of Lent.

What struck me about Don was how life-affirming he was to the very end. He refused to give in to the cynicism about life his disease and advanced age could have induced, and instead was busily making plans for this year's plantings. He probably knew that his remaining time was very short, but he soldiered on, happily, all the same. Rest in peace Don.

But his passing also caused me to reflect on our mortality just a bit. Don, as I said, was an avid organic farmer. He studiously avoided foods and habits that lead to diseases like cancer. He did not smoke, or drink all that often, ate whole organic foods, got tons of exercise and lived his life at a pace that did not induce stress. And yet, he died of cancer. And he died of cancer because all of us die. Despite all of his health affirming habits, Don's immune system aged as he aged. As it does for all of us. And eventually, it was overwhelmed, and Don's body failed him.

I am not trying to be morose or depressing. But in this season of Lent I think the Church does ask us to reflect upon our actions in the light of what our true end is. And our true end is supernatural. None of us will live in our mortal bodies forever. We will all die. And I think this truth is one we Americans try to hide and repress and brush aside precisely as morose and depressive, as noted above. There is a not so subtle cult of bodily immortality in America that is obsessed with "organic this and natural that" - - who else in the world would spend $4.00 for a bottle of designer water? We are inundated every day with a new study linking this or that food or activity to cancer or dementia or whatever. We have people who freeze-dry their bodies at death in order to be thawed out a thousand years from now. We have people openly talking about "downloading" our consciousness to computers once they get more sophisticated. And our entire medical system is predicated upon an idolatry of perceived immortality that this system supposedly will bring us.

I am not saying we should not care for our bodies. They are temples of the Holy Spirit and gifts from God. And to abuse them is sinful. But that is different from denying that our bodies will inevitably die and that we need, therefore, to focus on the eternal things that will make us fit for union with God. The co-owner of our farm, Father John Gribowich, has said to me that one of the greatest pastoral challenges he faces is precisely this American denial of the reality of death. "Nobody thinks, really, that they are going to die" he told me, and he finds this refusal to face death incomprehensible for a Christian. Certainly, death is scary, even for a Christian, because it is the great unknown, the last apocalyptic moment in each of our lives. Fortunately, based on conversations I have had with people who were dying, God does seem to give us tremendous graces to face this moment. But face it we will.

Finally, as a Catholic Worker I would like to point out that there is a social justice component to this as well. The working poor and the destitute do not shop at Whole Foods. They cannot afford it. They shop at places like Walmart and they buy pasta and generic spaghetti sauce and whatever else is on sale, no matter how "carby" or "starchy" or "glycemic" or "non ketonic" or "non organic" or "non vegan" it might be. You will buy that generic pack of 12 chicken thighs on sale for $3.50 no matter how that chicken was raised - - "free range" or in someone's bathtub - - it doesn't matter. It is meat and it is cheap. And so the poor get diseases and die at much higher rates than the rich. The poor do not have the luxury of cheating death and of denying its final provenance in our lives.

I remind myself of this sad fact every time I shop for groceries and I am tempted to spend money on things like "organic dark chocolate bars" and "super fantastic, super antioxidant, super wonderful, super immortal, first pressing Olive Oil" for $20.00 a quart. I am not saying we all need now to eat unhealthfully just because the poor do. I think God does want us to eat the natural and wholesome foods of this earth that he has created. And our farm is devoted to bringing just those kinds of foods to the poor. But I am saying, in this season of Lent, that we reflect on our mortality and on the fact we are all going to die, and how our lifestyle choices should reflect a concern for the fact that when we meet our Lord, as we all will, he will ask us what we did for the poor.

End of ramblings.

Ash Wednesday

posted Feb 15, 2018, 5:09 PM by Carmina Chapp

A blessed Ash Wednesday to everyone! Lent is a time to take serious stock of where we are spiritually. I know that sounds trite and cliche, but Catholics in our culture (myself included) have lost a little of our penitential discipline and often have the best of intentions at the start of Lent, only to see them die on the vine as we grow weary of the effort. I was reminded of this last week when I was visiting with a friend who is an Eastern rite Catholic and l listened to her describe the "Great Fast" that her communion practices. I won't go into details... but yikes. It put me to shame. But Christ spent 40 days and nights in the desert fasting and praying, and if he needed this, in his perfect and sinless humanity, how much more do we need it! The disciple is not greater than the Master.

That is not to say that we should be penitential just so we can prove how spiritually "disciplined" we are. That kind of "white knuckled" penance is actually, I think, a form of pride. No, the point of penance is to reprioritize our inner self, making sure that our spiritual side takes precedence and our bodily appetites (good in themselves) are put again in their proper place, and our disordered emotions (pride, anger, jealousy, greed, and so on) are chastened. I am in constant need of this reprioritizing myself, since my love for creature comforts is second to none, and I often feel "cheated" and grow impatient and upset if I don't get those comforts as my "reward" for working hard. Which I don't. lol. And my emotions ... well, let's just say I can be "difficult".

Peter Maurin and Dorothy Day lived lives of voluntary poverty and devoted themselves to the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. So we here on the farm (Carrie, myself, and Carrie's brother Hank) will be doing our best this Lent to imitate their example. We try to follow their example all the time of course (we are a Catholic Worker Farm after all!), but in the hubbub of day to day living, we often fail. So we are all looking forward to this Lent as a time to really center ourselves again on the only thing that matters: the imitation of Christ.

Peace to all!

The "Collective of Concupiscence" and how boring it all is

posted Feb 9, 2018, 5:38 AM by Carmina Chapp

There is talk in some quarters of Oprah Winfrey running for President in 2020.  My response to this is, why not?  If Donald Trump can be President - - a man whose only qualification for the job seems to be that he is a rich celebrity - - then any rich celebrity can be President I guess.  What all of this probably points to, sadly, is how utterly exhausted and bankrupt our politics has become, with Americans by the millions turning away from the more experienced political insiders in favor of outsiders who promise us that they alone can provide the radical change that is needed. And everyone seems to agree that radical change is indeed needed, so long as "radical change" means ripping the Band-Aids off of everyone else's scabs but mine.  Radical change can also mean, rather simply, that you want the power that the ruling party possesses transferred to your party. Which is to say, no change at all, which is why you have to lie about it.  For example, in our last election, "Drain the swamp!" was the mantra of the Trump supporters.  But did anyone really expect that the man we elected, a swamp creature if ever there were one, would be able to do this?  And what, exactly, does one do with a drained swamp anyway??  Probably sell it to developers who would build overpriced, poorly made, beige and boring condos, nicely accessorized with a strip mall complete with a Dunkin Donuts and a Vape shop.  In other words, just a different kind of swamp.  The Democrats prefer the fevered swamp of coercive governmental power, whereas the Republicans prefer the fetid swamp of corporate greed.  So all we have really done is trade Lenin for Bezos.  

Oh, I can hear people now… "Damn it Chapp, you are always so negative about politics and 'Merica.  You have to live in the real world and the real world is never perfect!"  If you are in that cloud of critics then I can say to you that you are correct about one thing: nothing in this world is wholly perfect.  But that does not mean that there aren't degrees of imperfection.  To deny this is to deny that there is such a thing as truth - - a truth that acts as the barometer for all of our actions, political or otherwise.  Therefore, my claim is this, a claim that you can take or leave as you see fit, but a claim I stand by with full conviction: the contemporary American socio-economic-political system is predicated in a foundational way on a profound and tragic falsehood.  It is a false first principle shared by every major governmental and economic institution in this country and it stands in total contradiction to the Christian faith.  This false first principle can be stated simply and then its logical conclusions can be teased out as follows:  God is irrelevant to the construction of government and our public life together, which is to say, God does not exist, which is to say, nothing spiritual or supernatural exists, which is to say that we are all purely material beings with no purpose or goal or end beyond the satisfaction of our individual desires, which is to say that pleasure (the satisfaction of our base desires) is more rooted in reality than happiness (the joy and peace that comes from pursuing the higher spiritual realities like the moral good). Indeed, according to this false principle, the spiritual dimension of life and the moral good are, at best,  "noble lies", and at worst repressive illusions - - repressive since their pursuit often inhibits the attainment of pleasure. 

The late Italian philosopher, Augusto del Noce, building on this same insight (that our culture is founded on a false first principle: God does not matter), points out that the ruling philosophy that our culture has adopted as a replacement for God and religion is the philosophy known as "scientism".  In a nutshell, scientism is the belief that only the hard, empirical sciences give us access to truth.  Everything else is an illusion.  Therefore, when it comes to our common life together as a people - - a life that comes to be defined, regulated and controlled by government and corporate elites - - there is only one form of reason that is "allowed in" as proper public discourse.  And that is the language of science.  Furthermore, given our reduction of life to economics, what the elevation of science really means is the ascendency of "applied science" (technology) to pride of place.  Every aspect of our social life thus comes under the purview of governmental control, and all culture and every form of reason becomes a function of politics.  And this final step, the submission of culture to politics, is the very heart of totalitarianism.  Only, in this case, it is not the totalitarianism of the Nazis or the Stalinists or the Maoists - -brutal, bloody, and quite vulgar in its unsubtle use of blunt violence - - but rather the much more seductive totalitarianism of techno-nihilism, where our base bodily desires form what I call a "Collective of Concupiscence" which the government regulates and the economy inflames.  Our future is thus most likely to be a dystopian one.  But it won't be the dystopia of the concentration camp.  Rather, it will be Huxley's Brave New World with a Disneyland aesthetic. Because… you know… "family values".

You might think this is an exaggeration.  I don't think it is.  It is the logical conclusion of scientism no matter what our elites might say about our bold new future. Because, despite what scientism's popularizers (such as Carl Sagan and Richard Dawkins) might say in their more poetic moments when speaking about the "beauty" of the cosmos and of science, the fact is, if I am just an ape with a big brain, and an accidental byproduct of the cosmic chemistry of stardust remnants, then I really don't give a shit about some gaseous blob, or even a vast number of "billions and billions" of gaseous blobs, ten million light years away; or the "fascinating" mating rituals of fruit bats; or the "poetry" of soil regeneration through dung beetle digestive cycles.  In other words, when you are told endlessly that there is no meaning to existence, then guess what?  You actually start to think that way. And then everything loses its flavor. Everything starts to taste like rice cakes. Therefore, you cannot have it both ways. You cannot bleach divinity and Transcendence out of the cosmos and tell everyone that the whole affair is just an aimless and pointless accident, and then turn around and talk to us about the "moral necessity" of this or that urgent social cause. Why should I even care about the future of humanity itself?  Why should I care about the ultimate destiny of ambulatory, bipedal, chemistry sets?  

So really, it doesn't matter who is in power … Democrats or Republicans, Trump or Oprah, and it does not matter if we place more emphasis on the government to solve our problems or free enterprise economics.  Because our entire society operates according to the false premise I articulated above.  In that sense we are all Marxists now, insofar as Marx's controlling idea was the notion that the material world is all that exists and that economics drives everything.  And try as we might to deny that this materialistic view of existence is death to the higher functions of our soul, there is no escaping the fact that fewer and fewer people will devote themselves to higher pursuits, once the notions of God, Transcendence, purpose, meaning, the Good, and so on, are banished from our lexicon of acceptable ideas.  We will increasingly privilege pleasure over happiness, which is to say, we will privilege opioids, techno gadgets, virtual reality stimulation, porn, and various other forms of addiction.  We will be, if we aren't already, a nation of addicts.  Because if there is one thing we know about our bodily appetites it is that they are insatiable, requiring ever more of the same things to slake our rapacious desires.  But partaking of the same thing, addictively, over and over and over, is boring.  It crushes and kills the soul.  And so what we will really end up with is not a society of liberated selves, but a society of bored, libidinous, pleasure addicts trending toward suicidal despair.  

Furthermore, the fact of the matter is that we all share the same basic bodily appetites.  It does not matter if you are rich or poor, gay or straight, fat or skinny, old or young, or what race you are, or your ethnicity, or your political party, or if you prefer the vapid and brain dead banter of "Fox and Friends" over the vicious and pompous self-importance of the moronic ladies on "The View".  Once you take away the idea that human nature has a spiritual side that, you know, "trends upward", you are left with staring at your crotch or your gut or your veins.  This is, of course, absolutely true, but we ignore the downward spiral of our culture into techno-pagan bacchanalia because our affluent elites, the poor dears, have confused despairing addiction and the "dark" view of life it spawns, with sophistication, and count as "enlightenment" a cultivated anti-intellectual stupidity.   

I am struck, for example, by how many of the lead characters in shows made by Netflix or Amazon (especially detective shows) are depressive and "dark" souls, haunted by some hidden pain in their past that is the irritant in the oyster that creates the pearl of their genius.  So far so good, since we all have hidden pain in our lives, and the various things we all suffer from really are, quite often, the genesis of much depth and creativity.  But these characters are different.  They are nihilistic, often cruel, morally ambiguous, irreligious of course (duh), self-destructive, and live as radically atomized, alienated and isolated individuals devoid of love or meaningful relationships.  And if they do develop a relationship, it usually flounders on the shoals of the lead character's unfathomably dark pain. Or worse, the love interest is killed off, with a hefty dose of complicit guilt on the part of the lead character, further adding to his or her morose self-immolation. And all of this is portrayed as "sophisticated". (There are exceptions of course, but this is just an anecdotal and subjective impression I have of many of these shows).

The irritating thing about all of this, of course, is that it is just so puerile and shallow, with little justification for its pretentious dismissal of "God" or "the Good".  And it is unbearably boring and drab.  Is there anything more pitifully awful than being forced to listen to someone drone on and on about their "sexuality"?  By contrast, people only really become interesting when they differentiate themselves from one another, as true individuals, by cultivating the higher levels of the soul.  And this is done in many ways, even still today, because the fact is we ARE spiritual beings and the spiritual dimension of our existence cannot be snuffed out.  But those among us who still seek these things are becoming ever more rare, and are being forced into ghettos or isolated enclaves of activity, and frequently branded as bigots because we adhere to traditional religious views about God and such things.  It does appear, in other words, that the Collective of Concupiscence has fangs and claws, because at the end of the day, we are all "God haunted", which is why members of the Collective view traditional religious believers as their tormentors.  

However, sadly, gradually the creative power of the majority of people is being perverted and bent to serve the needs of the emerging political and economic collective - - the Collective of Concupiscence - - wherein the true "liberation" of your "identity" can only come about when all of those institutions that represent the values of the Spirit are branded as oppressors. We WILL be liberated, and we WILL use government to enforce that liberation, and we WILL demand that the economy provide us with the means to enjoy the fruits of that liberation.  Indeed, we will demand that the economy provide us with all of the gadgets and accouterments that we need to enhance our pleasures to unimaginable heights.  Welcome to the wacky, upside down world of the new "sophistication":  mass-produced individualism where radical "non conformity" means all public and, increasingly, private speech, will be policed, looking for any sign that someone has breached the canons of non-conforming orthodoxy.  So "individualism" here appears to mean its exact opposite.  But that is what you get in the Collective of Concupiscence.  Somewhere Orwell is smiling.

Peter Maurin lived before all of this technological wizardry was real.  But he lived in an age of totalitarianisms.  And he was a thinking Catholic.  Which means he had a deep prophetic insight into what was around the corner, so to speak.  And just as 
Rod Dreher, in his wonderful book, The Benedict Option, calls orthodox Christians to a deeper awareness of the profoundly anti-Christian challenges our culture is putting before us, so too did Peter Maurin warn us that the only way we will endure the coming storm of cultural barbarity is to form deeply intentional communities of Christian intellectual discourse, moral ecology, and liturgical practice. Not so that we can "escape" the world and shun our brothers and sisters who remain within it.  But so that we can know ourselves better and come closer to God so as to be better able to serve our neighbor in love.  The members of the Collective of Concupiscence are not our "enemies".  Indeed, we are, if we are honest, infected with the same bacillus as everyone else.  We are all in the Collective in one-way or another.  And so there is no question of abandoning the culture because that is, quite simply, neither desirable nor possible.  

But we cannot drink from the same poisonous well and so we must cultivate new sources of "living water" in order to share it with everyone.  And "everyone" means, literally, "everyone".  So please do not accuse me of "us vs. them" thinking.  That kind of approach is not an option for a Christian.  But if you do not "have" a Christian sensibility of the big questions of life, then by default you will "have" the template provided by our culture.  I will end therefore with an old Latin phrase: "Nemo dat quod non habet":  You cannot give what you do not have.

Here endeth the lesson

Image: "Peter Maurin." Wind and Fly LTD, 2018. 09 February 2018.

On the Zombie Apocalypse and Canned Tomatoes

posted Jan 22, 2018, 8:00 AM by Carmina Chapp

One of the things, I think, that most vexed Peter Maurin and Dorothy Day about the Catholic Worker Farms, was how often people who came to the farms to live and work, ignored what was, to Peter and Dorothy, the central purpose of the farms: to bring us closer to God.  Peter and Dorothy were both greatly influenced by the example of the great Catholic monasteries, especially the Benedictines (Dorothy was a lay Benedictine oblate), and wanted the farms to reflect that same vision:  manual labor, communal liturgical prayer, spiritual reading, and the development of arts and crafts rooted in the land.  Peter referred to this as the coming together of “Cult” (prayer), “Culture” (the artisanal skills rooted in that prayer), and “Cultivation” (working the land).  The greatest poverty of the modern world, according to Peter and Dorothy, was the poverty of the loss of God.  All other problems are rooted in, and flow from, this fundamental blindness.  That is not to say that they believed that if you could just get everyone back in Church that paradise would be restored. They weren’t naïve fools.  But they also understood that no transformation of the social order can even begin on any other footing, since only a faith in a Transcendent God allows us to prioritize the proper relation between the political and the non-political.  In other words… only in a society that acknowledges God as its center can the power of our political and economic overlords to be held in check. 


That is why Dorothy and Peter wanted the farms to be “schools” (“agronomic

universities” as Peter called them) for the training of our spiritual souls, first and foremost.  And the relationship with the land would be part of this schooling as we learn, humbly, to submit ourselves to the discipline that nature imposes.  The learning of certain lost skills like spinning wool, milking dairy animals, and canning vegetables, were also part of this schooling, as well as relearning how to just do absolutely nothing other than to sit and “be” with others in the leisure of a warm afternoon.  After all, the idolatry in our lives of the industrial model of “production” can only be broken with a nice block of cheese and some good wine, shared with friends under a tree on an afternoon where I could be “doing something”, but choose instead to do “nothing”. 


Unfortunately, much to the dismay of Peter and Dorothy, many of the people who came to the farms were very much enamored by the “back to the land” ethos of the place, but really wanted to have very little to do with all of that other religious gobbledygook.  They liked the idea of living off of the land, but were not much interested in the poor, social transformation, God, the spiritual life, community, or even getting along with the other folks on the farm.  And so, inevitably, the farms would fail, as they succumbed to the entropy of human selfishness and pettiness.


I have been reminded of this lately as a result of conversations I have had with people I know who have expressed an interest in “getting back to the land”.  As many of you reading this might know, there is currently a revival of this interest on the part of many people in our culture.  And I do indeed applaud and encourage this desire, obviously.  Peter’s vision of social transformation through a return to small, agrarian communities seems to be gaining traction in the hearts and souls of many modern people!  And this brings me great joy and hope.


However, I have also noticed some troubling attitudes (troubling to me anyway!) that many of these same people have expressed to me, attitudes that are closely related to what I guess you can call the “prepper” movement.  From what I can gather “preppers” are people who think that our culture is on the brink of some kind of economic and/or political implosion that will necessitate a return to the land for the sake of survival.  Furthermore, many of the preppers believe that owning a gun or two, and learning how to use them, in order to protect your food stores from marauding bands of brigands intent on stealing your canned tomatoes, is essential. 


Now, we very well may be on the brink of some kind of total social collapse complete with the dreaded Zombie apocalypse.  I am not smart enough to know what the future holds, so it may very well be that the near future will be a dystopian nightmare where burly men riding motorcycles will come to my door demanding those tomatoes at gun-point.  Obviously, I am being a bit sarcastic here for the sake of humor, but all of those Hollywood movies might just be onto something. 


But here is what I want my prepper friends and, while I am at it, some of my other “hippie back to the land” friends as well, to know and understand about our farm.  We are here to live out the Christian, missional vision of Peter Maurin and Dorothy Day.  We are here to grow closer to God even as we reach out to the least among us to give them food and shelter.  We are committed to their vision of non-violent transformation.  We desire, to the best of our abilities and with the grace only God can give, to love our enemies.  We seek to grow closer to God in a life lived in prayer, material simplicity, and devotion to the needs of the poor and the outcast. 


Therefore, we are not a hippie commune filled with aging refugees from the sixties, seeking a good cannabis buzz and free love, as we grow our own organic veggies to aid us in our “body cleansing”.  A Catholic Worker Farm is not a “lifestyle choice” or a fashionable statement about the evils of corporate agriculture.  We are also not a “last bastion” or a “bug out property” for people fleeing the apocalypse.  If the Terminator or Mad Max or a Zombie come to my door demanding canned tomatoes, then they can have them. I will not kill anyone, or even threaten to harm anyone, in order to protect “my” jars of pickled beets.  (I might think of resorting to violence to protect our bacon.  Bacon is a whole different level of concern.  But the Zombies can have the bacon too.  Sigh.)


Christ taught us what the two most important commandments are:  Love of God and Love of Neighbor.  And those two things are deeply intertwined and related.  THAT is what our farm strives to be about.  Nothing more and nothing less.  We welcome, therefore, anyone who shares that vision to join us. 


Here endeth the lesson.

Some Thoughts on the Government Shutdown and Immigration

posted Jan 21, 2018, 8:05 AM by Carmina Chapp

Hi everyone. Larry here. I don’t often get political on here and I really won’t today either. But with our government shut down, largely over the issue of immigration, I wondered, as a Catholic Worker, what our response should be…

The great British economist E.F. Schumacher, in a wonderful little book called “A Guide for the Perplexed”, observes that there really are only two kinds of problems in life. There are “convergent” problems where there really is a single answer (this is the path followed by science) and you can reach that answer after careful analysis, and then there are “divergent” problems where there might be multiple possible answers to the same problem and it is not always so easy to see which should be followed. And most social problems are human problems, rooted in the great mystery of human free will and human nature. As such, social problems are almost always “divergent” problems, which means there might be a variety of different “political” solutions to the same issue. And maybe even non political solutions.

It seems to me the issue of immigration is a divergent problem. However, the political and economic powers that run this country like to treat social problems like convergent problems and to bring them under some kind of political control through various “programs and policies”. But this false reading of the nature of the problem causes our political classes to approach it in binary categories: there can only be ONE right answer to the problem and it is OURS. And of course the answers proposed are also inextricably tied into impure motives: Democrats want open borders because immigrants tend to vote Democratic. Republicans want that darn wall and the “Dreamers” kicked out for that same reason. Republicans then hide their false motives under the banner of some nationalistic jingle like “America for Americans” and so on, while Democrats wrap themselves in the mantle of “justice for all” when all they really want are votes.

This is why Peter Maurin distrusted political solutions to human problems. I am strongly pro-immigration myself, but I am pro immigration for pre-political and non-
political reasons. And I have no idea what a “political” solution to this problem would look like. I am not that clever. But I do know this: Peter Maurin would say that our response to the crisis of immigration is to forget the spirit of political and economic calculation and to focus instead on the human beings in front of us as persons made in God’s image and who are in grave need. If you encounter someone in the desert who has been lost and dying of thirst you do not direct him or her to the nearest government office. You give them a drink of water and then accompany them to safety. That is NOT to say that government and politics have no role to play here. I am just saying in an age of partisan, binary thinking, riddled with false motives and collusion with power, that the Christian response is immediate and personal: “I will feed you. Please come to my house”.

That was our response here on the farm when, two years ago now, I got a call from a Catholic Worker Farm in Missouri asking me if I could please take in a woman and her son who were political refugees from East Africa (Eritrea… a brutal dictatorship). The caller started listing off a long list of reasons why the Eritrean woman needed to come here in the hopes of persuading me. But I cut him off and said, simply, “Hey, its okay. Just send her. We will find room.” I am NOT writing this to garner praise (self praise stinks), but to point out that Peter Maurin thought that most large Catholic parishes, as with the monasteries in medieval times, should have houses of hospitality for just such purposes. That the answer to “the poor” is to stop "calculating" and just open your door. His answer was Christian and personal.

Our two immigrants that we took in became like family to us. They are now successfully relocated in Canada, near Toronto, and we love them very much. They really are part of our family now. So trust me when I say that we got far more from them than they from us. And THAT is not a cliché.

Therefore, as a Catholic Worker, I would politely suggest to the Catholic bishops of America that the Catholic Church take an even greater role in developing houses of hospitality for immigrants. Many parishes are already doing a magnificent job. So are many dioceses who are on the front lines so to speak. But I can only think of how transformative our experience was, and I wish that more parishes, especially wealthy suburban parishes, would pursue Peter Maurin’s model. And if this were pursued ecumenically and inter-religously, it would transform our nation in very positive ways.

What I am trying to say is simple. Most divergent human problems present us with real people. And real people and their needs are pre-political. Therefore, as Peter Maurin taught, the claims they lay upon the Christian conscience have nothing to do with politics: "Whatsoever you do to the least of these, you do unto me." The Christian needs no more than that.

Here endeth the lesson.

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