The Maurin Mandate

The “Maurin Mandate” and 
the Work of the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker Farm


Larry Chapp

Co-founder and Manager of the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker Farm


Part I: Introduction

Failures and First Steps

We have been on the farm now for four and a half years and have never gotten around to articulating a full mission statement for our farm and its underlying theological rationale.  Part of the reason for this is purely practical - - as a former theology professor I knew nothing about farming (literally) and we have been struggling just to get this place up and running. My wife Carrie even began referring to me as the “YouTube” farmer since I was in need of tutoring for almost everything I did here.  I have been a bookish, egghead all of my life and an intellectual nerd of the first order who has spent most of his adult life in the academic world.  I make no apologies for that since somebody has to be an egg-headed nerd, and to teach others the faith is a noble thing to do.  But my main point here is not to defend my former way of life but to point out that this previous vocational endeavor provided me with absolutely zero practical skills for running a farm.  And when I say zero I mean, actually, less than zero, since my head was filled with a lot of dumb stuff about what it takes to run a farm.  I am reminded in this regard of the advice our homesteading friend Lois Miles (an adult former student of mine) gave us when we were in the first moments of our enthusiasm here: “Expect failure,” she said, with a smile on her face.  I thought she was just being cheeky.  However, it turns out she was issuing a prophetic warning.  And like all true prophets before her, I should have thrown her off of a cliff, but I resisted (there were no easy-at-hand nearby cliffs anyway).  But I am glad I did resist that urge because she was so very right.  Farming is hard work (bad for a lazy person like me) and one learns quickly that nature does not always cooperate with one’s ambitions.  These various failures and all of our other halting, slip-shod first steps have led us to develop a motto for our farm with regard to the results of our work, a motto related to the idea that one should never let the perfect be the enemy of the good: “It is better than it used to be.”  That is not to say that we are okay with shoddy work, or that we do not take pride in doing things the right way. But it does mean that given the limitations of time and resources, one must sometimes be content with a less than perfect result. 

Download the entirety of Larry's essay below.

Carmina Chapp,
Jan 19, 2018, 3:13 PM