In this year of the 50th anniversary of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal and the 100th anniversary of Our Lady appearing at Fatima, and on the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross, September 14, a new community will begin online at first, here in Columbus, Ohio.
With much soul searching, prayer, reflection, rereading of Dorothy Day's books and history, and with spiritual direction of a priest, involving myself with many newer charismatic events, activities and empowerment, and after having become a Benedictine Oblate, I believe that God is leading me and others who are joining, down a different path in name, even though most of what has been worked toward is identical.
September 14 will launch The Lamb Catholic Community, with the simultaneous refurbishing of The Lamb Catholic Worker, which never truly began in deed anyway. Consider it to have been part one, and the new blog/site to be part two, because the old will still be kept intact for reflection and historical background.
It was an amazing dream, with no regrets. All was meant to happen in the timing it happened -- the earlier community beginnings and mistakes, our legal nonprofit status and board with four priests, the many articles given by the Holy Spirit and always in the wee hours of the morning, the offering of my life for Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin's canonization in the live-liver donation to my nephew and second emergency surgery, the waiting and waiting for Dorothy's eventual moving up in the canonization process.
We had lost our nonprofit corporation status (and thus, the official board with three of the four original priests, one now in heaven), full-time live-in community members never came, funds did not pour in, and much agonizing speculation, and humble introspection was undergone this summer.
I was schooled under two stellar Catholic Worker priests in my earlier days, Fr. Richard McSorley, S.J. and Msgr. Marv Mottet at the Catholic Worker houses we began in D.C. in the early 1980s. I lived it for three years and believe it was the closest to living like the early Church as you could possibly get in this country back then -- in "profound poverty and profound joy," one with the poorest, in communal living in the Spirit as mentioned in the New Testament.
I firmly believe in Dorothy Day's sainthood (and obviously Peter Maurin's) and that they lived out the mandates of Christ and the early Church better than any other Catholic in this country at that time. I understand her need to be a concrete and visible Catholic response to that era in which she began -- the early 1930's at the beginning of the Great Depression where 13 million people were unemployed (within a far lesser total population, over 80+ years ago), and those barely employed were treated horrifically, with terrible working hours, sickness and disease with no medical care, with unionizers being beaten to death, with squalid impossible living conditions due to subhuman level wages, etc, etc.
While Dorothy mainly named the paper and movement after St. Joseph the Worker, the patron of the Catholic Worker and feast day on which it was begun, her first six issues were almost entirely directed to the worker, the labor movement, Catholic social encyclicals on social justice (like Rerum Novarum by Pope Leo XII, in 1891, about the rights of workers and the right to unionize), news items about mob bosses, about specific living conditions in areas, working conditions, dangers, etc. This was their focus, their bright light on a hill to such injustices to the working class and unemployed. Dorothy and Peter were so necessary and critical at that time, that I do not doubt any of it, and have great admiration for what they were trying to do. Four popes praised her as well!
As I reread and reflected on how the Catholic Worker was lived out, about philosophies, activities and world views involved, and events and circumstances that had happened in the houses and farms written about, as well as other things, I realized how little I really knew about the Catholic Worker living in regard to its comparison to how I had lived it out before and plan to in this new community in the future.
Dorothy and Peter responded in a saintly and heroic manner to their era and the rights of the workers, and living out the Gospels within newer world views of the day, but much of that I do not understand, have never written about, and probably never will. I wish to take the bullets from any and all guns directed toward this newer vision because of its ties to something in the past that I was not a part of, and most likely will not be.
One of those is the personalism/anarchy mode of the goodness of people governing themselves and no need for governance from above. Rules then, were light, if any and not enforced to the level of having to ask someone to leave, especially if they became dangerous. Some unstable people were allowed to stay that were a harm to others. We cannot have this with little children. Stability and order are very important with children -- particularly after having become a Third Order Benedictine in the past couple of years (after the time of having begun this initial dream).
Dorothy even expressed in later years regrets over the name Catholic Worker, which I had never known either. It truly was based somewhat on the worker and worker rights, even though it has branched in inumerable directions.
While there are many many differing kinds of Catholic Workers, with different types of missions or translations of Catholic Worker, in general, one can honestly say that there are some measuring sticks that are baselines of what an authentic one would have, in my opinion, true to Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin.
One of those elements would be hospitality to the homeless and/or the destitute as being the highest priority of any given house. This was a huge battle that Dorothy and Peter had with others over the years, who wanted the word to get out, or message, more than undergoing the "harsh and dreadful" time-consuming love of actually serving the homeless.
The highest number of residents in the home then, would be in this category - of homeless or destitute - and not just a home mostly filled with social justice or peace-minded people, or a Jonah House, which is different in this aspect.
The few Catholic Workers that I have actually had contact with in the past 7 years or so sort of fall in the category of putting far less time, energy, resources, SPACE, numbers, and focus into hospitality for the poor than into actions, demonstrations, arrests, newsletters, family, etc.
The break from the Labor Movement and beginnings, as well as from any Catholic Worker communities that are not living out Dorothy and Peter's main vision, will free The Lamb Catholic Community to have a much more simple focus of Christ alone, the perfect unblemished Lamb of God -- His actions, His words, His message, His Way, and His thinking. Just that.
His words and actions will be our "rule." The living out of this by His Apostles, those who heard His physical voice with their ears, saw everything He did with their very eyes, and others in the earliest Church who did so as well (as described in the Book of Acts and the epistles), will also be frequently revisited for holiness of life and accountability.
This community is far more simple in general. A major inspiration that brought about so big of a change is to bring people together in Truth. To have nothing that could rule out the exquisite diamond of Truth that this community will be because of some little flaw of the past or present that has no part of this community anyways! To sum it up, it is Truth with a capital T that is Christ, the unblemished Lamb, who called Himself the Word made flesh, Truth itself. He also pushed that we attempt to "be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect."
Thus, one requirement will be a promise to read an entire Gospel from beginning to end yearly, in one of the holy seasons of the year -- Lent or Advent. This is to reground ourselves into Christ alone and not ways of old that even He contrasted, and definitely not in "human tradition," that Jesus accused some of clinging to instead of His newer commands. In other words, this community is to bring people together, not divide them because of this or that questionable item to some.
The beauty is in its simplicity. There are a few other newer components as well, in this year of the 50th anniversary of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. We want to combine the spiritual and corporal Works of Mercy to an equally high level.
Dorothy and Peter's living out of the Catholic Worker is probably the highest level you can get in this country in terms of the corporal works of mercy. Even St. Teresa of Calcutta's sisters are volunteers by day, and pull within themselves at night (which is fine with all they do by day!). Living out of the Catholic Worker ideal for Dorothy and Peter was hard core -- twenty-four/seven living as one with the poor, as in the early Church. We desire to do the same, living as one with the poor and the forgotten, but equally offering the spiritual works of mercy to them as well!
Here are the traditional spiritual works of mercy: instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, admonish the sinners, bear patiently those who wrong us, forgive offenses, comfort the afflicted, and pray for the living and the dead.
Beyond this solid base of spiritual works of mercy above, we want to help our entire community to live a life filled with the Holy Spirit, healed of many hurts and injuries, sicknesses, addictions, habitual destructive life-patterns, generational bondage, etc, and living the full life in Spirit and in Truth.
In addition, we would hopefully be facilitating the reception of other gifts of the Holy Spirit (if they are wanting this), empowered to have lives lead by the Holy Spirit in great joy, peace, and freedom as in the early Church, especially in the Book of Acts. Jesus had promised the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, to lead us and guide us in all things, and this we wish to have for all consenting guests to experience -- a life in the Spirit!
And this even under great persecution and threat (which you most likely will have in the inner city), as in the early Church. Msgr. Mottet always said that the Holy Spirit puts a protective shield and zone around Catholic Worker houses (and we believe this community's houses), even in the most dangerous of neighborhoods. Come, Holy Spirit, come!
Another parting from more recent Catholic Workers is the expectations of our core community members. Dorothy and Peter were warm and welcoming to all, but for themselves, personally underwent very rigorous prayer lives typically with daily mass and rosary, praying the Liturgy of the Hours of the priests, and other spiritual readings in their daily routine of "Ora et Labora," a balance of work and prayer that St. Benedict promoted.
Even the newer Christ in the City program in Denver requires the reading of the Liturgy of the Hours in the morning and at night! Beautiful! And these are teenagers right out of high school mainly. Why not have this at a Catholic community of very committed people?
I have only praise of the great good that Dorothy and Peter brought into the world, and firmly do support their canonization! Dorothy Day's book, Loaves and Fishes, is a requirement in some seminaries. Dorothy and Peter still call all of us to embrace "Lady Poverty" as St. Francis of Assissi called it, live more simply, sacrifice until it hurts for the poor and forgotten in terms of time and money, and especially, to open your home to the poorest and forgotten.
Four popes praised her, so please, continue to pray for her canonization. We will give Dorothy and Peter acknowledgment as part of the inspiration for this community, "... in the spirit of Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin..." She has always and will always continue to be dubbed, "Dorothy Day, friend of the forgotten."
What will The Lamb Catholic Community look like? It will look the same as the ideal/model of before, so it is somewhat a continuation of what we have built upon. Eventually, when complete it will consist of a three- or four-house community for battered women and children of foreign descent, with inner city gardens for farming and hopefully, a sister farm in the country.
It would be nice to have a fourth house, "Loaves and Fishes House" for a variety of purposes: a meeting house for hospitality to the neighbors with a light meal in the day, coffee or tea, conversation, and fellowship. It would be a collecting house/area to tackle massive food donations for the three other houses -- for collecting, storing, canning produce, and refrigeration. It could be a wonderful place for a Eucharistic Adoration chapel, for a public event, talk, a reunion, or large place for praise, worship and prayer ministry. Finally, and most importantly, part of it could be a proper place for preparation/clean-up and celebration of daily masses.
One last note is that this community will not shy away from the power of Mother Mary's intercessory prayers! There is a reason that this new community begins in this year of the 100th anniversary of Fatima and the 50th of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. She is spousal to the Holy Spirit. There is no other person on earth who was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and conceived with Him to bring Christ into the world. We go to God first, as always, and rely on her intercessory prayers in between! The daily rosary will then be a must as well, as Mary asked us to do at Fatima "for world peace." Being peacemakers, this will be a very high priority for world peace!
Pray for us! We will give information about the new blog soon!
Mother of the Word Made Flesh