The Sayings of Abu Francis
I say Dorothy Day was a Depression-era Commie-turned-Catholic, unmarried single-mom feminist. When America was clambering for government to step up with more and better breadlines and soup kitchens, Dorothy was inviting the destitute to sit at her own dinner table.
With the help of her mentor, a French immigrant named Peter Maurin, she laid out a vision for peace, justice and sustainability in 1940 – the “Aims and Purposes” of the Catholic Worker Movement.
Warning: Dorothy’s notion of a “Christian social order” had nothing to do with the theocracy being pursued by many evangelicals today. It was fundamentally about service, healing and unity, not fundamentalist power, fighting and division.
Evangelicals at a recent FlashPoint LIVE rally – organized by Kenneth Copeland Ministries – discussed the 2020 elections “from a biblical perspective” and recited a series of theocratic Watchman Declarations.
“The vision is this,” Dorothy wrote in her Catholic Worker newspaper. “We are working for ‘a new heaven and a new earth, wherein justice dwelleth.’ We are trying to say with action, ‘Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’ We are working for a Christian social order.”
Dorothy’s order was about the “Mystical Body of Christ,” which she said “involves today the issue of unions; it involves the racial question; it involves cooperatives, credit unions, crafts; it involves Houses of Hospitality and Farming Communes. It is with all these means that we can live as though we believed indeed that we are all members one of another.”
The Catholic Worker Movement is now 80-plus years old. For an excellent rendering of those early Bowery days, get a hold of Entertaining Angels starring Moira Kelly and Martin Sheen.
Much of Dorothy and Peter’s vision has been embodied by numerous Catholic Worker communities, mostly in the United States. Houses of Hospitality in blighted inner cities are iconic and Catholic Workers have been deeply involved in issues of nuclear disarmament, racial equality and solidarity with the poor.
Hung out, I did, with a Catholic Worker community in San Diego and later hawked bread baked by homeless people to parishes from the Los Angeles Catholic Worker’s Justice Bakery.
I never heard about Farming Communes. To date, they have been rare. Out of 187 communities listed on the Catholic Worker Movement website, only 23 are farms. This will need to change if the Catholic Worker Movement is to remain vibrant in the 21st Century, which will be as different from the 20th Century as the 20th was different from the 19th.
We propose the Catholic Farmer as part of the Catholic Worker Movement, dedicated to the aims and purposes of Farming Communes. In this new millennium, we believe the Church (and everybody) is faced with three crucial Signs of the Times: climate change, the decline of fossil fuels and political unrest. These three global forces will end the world as the past 4-5 generations have known it – a technological age built and sustained by fossil fuels – and usher humanity into a new era with new challenges.
1. Climate change is happening more rapidly than any scientific models of the past three decades predicted. Whether or not climate change is a result of humans burning carbon or not, we can expect to see increasing natural disasters and bizarre weather events, including sea level rise, droughts and desertification. I’m expecting wars for water to soon replace wars for oil.
2. The decline of fossil fuels (“Peak Oil”) might be more gradual than the impacts of climate change, but will eventually bring industrial society as we know it to a grinding halt. The easy reserves of oil and coal have all been mined and the fossil-fuel industry (backed by the global financial system) is investing in costly technologies to get the rest. Deep-sea drilling, tar sands processing and fracking have turned the U.S. into a net exporter of oil and gas. Anyway you cut it, fossil fuels will become increasing expensive, eventually unavailable to the average person.
Renewable energies, although attractive, do not have the caloric densities needed to power the cities and global food system we built on fossil fuels. Food riots will become as commonplace in the industrial world as they now are in the subsistence world – by the year 2040, according to the Global Sustainability Institute in Cambridge, UK.
3. These two Signs of the Times only exacerbate political unrest around the world. In the U.S., a significant segment of the population believes the 2020 presidential election was fraudulent. Europe is wrestling with a Russian-Ukrainian conflict that is threatening their oil and gas supplies. China is poised to shift the global balance of power as we have known it.
Increasing natural disasters in the face of Peak Oil will give governments ample opportunities to control their citizens through government relief programs, subsidies to corporations, food rationing and martial law. The 21st Century has been decidedly marked by civil unrest, mass protests, government crackdowns and military intervention – all over the world.
Civil unrest that is common throughout the world is now becoming commonplace in the United States.
To address these challenges, the Catholic Farmer will pick up the aims and purposes once laid down by Dorothy and Peter in establishing Farming Communes. We are still learning the forms and shapes of these farms, but self-reliant communities able to provide food, water and shelter for their members and others might survive and thrive in the coming decades.
As Jesus proclaimed in the Sermon on the Mount – his ethical manifesto – they will become “cities set upon a hill” and “lights to the whole household.”
This Sermon on the Mount has been my spiritual roadmap personally, followed by other biblical texts and Catholic Social Teaching. This isn’t for everyone – I do not say, “I have found the path to the one, true God.” Rather, I say, “I have met the one, true God walking upon my path. For the one, true God walks upon all paths.”
For me, I seek the sacramental life, crucial to St. Francis of Assisi and countless other saints throughout the ages. I also draw upon sustainable farming practices of Permaculture, based upon the three ethics of Care of the Earth, Care of People and Fair Distribution of Surplus.
We invite our families, friends, neighbors as well as the strangers among us to share in the vision and work of this “Christian social order.” We might not survive all that is to come, but at least we can face the future with love.
What say you?
Steve, I'm with you. Your vision reminds me of Upton Sincllair's, as in I Candidate for Governor and How I Got Licked https://amzn.to/3o9XSHC. Gio Steve. Make it happen.