Peter Maurin

The article below is from Bishop Barron’s current Lenten Reflection series. For anyone who has interest in social action, the twin figures of Peter Maurin and Dorothy Day, offer a masterclass on what it means to link together social activism and a profound attachment to living the Gospel Message of Jesus of Nazareth. Today, they are somewhat forgotten. That remains a puzzle although in the United States, the Catholic Worker houses close to most university campuses remain active and committed. One point of clarification, Peter Maurin was educated by the De La Salle Christian Brothers, not the Irish ones. The inspiration for both congregations was broadly similar.

Dorothy Day’s canonisation is being actively promoted at the moment by the Archdiocese of New York

Bishop Barron on Peter Maurin and Dorothy Day

Today I’d like to highlight one of the great Catholic figures of the twentieth century, Peter Maurin. He was educated by the Christian Brothers and, early on, became deeply inspired by the example of St. Francis.

In 1909, Maurin sailed for North America and for about twenty years lived a sort of radical Franciscan life, performing manual labor during the day, sleeping in any bed he could find, dining in skid-row beaneries. Any money he made, he spent on books or gave to those less fortunate.

During these years, Maurin was trying to develop a coherent Catholic social philosophy. The main problem with society, he felt, was that sociology, economics, and politics had all been divorced from the Gospel. The Gospel was a private concern of “religious” people and had no discernible effect on the way the political, social, and economic realms were run.

In a word, he thought that society had lost its transcendent purpose. Life had come to be organised around the drive for production and the search for profits, rather than around the real spiritual development of the person.

Maurin knew that the Church had an answer to this, and it was the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Maurin’s program was what he called “a personalist revolution,” which meant the building of a new world within the shell of the old, rather than waiting for social circumstances to change. The Christian should simply begin living according to a new set of values.

Meeting Dorothy Day

In 1932, Peter Maurin met a young woman in New York named Dorothy Day. For some years, Dorothy had been trying to find her path, a way of reconciling her new-found Catholic faith with her deep commitment to social action. With the arrival of Peter Maurin, she felt that her prayers had been answered.

He told her to start a newspaper which would present Catholic social teaching and provide for greater clarity of thought, and then to open “houses of hospitality” where the works of mercy could be concretely practiced. And this is precisely what she did. Together Day and Maurin founded the Catholic Worker Movement. They operated soup kitchens and bread lines for the poor, and invited homeless people to stay with them.

Peter Maurin and Dorothy Day remind us that we simply cannot love Christ without concretely loving those most in need. Love of Christ and love of neighbour coincide. Heaven and earth must come together.

Bishop Robert Barron, Lent Reflections, Word on Fire Ministries


A new hope has dawned


Jesus and the Poor

It is a great joy that the Cardinal electors have chosen Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio as our new Pope Francis. Like so many others, I watched the TV broadcasts on Wednesday night. We were at supper when the news came through that white smoke had issued from the Sistine Chapel. My heart sank. Early white smoke after one day of balloting can only mean one thing, I thought: the Curia have succeeded in getting their least worst option elected. I began to think someone Italian, probably Scola.

Later, as French Archbishop Traunon made the announcement in Latin, I was stunned as it dawned on me that whoever the new Pope was it was not Cardinal Scola. But who was this Cardinal Bergoglio. The TV screen went silent. Clearly, the commentators were just as puzzled as I was. I held my head in my hands as I thought to myself: “He’s Italian. It must be some obscure Curia hack. Oh no!” Then, somebody in the room more knowledgeable than I, said,”It’s the Buenos Aires guy!” I raised my hands in celebration. This man I knew. I was aware of his track record in Buenos Aires.

The Buenos Aires Poor

Our new Pope Francis follows his namesake in his care for and love of the poor. A few years ago I visited La Cava, a slum in the heart of one of Buenos Aires’ wealthiest districts, San Isidro. Students from the Cardinal Newman Christian Brothers College, a highly-regarded private college in the district, spend much of their free time with the people in La Cava. It was amazing to me that so much poverty could exist in an otherwise wealthy area. Later, I had the opportunity of visiting a rural barrio where there was also extreme poverty. Archbishop Bergoglio was a frequent visitor to the poor people in these places.

TROCAIRE Talk: Brother Philip Pinto

Brother Philip Pinto, the Congregation Leader of the Christian Brothers, is a kindred spirit to Pope Francis. Like him Brother Pinto sees the Gospel through the eyes of poor people. Recently, Brother Philip was invited to address an audience in Maynooth on the occasion of the 40th Anniversary of TROCAIRE, the Irish version of CARITAS Internationalis. You can view his talk here on iCatholic. His talk was, “Who is my neighbour? Building a civilisation of love in an unequal world” (also available as a transcript from the i Catholic website).

We are entering upon a time of great Hope

This is a time of great blessing and new hope for our Church with people like Brother Pinto and Pope Francis as prophetic voices among us. It is time to end the ‘culture wars’ in the Church. It is time to return to the person and message of Jesus of Nazareth. It is time to listen to poor people and do our thinking from that place.

I listened to Sister Julie of the Congregation of Jesus on the BBC World Service on the evening of the election. She quoted Archbishop Tagle of Manila (who had attended the Eucharistic Congress in Dublin in 2012) as saying that what we need now is a Church that is humble, simple and listening. “Tonight,” she said, “we got all three.”

With our new pope, Pope Francis, there will be a release of new energy in the Church. His voice is authentic. His actions speak volumes. His spirituality is grounded in the Gospel. Don’t expect the kind of changes that the media have been interested in. Some of them will take place – in time. But do expect immediate action on a number of fronts. A man who has spoke out against corruption in Argentina is not likely to tolerate even a whiff of corruption in the Vatican.

Stanley Hauerwas on the new Pope

Stanley Hauerwas, a staunch methodist and highly-regarded ethicist, who once taught at Notre Dame and currently at Duke University, has provided one of the most trenchant and thoughtful interpretations of the implications of the election of Pope Francis for the Church. Hauerwas has little time for ‘liberal Christianity’ but has always been a promoter of ‘authentic Christianity’. Watch the video below to find out more.

Should Ireland leave the Euro?

After the heady patriotic stuff of yesterday’s demo in Dublin’s O’Connell Street, it is back to dealing with reality this morning. The Sunday Independent is forthrightly raising the possibility that the only option left to Ireland is to leave the Euro. The argument appears to be that even with the EU/IMF bailout the Irish economy does not have the capacity to generate the levels of growth to get us out of hock anywhere within the next ten years or so. Neither the economy nor the people could endure the levels of hardship and penury that on-going austerity may inflict. The conclusion drawn is that it is only by leaving the Euro and reverting to an IR£ Mark II that we can regain the kind of fiscal control needed. Severe devaluation of a new Irish punt would be the mechanism to build new growth. Apparently the emerging economies, like Brazil, are using this particular strategy to fuel indigenous growth.

The arguments against leaving the Euro are also powerful. As one commentator on noted, leaving the Euro would leave us unprotected in the struggle with the markets. Foreign direct investment that saw our membership of the Eurozone as a decided commercial advantage would take flight. Indigenous industry could take a generation to catch up with places like Sweden or Denmark. Our economy would revert to the bipolar Anglo-Irish (the geographical kind) relationship.

And, of course, holidays on the Costa del Sol would be out of our financial reach. A step too far?

obama does it!

There is a God! Finally, after almost a hundred years of political effort the US House of Representatives has passed a universal health care bill guaranteeing some form of health coverage for all Americans, especially the poorest. What seems like a no-brainer for the rest of the developed world somehow proved to be a massively wide Rubicon for the United States of America. American conservatives, the inheritors of the freedom-loving frontiersman Davy Crockett mentality, perceived a universal health care plan for which the tax payer would have to foot the bill as an unwarranted intrusion by government in the lives of its citizens. Many still believe this and it looks likely that Obama’s health care plan will prove to be a rallying cry for Republican opposition at the US mid-term elections come November. But for the moment something unparalleled and extraordinary has been achieved. One member of Congress likened the achievement to walking on the moon!

And, as an interesting sidelight, one of the significant contributors to stiffening the resolve of Democrats especially to vote for the bill was the support from the 59, 000 Catholic nuns who came out publicly in its favour, thereby allaying the fears of some that the bill had not sufficiently accommodated the concerns of pro-life voters. Some had interpreted support for the bill as support for public monies paying for abortions. Even some of the US bishops saw it this way.

Anyway, one small step for Obama, one giant step for America’s poorest!