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


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!