During the last weeks of December 2000 and the first weeks of January 2001, Fr Jim Consedine, Greg Jones, Nicholas Drake and I met every Wednesday morning to talk about the Catholic Worker, using selected writings of Dorothy Day’s By Little and By Little as a base from which we could start talking. As Peter Maurin says:
‘The purpose of the Catholic Worker’s school
is to bring Catholic thought
to Catholic Workers
so as to prepare them
for Catholic action.’
These meetings were for me as close to Peter Maurin’s Catholic Worker schools as I understood them to be. Nicholas and I were very new to the CW and Fr Jim has been with the Christchurch CW since it started in 1989, Greg since 1993.
The importance of the need for variety of personalities that the CW accommodates was illustrated one Wednesday. I had challenged what I thought was a lack of ‘love beyond reason’ and found no lack of love, but an abundance of wisdom reaped from years of experience. Then, when I tried to concede that such wisdom was a state to which I should aspire, Fr Jim encouraged me to maintain my enthusiasm for as long as possible. Then I realised that the seemingly cynical but wise older Catholic Workers needed the foolish but keen ones to keep the spark in the CW movement as much as we needed them to keep the backbone in the movement.
One time I particularly liked during our discussions about By Little and By Little was the day we talked over the fourteen Works of Mercy, seven spiritual and seven corporal. It was an excellent educational experience for me (and I recommend it to any new Catholic Worker) to read these spiritual and corporal guidelines and hear the older Catholic Workers relate how and where they have performed, or seen performed, these acts of love and charity.
Clarification of thought was a phrase I’d read about but never fully understood until the day I discovered the chance to express my thoughts on a certain passage in By Little and By Little. I had an unformed thought in my mind so I wrote down what I was thinking, using pen and paper instead of speech and hearing. In my inexperience, I was quite surprised at how satisfying clarification of thought is.
Writing this article has been a great help in expressing my thoughts as I start with the CW. I hope it helps you as you read it to understand a bit more about this movement.
Abraham Land is a member of the Christchurch CW community.