Aims & Purposes of the Catholic Worker Movement
For the sake of new readers, for the sake of men on our breadlines, for the sake of the employed and unemployed, the organized and unorganized workers, and also for the sake of ourselves, we must reiterate again and again what are our aims and purposes.
Together with the Works of Mercy, feeding, clothing and sheltering our brothers, we must indoctrinate. We must "give reason for the faith that is in us."
Otherwise we are scattered members of the Body of Christ, we are not "all members of one another." Otherwise our religion is opiate, for ourselves alone, for our comfort or for our individual safety or indifferent custom.
We cannot live along. We cannot go to Heaven alone. Otherwise, as Péguy said, God will say to us, "Where are the others?" (This is in one sense only as, of course, we believe that we must be what we would have the other fellow be. We must look to ourselves our own lives first.)
If we do not keep indoctrinating, we lose the vision. And if we lose the vision, we become merely philanthropists, doling out palliatives.
The vision is this. 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.
We believe in the brotherhood of man and the Fatherhood of God. This teaching, the doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ, involves today the issue of unions (where men call each other brothers); 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, knowing that when "the health of one member suffers, the health of the whole body is lowered."
This work of ours toward a new heaven and a new earth shows a correlation between the material and the spiritual, and, of course, recognizes the primacy of the spiritual.Food for the body is not enough. There must be food for the soul. Hence the leaders of the work, and as many as we can induce to join us, must go to daily to Mass, to receive food for the soul.
And as our perceptions are quickened, and as we pray that faith be increased, we will see Christ in each other, and we will not lose faith in those around us, no matter how stumbling their progress is.
It is easier to have that God will support each House of Hospitality and Farming Commune and supply our needs in the way of food and money to pay bills, than it is to keep a strong, hearty, living faith. If we stop the work of indoctrinating, we are in a way denying Christ again.
We must practice the presence of God. He said that when two or three are gathered together, there He is in the midst of them. He is with us in our kitchens, at our tables, on our breadlines, with our visitors, on our farms.
When we pray for our material needs, it brings us close to His humanity. He, too, needed food and shelter. He, too, warmed His hands at a fire and lay down in a boat to sleep.
When we have spiritual readings at meals, when we have the rosary at night, when we have study groups, forums, when we go out to distribute literature at meetings, or sell it on the street corners, Christ is there with us. What we do is very little. But it is like the little boy with a few loaves and fishes. Christ took that little and increased it.
He will do the rest. What we do is so little we may seem to be constantly failing. But so did He fail. He met with apparent failure on the Cross. But unless the seed fall into the earth and die, there is no harvest.
And why must we see the results? Our work is to sow. Another generation will be reaping the harvest.
For more on Dorothy Day, read By Little and By Little: The Selected Writings of Dorothy Day, edited with an introduction by Robert Ellsberg (New York: Knopf, 1984).