Combining Liturgy and Sociology for a Christian Economy

While on Sabbatical in Philly we are staying with Catholic Workers. In keeping with their ethos, as well as taking the opportunity to steep in the words of a hero of mine, I have been reading Peter Maurin's easy essays and letters each morning. This morning I read a letter he wrote in 1934 in response to a question about Catholic Labor Guilds.

Here is a portion of that letter:
The basis for a Christian economy is genuine charity and voluntary poverty. To give money to the poor is to increase the buying power of the poor. Money is by definition a means of exchange and not a means to make money. When money is used as a means of exchange, it helps to consume the goods that have been produced. When money is used as an investment, it does not help to consume the goods that have been produced, it helps to produce more goods, to bring over-production and therefore increase unemployment. So much money has been put into business that it has put business out of business.
Money given to the poor is functional money, money used as an investment is prostituted money, money that does not fulfill its function. Poverty and charity are no longer looked up to, they are looked down upon. The poor have ceased to accept their poverty and the rich have ceased to practice charity. When the poor are satisfied to be poor, the rich become charitable toward the poor.
Because Christianity presents poverty as an ideal Bolshevik Communists try to make us believe that religion is the opium of the people. Karl Marx says that the worker is exploited at the point of production. But the worker would not be exploited at the point of production if the worker did not sell his labor to the exploiter of his labor. When the worker sells his labor to a capitalist or accumulator of labor he allows the capitalist or accumulator of labor to accumulate his labor. And when the capitalist or accumulator of labor has accumulated so much of the workers labor that he no longer finds it profitable to buy the workers labor then the worker can no longer sell his labor to the capitalist or accumulator of labor. And when the worker can no longer sell his labor to the capitalist or accumulator of labor he can no longer buy the products of his labor. And that is what the worker gets for selling his labor to the capitalist or accumulator of labor. He just gets left and he gets what is coming to him.Labor is not a commodity to be bought  and sold- labor is a means of self-expression, the worker's gift to the common good. There is much depression because there is so little expression. 

He goes on to describe his vision for agronomic universities, 'where scholars are workers and workers are scholars' and all work for the sake of building a sustainable community rather than for a personal bank account. His vision of community is radical as is the vision that Jesus referred to as the Kingdom of God. Maurin would often say, way back during the great depression, "we do not need a red revolution, we need a green revolution!"

Still today we see the realities that he warned of playing out as so many in our cities are without work and it is not longer profitable for business's to hire people in the states. People do not work because they do not have jobs. We have so married these concepts in our minds that we no longer know that work is a gift and that we were created to work. We can give our labor as a gift to our communities. We can form actual communities. We can work hard because it is our right as free people determined to express ourselves and impact this world. Perhaps we are poor but that is all the more reason to produce. We are hungry and we can grow our food! Why are we groveling to bosses begging to sell them our very life and energy? Peter Maurin would often say "Fire the Bosses!"

Peter's economic vision was a spiritual vision. He demanded that they were impossible to separate without getting what we have now. If we all give everything we have to one another in acts of love and charity we will all have what we need. He once wrote "if everybody tries to be the poorest then nobody would be poor." If our poverty is voluntary it is no longer a stripping of our dignity as humans, rather it is an expression of it. Our secular era has separated spiritual and material realities and it is a traumatic rupture. The religious life of the people and the economic life of the people ought to be one. We have listened to spiritual leaders about "spiritual" matters and looked to businessmen and politicians to define the economic realities of the "real world." The spiritual leaders have always had wisdom to offer in regards to our economic realities and we have killed their prophetic message. We must combine our liturgy with our sociology.
Cult, Culture and Cultivation as Maurin would say. We need to learn and combine cult, that is to say liturgy, with culture, that is to say philosophy, and cultivation, that is to say agriculture.

I am reminded of the motto of St. Benedict, Labore et Orare, Labor and Pray. 


  1. I agree. How do you move from theory to practice while having a need to make money to pay for school and bills?

  2. That question is the struggle of my life. We are trying to gather a community of people that are willing to give their lives to each other and figure it out together.
    Peter Maurin was a Catholic and believed that the Catholic Parishes needed to back them. They used money for parish priest houses, parish houses for gathering and must prioritize the poor and establish perish houses of hospitality for the poor. First every house in the parish should open their homes and guest rooms to any parish members who do not have a place and houses of hospitality should be set aside for the rest of the poor in the parish. Each parish would house its own homeless through personal sacrifice. The agronomic universities were an extension of the houses of hospitality. They were farming communes where people who were housed could go to work and do their part is sustaining and caring for the community.
    He said we must refuse to lend at interest and should never borrow at interest either. The idea was that everything is a donation and therefore all of our buildings and farms and churches are build with donations at a personal sacrifice. We are to be go-givers rather than go-getters


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