I first found out about the Catholic Worker movement when I found myself standing next to Tom Cornell at an anti-war vigil held by September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows in Union Square in New York, back in 2002. I ended up writing about both Tom and the New York Catholic Worker movement as part of my journalism Master’s degree at Columbia, and spent quite a bit of time at Joseph House on the Lower East Side.
I’m not a Catholic, but I was attracted to their simple philosophy of performing the ‘works of mercy’ from the Gospels – feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick and those in prison, and bury the dead. It’s simple stuff, but almost nobody actually does it. These people do, and I respect them for it.
Since moving to London I haven’t been so involved, but I do get the London Catholic Worker newsletter, and there’s always something worthwhile in it. In no. 25, for example, there’s a good description of Peter’s Community Cafe in east London, written by someone assigned to work there for her pastoral assistants course.
And there’s a great ‘Easy Essay’ by the movement’s co-founder Peter Maurin. He specialised in breaking complex topics down into simple, memorable poems and ditties. This one was written in 1933, but see if you can spot the contemporary relevance in the following extract….
Uncle Sam does not believe
In the unemployed dole,
But Uncle Sam does believe
in the money lenders dole.
Uncle Sam doles out
[billions] of dollars
To the money lenders.
And it is the money lenders dole
That put Uncle Sam
Into a hole.