Peter Maurin

Today is the anniversary of the 1949 death of Peter Maurin. He was a Catholic social activist who founded the Catholic Worker Movement in 1933 with Dorothy Day. Maurin lived the Gospel in an uncompromising fashion. I have read his biography (written by Dorothy Day) and to me his approach to Christ and the Gospel was on a par with St. Francis of Assisi.

Peter Maurin is of particular interest to this blog due to his alleged suggestion to start homes (sort of like our “Halfway Houses” of today) that would help alcoholics recover by pairing them with reformed prostitutes. His idea being that the ex-drunks could help the ex-prostitutes maintain their newly recovered chastity, while the ex-hookers can help the former alcoholics stay sober. Not sure how he arrived at the idea if it was true, but it apparently never was enacted. It would have been an interesting approach to alcohol recovery. I say “alleged” and “if it were true” as Day’s biography of him never mentioned it, and her autobiography, which contains a lot of information on his life and thought, doesn’t refer to it either.

So, if the idea is apocryphal (and I don’t even remember where I first heard of it, this post has been in “Drafts” for over a year, waiting for today to be edited and published), it did lead me to read up on him and Day and has lead me to a greater appreciation of Catholic social teachings and a desire to apply them and live them out. I have touched upon them before, in the “Service and Volunteering” subject category. I may expand upon them in the future.

One unfortunate response to Catholic social teachings is that practitioners of them quite often fall into positions that dissent from general Catholic teaching. Catholicism is not easy. It cannot be labelled or pigeon-holed into the political “Left” or “Right.” In examining Catholic social teaching, with its positions on work and labor, poverty, the environment, indigenous peoples and such, it is easy to be seduced into the political Left and consequently fall astray of the Church’s moral teachings on things like abortion, sexuality, marriage and property. This may even affect the person’s understanding of Catholic theology. Catholic political and social philosophy is “Catholic” (universal) and not liberal or conservative. Some may find it hard to hold fidelity to both Catholic social and moral teachings, as well as Catholic theology.

It requires effort, but it is possible to be faithful to Catholic teachings as a whole, despite the seeming contradictions of “How can one be a social activist, working to alleviate poverty and injustice, and also be anti-abortion and anti-gay rights?” Well, if one studies not just WHAT the Church teaches, but also WHY it teaches this or that, one can grasp an understanding and reconcile the “contradictions.” The easy way is to be prideful, declare that the Church teaching that conflicts with your political or social philosophy is “archaic” and then decide to disregard it.

Being a Catholic isn’t easy. Too many fall under the weight of it and simplify things and therefore stray away from what Jesus calls the “narrow gate.”

Matthew 7:13-14: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate, and broad is the way, which leads to perdition, and many there are who enter through it. How narrow is the gate, and how straight is the way, which leads to life, and few there are who find it!”

(Via Catholic Public Domain Version of the Sacred Bible.)

Wikipedia, the “free encyclopedia”, has this excellent overview of his life, with links to the Catholic Worker Movement and Dorothy Day: Peter Maurin

(Via Wikipedia.)

Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)

"The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts"

and "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"