It is true that regulations [supposedly] designed for the good of the public are used again and again as a club over the head of institutions. Once a Mother Superior of an order sent us scores of beds because they did not conform to state regulations. In many cases the institutions have taken aid from the state, so the state has stepped in and imposed its regulations, many of them quite senseless.
– Peter Maurin: Apostle To The World, Dorothy Day
Many years ago I met a man responsible for administering a large program for the homeless in one of our Canadian prairie cities. It was back in the day when we were heady about first-growing haskap. Our greatest desire was to get this most healthy food into the diets of those who would have least access to it. But we found out that our berries would need a certificate in order to be served in their facility. Why? Because they receive government funding, and by doing so the government insists on it serving only food that is certified by the Canadian government.
The Catholic Worker Movement distinguishes itself through its practise of personalism. Hospitality is the action at the centre of this way of living and relating to others. Catholic Workers welcome people into our homes as family; we do not ask them to leave; we do not raise money for impersonal projects; we do not give authority to anyone to take over these services; we do not provide impersonal charity.
Christ nowhere taught an impersonal approach to relating to others. The personalism that Christ taught is exemplified in Matthew 25: you feed the hungry, you shelter the homeless, you clothe the naked…
White middle-class North American Christians are by-and-large cowards. They are afraid to lose what they have in spite of Christ teaching us to sell everything and give the proceeds to the poor. They are afraid to welcome the people into their homes who serve them…a class created by them and the people off of whom they thrive and who are excluded from discussions that most deeply affect these neglected ones.
Once upon a time parishioners grew very angry with me for inviting a homeless man to live with us in the manse. We hope that he is at least paying you? And then there were grumblings over whether that money was ours or the churches? No, he did not pay. Yes, he stayed as long as he wanted. Yes, he celebrated Christmas with us and received the same number of gifts as anyone else in our family did.
Peter Maurin’s advocacy for our direct sharing with each person is far more evangelical than any ideology of dismissal that is found in any religious organization, each/all of which fritter away their notion of love as if it too is subject to the 10% stewardship models that have been designed and implemented by the corporate take over of the church in the 20th century. Peter Maurin’s advocacy for our direct sharing with each person is both dangerous and subversive, bringing them into our homes and families so that the least can become tied to the life-giving actions that Christ himself practised and is at the very centre of the being of God.