Mark and Louis Zwick, who put the “Catholic” back in “Catholic Worker”, react to the new pope:
We rejoice with Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin in the election of the new Pope Francis.
Not only did we have Pope Benedict XVI praising Dorothy Day publicly in the week before he left for Castel Gandolfo, we now have a new Pope who is featuring many of the same aspects of the great tradition of the Church that inspired the vision of Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin.
Several of Peter’s Easy Essays feature St. Francis and Holy Poverty and Dorothy often wrote about him.
Peter and Dorothy taught by their example that the way to rebuild the Church and society is the way of Saint Francis. Like Francis, Peter and Dorothy made a decision not to start a sect, but to remain in the framework of the Church, modeling a unique way of transforming the Church and world by calling people more deeply to the Gospel. The bond with the Church allowed Francis and later the Catholic Workers to maintain their radicalism in following the Gospel without losing perspective or seeking self-aggrandizement. Any critique they made of the Church and the secular world would be seen in their very lives.
The attraction of the CW to the life and methods of Francis was not unrelated to the amazing effect he had on the practices of economics, war and the social structure of his time. Pragmatists wonder that the methods of Francis could even be considered. Remember, they might say, this is the real world. Catholic Workers, however, saw through their study of history that the methods of Francis had profound practical effects.
Dorothy and Peter and the early Catholic Workers read The Little Flowers of St. Francis, a fourteenth-century classic, and G. K. Chesterton’s book, St. Francis of Assisi. They studied Francis especially in Pope Pius XI’s encyclical Rite Expiatis (known in English as St. Francis, Herald of the Great King), in Johannes Jorgensen’s biography of the saint and in Fr. Cuthbert’s book on St. Francis. (Many of these books are out of print now. For more on Dorothy and Peter and Saint Francis, our book The Catholic WorkerMovement: Intellectual and Spiritual Origins (Mahwah, N.J.: Paulist Press, 2005) has a chapter on the connection.)
Dorothy wrote about how in the face of materialism and corruption the witness of love in voluntary poverty could change people’s hearts, both within and without the Church. In 1966 she put into historical perspective the thorny issue of wealth in the Church, with a similar theme of that of Rite Expiatis, in which the Pope, writing about the great vision of St. Francis, had regretted that “even greed for wealth and pleasure was not absent among the clergy”:
“I am thinking of how many leave the Church because of the scandal of the wealth of the Church, the luxury of the Church which began in the very earliest day, even perhaps when the Apostles debated on which should be highest in the kingdom and when the poor began quarreling as to who were receiving the most from the common table… St. Paul commented on the lack of esteem for the poor, and the kowtowing to the rich, and St. John in the Apocalypse spoke of the scandal of the churches, ‘where charity had grown cold.’”
Our new Pope Francis has already spoken out against careerism and vanity in the Church.
Read the whole thing here.