The Easy Essays of Peter Maurin Define the Catholic Worker Movement

November 28th, 2007

By Peter Maurin, Co-Founder of the Movement

The Law of Holiness

“No man can serve two masters,

God and Mammon.”

“Be perfect

as your Heavenly Father

is perfect.”

“If you want

to be perfect

sell all you have,

give it to the poor

and follow Me.

New Testament

“These are hard words,”

says Robert Louis Stevenson,

“but the hard words

of a book

were the only reason

why the book was written.”

In his encyclical

on St. Francis de Sales

the Holy Father says:

We cannot accept the belief

that this command of Christ

concerns only

a select and privileged group,

and that all others

may consider themselves pleasing to Him

if they have attained

a lesser degree

of holiness.

Quite the contrary is true,

as appears from the generality

of His words.

The law of holiness

embraces all men

and admitsof no exception.”


Counsels of the Gospel

Someone said

that The Catholic Worker

is taking monasticism

out of the monasteries.

The Counsels of the Gospel

are for everybody,

not only for monks.

Franciscans and Jesuits

are not monks.

Franciscans are Friars,

and the world is their monastery.

Jesuits are the storm troops

of the Catholic Church,

and ready to be sent

where the Holy Father

wishes to send them.

The Counsels of the Gospel

are for everybody,

and if everybody

tried to live up to it

we would bring order

out of chaos,

and Chesterton would not

have said

that the Christian ideal

has been left untried


Tradition or Catholic Action

The central act of devotional life

in the Catholic Church

if the Holy Sacrifice of the


The Sacrifice of the Mass

is the unbloody repetition

of the Sacrifice of the Cross.

On the Cross of Calvary

Christ gave His life to redeem

the world.

The life of Christ was a life of


We cannot imitate the Sacrifice

of Christ on Calvary

by trying to get all we can.

We can only imitate the

Sacrifice of Christ on Calvary

by trying to give all we can.


Laborare et Orare

The motto of St. Benedict was

Laborare et Orare, Labor and


Labor and prayer ought to be


labor ought to be a prayer.

The liturgy of the Church

is the prayer of the Church.

People ought to pray with the


and to work with the Church.

The religious life of the people

and the economic life of the


ought to be one.


They and We

People say:

“They don’t do this,

they don’t do that,

they ought to do this,

they ought to do that.”

Always “They”

and never “I.”

People should say:

“They are crazy

for doing this

and not doing that

but I don’t need

to be crazy

the way they are crazy.”

The Communitarian Revolution

is basically

a personal revolution.

It starts with I,

not with They.

One I plus one I

makes two I’s

and two I’s make We.

We is a community

while “they” is a crowd.


The Irish Monks and the Reconstruction of the Social Order

The Holy Father and the

Bishops ask us

to reconstruct the social order.

The social order was once


through dynamic Catholic


When the barbarians invaded

the decaying Roman Empire

Irish missionaries went all over


and laid the foundations of

medieval Europe.

Through the establishment of

cultural centers,

that is to say, Round-Table


they brought thought to the


Through free guest houses

that is to say, Houses of


they popularized the divine

virtue of charity.

Through farming communes

that is to say, Agronomic


they emphasized voluntary


It was on the basis of personal


and voluntary poverty

that Irish missionaries

laid the foundations

of the social order.


Out of the Temple

Christ drove the money


out of the Temple.

But today nobody dares

to drive the money lenders

out of the Temple.

And nobody dares

to drive the money lenders

out of the Temple

because the money lenders

have taken a mortgage

on the Temple.

When church builders build


with money borrowed from

money lenders

they increase the prestige

of the money lenders.

But increasing the prestige

of the money lenders

does not increase the prestige

of the Church.

Which makes Archbishop

McNicholas say:

“We have been guilty

of encouraging tyranny

in the financial world

until it has become

a veritable octopus

strangling the life

of our people.”


Better and Better Off

The world would be better off

if people tried to become better.

And people would become


if they stopped trying to become

better off.

For when everybody tries to

become better off

nobody is better off.

But when everybody tries to

become better,

everybody is better off.

Everybody would be rich

if nobody tried to become richer.

And nobody would be poor

If everybody tried to be the


And everybody would be what

he ought to be

if everybody tried to be

what he wants the other fellow

to be.

Christianity has nothing to do with either modern capitalism

or modern Communism

for Christianity has

a capitalism of its own.

Modern capitalism

is based on property without


while Christian capitalism

is based on property with


Modern Communism

is based on poverty through


while Christian communism

is based on poverty through


For a Christian,

voluntary poverty is the ideal

as exemplified by St. Francis of


while private property

is not an absolute right, but a


which as such can not be


but must be administered

for the benefit of God’s



Barbarians and Civilized

We call barbarians

people living

on the other side of the border.

We call civilized

people living

on this side of the border.

We civilized,

living on this side of the border,

are not ashamed

to arm ourselves to the teeth

so as to protect ourselves

against the barbarians

living on the other side.

And when the barbarians

born on the other side of the


invade us,

we do not hesitate

to kill them

before we have tried

to civilize them.

So we civilized

exterminate barbarians

without civilizing them.

And we persist

in calling ourselves civilized.



Before John Calvin

people were not allowed

to lend money at interest.

John Calvin decided

to legalize

money lending at interest

in spite of the teachings

of the Prophets of Israel

and the Fathers of the Church.

Protestant countries

tried to keep up

with John Calvin

and money-lending at interest

became the general practice.

And money ceased to be

a means of exchange

and began to be

a means to make money.

So people lent money on time

and started to think of time

in terms of money

and said to each other,

“Time is money.”


A Modern Plague

Catholic laymen and women

commit the great modern error

of separating the spiritual

from the material.

This great modern error,

known under the name of


is called a “modern plague”

by Pope Pius XI.

This entry was posted in Faith and Poverty, Spirituality & Centering Prayer. Bookmark the permalink.

We will All Become Pilgrims: 2022 Newsletter Summary

December 19th, 2022

By Paul Engler Whenever I write my newsletter, I am afraid a subtle or not-so-subtle repetition will be noticed—I fear I write the same thing over and over again! Generally the theme has something to do with change, uncertainty, and … Continue reading

Liminality is a Recipe for Navigating Winter: Becoming a Pilgrim on the Camino de Santiago

December 19th, 2022

Whether you’re in a midlife, quarter life, or general life crisis, the proverbial crap hits the wall. You break up with your girlfriend, your community starts falling apart, your movement dies, your organization goes bankrupt, you lose the political campaign. … Continue reading

2022 House Journal

December 19th, 2022

I’m happy to report that our community has stabilized at the Center for the Working Poor house. We haven’t had one person leave in the past year! A welcome contrast to 2021, when we had so many people come and … Continue reading

2021 CWP Newsletter Summary

December 15th, 2021

There is a big debate among economists about a curious phenomenon unfolding right now called “The Great Resignation”. We have an immense labor shortage because people are not returning to work as the experts expected (common after a recession). There … Continue reading

2021 Center Update: Ring the Bell of Hope… Again, and Again

December 15th, 2021

This fall, in one of my first trips to visit my coworkers from the Ayni Institute in Boston, I stopped by New York City to visit one of my closest friends, Eric Stoner. And I was sitting on his couch, … Continue reading

2021 House Journal

December 15th, 2021

The Center for the Working Poor was founded in 2006, but we didn’t move into our large Victorian house until 2007. Therefore, we have been in the house for 14 years now; and throughout this time, only Paul Engler has … Continue reading

The Story of Community Counseling

December 15th, 2021

Over the last year, we have started beta groups for a new model of mutual aid counseling, called Community Counseling that has engaged dozens in weekly small group counseling practice and training. In November, I went to Boston to lead … Continue reading

2020 Center Update: Surrender and Become Attentive

December 17th, 2020

“To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, And a time to die …” — Ecclesiastes 3:1 “Surrender to what is dying, and become attentive to what is emerging.”  — … Continue reading