Peter Maurin

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Peter Maurin
Born Aristide Pierre Maurin
(1877-05-09)May 9, 1877
Oultet, France
Died May 15, 1949(1949-05-15) (aged 72)
near Newburgh, New York
Known for Co-Founder of the Catholic Worker
Religion Roman Catholicism

Peter Maurin (May 9, 1877 – May 15, 1949) was a Roman Catholic social activist who founded the Catholic Worker Movement in 1933 with Dorothy Day.

Maurin expressed his ideas through short pieces of verse that became known as "Easy Essays". [1]

Biography[edit]

He was born Aristide Pierre Maurin into a poor farming family in the village of Oultet in the Languedoc region of southern France, where he was one of 24 children. After spending time in the De La Salle Brothers, Maurin served in the Sillon movement of Marc Sangnier until he became discouraged by the Sillonist shift from personalist action towards political action.[2] He briefly moved to Saskatchewan to try his hand at homesteading, but was discouraged by the death of his partner in a hunting accident.[3] He then traveled throughout the American east for a few years, and eventually settled in New York.[4]

"Round-table Discussions, Houses of Hospitality and Farming Communes--those were the three planks in Peter Maurin's platform. There are still Houses of Hospitality, each autonomous but inspired by Peter, each trying to follow Peter's principles. And there are farms, all different but all starting with the idea of the personalist and communitarian revolution. . . Peter was not disappointed in his life's work. He had given everything he had and he asked for nothing, least of all for success."

Dorothy Day on Peter Maurin, in her article commemorating the centenary of his birth [5]

For a ten-year period, Maurin was not a practicing Catholic "because I was not living as a Catholic should."[6]

In the mid-1920s, Maurin was working as a French tutor in the New York suburbs. It was at this time Maurin experienced a religious conversion.[7] He was inspired by the life of Francis of Assisi.[8] He ceased charging for his lessons and asked only that students give any sum they thought appropriate. This was likely prompted by reading about St. Francis, who viewed labor as a gift to the greater community, not a mode of self-promotion.[9] During this portion of his life, he began composing the poetry that would later be called his "Easy Essays". [10]

Dorothy Day and The Catholic Worker[edit]

"Peter Maurin first met Dorothy Day in December, 1932." [11] She had just returned from Washington, D.C., where she had covered the Hunger March for Commonweal and America magazines.[12] At the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on December 8, 1932, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, Day had prayed for inspiration for her future work.[13] She came back to her New York apartment to find Maurin awaiting her in the kitchen. "He had read some of her articles and had been told by George Schuster, editor of Commonweal, to look her up and exchange ideas with her."[14]

For four months after their first meeting, Maurin "indoctrinated" her, sharing ideas, synopses of books and articles, and analyzing all facets of daily life through the lens of his intellectual system.[15] He suggested she start a newspaper, since she was a trained journalist, to "bring the best of Catholic thought to the man in the street in the language of the man in the street".[16] Maurin initially proposed the name Catholic Radical for the paper that was distributed as the Catholic Worker beginning May 1, 1933, during the depths of the Great Depression.

His ideas served as the inspiration for the creation of "houses of hospitality" for the poor,[17] for the agrarian endeavors of the Catholic Worker farms, and the regular "roundtable discussions for the clarification of thought" that began taking place shortly after the publication of the first issue of The Catholic Worker.[18]

Maurin at times saw the paper as not quite radical enough, as it had an emphasis on political and union activity. Shortly after the paper's first print run in early May, 1933, he left New York for the boys' camp at Mt. Tremper, where he worked in exchange for living quarters. "[T]he paper, declaring its solidarity with labor and its intention of fighting social injustice, was not, by Maurin's standards, a personalist newspaper." Maurin believed the Catholic Worker should stress life in small agricultural communities.[19] As he liked to say, “there is no unemployment on the land.”[20]

Maurin lived for much of his life in Easton, Pennsylvania, where he worked on the first Catholic Worker-owned farming commune, Mary Farm.[citation needed]He also took part in the Catholic Worker picketing of the Mexican and German consulates during the 1930s.[21]

Maurin traveled extensively, lecturing at parishes, colleges, and meetings across the country, often in coordination with the speaking tours of Dorothy Day. He addressed venues as varied as Harvard students and small parishes, the Knights of Columbus and gatherings of bishops and priests.[22]

Later years[edit]

In 1944, Maurin began to lose his memory.[23] His condition deteriorated until he died at the Catholic Worker's Maryfarm near Newburgh, New York, on May 15, 1949, "the Feast of St. Dymphna, patroness of mental health, the anniversary also of St. John Baptiste de la Salle and the Papal encyclicals, Rerum Novarum and Quadragesimo Anno...Many remarked the strange convergence of anniversaries."[24] At the wake, many people were seen to touch their rosaries to his hands surreptitiously, indicating their belief in his sanctity.[25] The Staten Island Catholic Worker farm was named after Maurin following his death;[26] it currently operates in Marlboro, New York.[citation needed]

Intellectual system[edit]

Maurin's vision to transform the social order consisted of three main ideas:

  1. Establishing urban houses of hospitality to care for the destitute.
  2. Establishing rural farming communities to teach city dwellers agrarianism and encourage a movement back-to-the-land.
  3. Setting up roundtable discussions in community centres in order to clarify thought and initiate action.[27]

Or, as Maurin himself put it: {{Quote box |quote="Cult, Culture, and Cultivation

When the Irish scholars decided to lay the foundations of medieval Europe, they established:

Centers of Thought in all the cities of Europe as far as Constantinople, where people could look for thought so they could have light.

Houses of Hospitality where Christian charity were exemplified.

Agricultural Centers where they combined

(a) Cult — that is to say Liturgy

(b) with Culture — that is to say Literature

(c) with Cultivation — that is to say Agriculture.[28]

Intellectual influences[edit]

According to Dorothy Day, some of the books he had her read were the works of "Fr. Vincent McNabb and Eric Gill, Jacques Maritain, Leon Bloy, Charles Peguy of France, Don Sturzo of Italy, (Romano) Guardini and Karl Adam of Germany, and (Nicholas) Berdyaev of Russia."[29] Among the writers upon whom Maurin drew were Peter Kropotkin and Emmanuel Mounier.[30] Other titles included Catholicism and the Appeal to Reason by Leo Paul Ward, Humanity's Destiny by Denifle, Christian Life and Worship by Ellard, The Spirit of Catholicism by Karl Adam, Beauty Looks After Herself by Eric Gill, Art and Scholasticism by Maritain...and The Servile State by Hilaire Belloc.[31]

The following books were recommended repeatedly by Peter Maurin in reading lists appended to his essays.[32]

  1. Art in a Changing Civilization, Eric Gill
  2. The Bourgeois Mind, Nicholas Berdyaev
  3. Brotherhood Economics, Toyohiko Kagawa
  4. Charles V, Wyndham Lewis
  5. Catholicism, Protestantism and Capitalism, Amintore Fanfani
  6. Christianity and Class War, Nicholas Berdyaev
  7. The Church and the Land, Father Vincent McNabb, O.P.
  8. Discourse on Usury, Thomas Wilson
  9. The Emancipation of a Free Thinker, Herbert E. Cory
  10. Enquiries Into Religion and Culture, Christopher Dawson
  11. Fields, Factories and Workshops, Peter Kropotkin
  12. Fire on the Earth, Paul Hanly Furfey
  13. The Flight from the City, Ralph Borsodi
  14. The Franciscan Message to the World, Father Agostino Gemelli, F.M.
  15. Freedom in the Modern World, Jacques Maritain
  16. The Future of Bolshevism, Waldemar Gurian
  17. A Guildsman's Interpretation of History, Arthur Penty
  18. The Great Commandment of the Gospel, His Excellency A. G. Cicognani, Apostolic Delegate to the U. S.
  19. Ireland and the Foundation of Europe, Benedict Fitzpatrick
  20. I Take My Stand, by Twelve Southern Agrarians
  21. The Land of the Free, Herbert Agar
  22. Lord of the World, Robert Hugh Benson
  23. The Making of Europe, Christopher Dawson
  24. Man the Unknown, Dr. Alexis Carrel
  25. Nations Can Stay at Home, B. O. Wilcox
  26. Nazareth or Social Chaos, Father Vincent McNabb, O.P.
  27. Our Enemy the State, Albert Jay Nock
  28. Outline of Sanity, G. K. Chesterton
  29. Personalist Manifesto, Emmanuel Mounier
  30. A Philosophy of Work, Etienne Borne
  31. Post-Industrialism, Arthur Penty
  32. Progress and Religion, Christopher Dawson
  33. Religion and the Modern State, Christopher Dawson
  34. Religion and the Rise of Capitalism, R. H. Tawney
  35. La Revolution Personnaliste et Communautaire, Emmanuel Mounier
  36. Saint Francis of Assisi, G. K. Chesterton
  37. Social Principles of the Gospel, Alphonse Lugan
  38. Soviet Man Now, Helen Iswolsky
  39. Temporal Regime and Liberty, Jacques Maritain
  40. The Theory of the Leisure Class, Thorstein Veblen
  41. Thomistic Doctrine of the Common Good, The, Seraphine Michel
  42. Things That Are Not Caesar's, Jacques Maritain
  43. Toward a Christian Sociology, Arthur Penty
  44. True Humanism, Jacques Maritain
  45. The Two Nations, Christopher Hollis
  46. The Unfinished Universe, T. S. Gregory
  47. The Valerian Persecution, Father Patrick Healy
  48. What Man Has Made of Man, Mortimer Adler
  49. Work and Leisure, Eric Gill

Legacy[edit]

Maurin was played by Martin Sheen in Entertaining Angels: The Dorothy Day Story.[33] His contributions to the Catholic Worker Movement, while apparently often eclipsed in the collective memory of the movement by those of Dorothy Day,[34] remain foundational, as evidenced by Day's insistence in The Long Loneliness and elsewhere that she would never have begun the Catholic Worker without him. "Peter was a revelation to me," she said. "I do know this--that when people come into contact with Peter...they change, they awaken, they begin to see, things become as new, they look at life in the light of the Gospels. They admit the truth he possesses and lives by, and though they themselves fail to go the whole way, their faces are turned at least towards the light."[35]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Day, Dorothy (1963). Loaves and Fishes: The inspiring story of the Catholic Worker Movement. Orbis Books. p. 5. "A Knock at the Door" 
  2. ^ Sheehan, Arthur. Peter Maurin: Gay Believer. Garden City, NY: Hanover House, 1959. pg. 52-69; 205.
  3. ^ Day, Dorothy. "Peter Maurin, 1877-1977," The Catholic Worker, May 1977, 1,9. Article available online at Catholicworker.org, http://www.catholicworker.org/dorothyday/daytext.cfm?TextID=256&SearchTerm=peter%20maurin%201877-1977, and Catholicworker.com, http://www.catholicworker.com/cwo003.htm Retrieved 7 Jan 2009
  4. ^ Forest, Jim. "Peter Maurin". Retrieved April 27, 2008 (biographical essay) from catholicworker.com. 
  5. ^ Day, Dorothy. "Peter Maurin 1877-1977," The Catholic Worker, May 1977, p. 1, 9. Article available online at Catholicworker.org, http://www.catholicworker.org/dorothyday/daytext.cfm?TextID=256&SearchTerm=peter%20maurin%201877-1977, and Catholicworker.com, http://www.catholicworker.com/cwo003.htm Retrieved 7 Jan 2009
  6. ^ Sheehan, 81-82.
  7. ^ Sheehan, 83.
  8. ^ Coy, Patrick G. (1988). A Revolution of the heart: essays on the Catholic worker. Temple University Press. pp. 19–21. "The influence of Francis of Assisi in Maurin's life was considerable." 
  9. ^ Ellis, Marc H. Peter Maurin: Prophet in the Twentieth Century. New York: Paulist Press, 1981. p. 34-35
  10. ^ Sheehan, 84.
  11. ^ Sheehan, 90.
  12. ^ William D. Miller, Dorothy Day: A Biography, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1982. pg. 224-226.
  13. ^ Sheehan, 90.
  14. ^ Sheehan, 90
  15. ^ Sheehan, 91.
  16. ^ Sheehan, 91-93.
  17. ^ Sheehan, 99.
  18. ^ Sheehan, 97-98.
  19. ^ William D. Miller, Dorothy Day: A Biography, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1982. pg. 256-257.
  20. ^ Mark and Louise Zwick, "Why Not Canonize Peter Maurin, Co-Founder with Dorothy Day of the Catholic Worker Movement?". Retrieved June 16, 2013 (hagiographical essay) from cjd.org. 
  21. ^ Miller, 273-274.
  22. ^ Sheehan, 182-178.
  23. ^ Sheehan, 201.
  24. ^ Sheehan, 202.
  25. ^ Sheehan, 203-204. Such an action is consonant with the Catholic belief in the sacramentality of the world, that material objects and human persons in their physicality can be conduits for the power and presence of God. By touching their rosaries to him, the rosary would become a second-class relic. See Roman Catholic classification and prohibitions
  26. ^ Miller, William D. Dorothy Day: A Biography. San Francisco: Harper & Rowe, 1982. p. 413-417
  27. ^ Coy, Patrick G. (1988). A Revolution of the heart: essays on the Catholic worker. Temple University Press. pp. 16–23. "Peter Maurin" 
  28. ^ accessdate=August 14, 2011 (.pdf, uncopyrighted) from www.walsh.edu}}; Maurin, Peter. "Easy Essays: The Easy Essays of Peter Maurin Define the Catholic Worker Movement," Article available online at http://cjd.org/2006/06/01/easy-essays-the-easy-essays-of-peter-maurin-define-the-catholic-worker-movement/ Retrieved 16 June 2013
  29. ^ Miller, William D. Dorothy Day: A Biography. San Francisco: Harper & Rowe, 1982. p. 234
  30. ^ Dorothy Day (2004). Peter Maurin: Apostle to the World. p. 33. "Roots of the Catholic Worker Movement: Emmanuel Mounier, Personalism, and the Catholic Worker movement". from Casa Juan Diego, i.e., The Houston Catholic Worker, July/August 1999
  31. ^ Sheehan, 189.
  32. ^ Maurin, Peter. "Catholic Radicalism: Phrased Essays For The Green Revolution". . New York: Catholic Worker Books. 1949. pg. 207.
  33. ^ "Entertaining Angels: The Dorothy Day Story (1996)". 
  34. ^ Paul Magno, "Why Peter Maurin Matters". 
  35. ^ William D. Miller, Dorothy Day: A Biography, pg. 248.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Ellis, Marc H. Peter Maurin: Prophet in the Twentieth Century. New York: Paulist Press, 1981
  • Day, Dorothy. “Maurin, Aristide Peter.” New Catholic Encyclopedia. 2nd ed. 2003.
  • Day, Dorothy and Sicius, Francis J. (ed), Peter Maurin: Apostle to the World. Marynoll: Orbis Books, 2004.
  • Maurin, Peter. "Catholic Radicalism: Phrased Essays For The Green Revolution".  New York: Catholic Worker Books. 1949.
  • Maurin, Peter. Easy Essays. Catholic Worker Reprint Series. Wipf & Stock Publishers. 2010.
  • Maurin, Peter. The Green Revolution: Easy Essays on Catholic Radicalism. Academy Guild Press. 1961.
  • Miller, William D. Dorothy Day: A Biography. San Francisco: Harper & Rowe, 1982.
  • Peter Maurin Biography and Photos
  • Works by or about Peter Maurin in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
  • Sheehan, Arthur. Peter Maurin: Gay Believer. Garden City, NY: Hanover House, 1959.

External links[edit]