Establishing An Office for Catholic Culture and Social Teaching

A formation that would serve Christian Integration would need to be more than a set of activities. It has to be a way of life--conducive to joy, wonder, and a sense of tradition--which implies not just activities, but living within a certain kind of community. You need many relationships--

With different ages (old and young)
With different people (relatives, friends, and people we might not have chosen)
With different vocations (married and unmarried, religious & priests)
With different kinds of work (rural and urban, works of mercy and paid work, manual labor or clerical, etc.)

And the community needs to be rooted in the Eucharist, the Liturgy, and prayer. Which means you need contact with the bishop, parish and the pastor, and local religious movements and lay apostolates.

Now, per Belloc and Wilhelmsen, it seems to me that what we need most is some kind of assistant to the bishop who would spend his time promoting the Social Teaching of the Catholic Church, with an eye towards fostering Christian Integration. Such an assistant could:

  • Organize parish households of young adults for the purpose of formation in Catholic Social teaching and service of families and the poor. Such households would give young adults a way to practice mutual charity and a common prayer life while directing the gift of their talents and time towards study of and service to the common good.
  • Work with USCCB and NCRLC, USDA, and local Rural Development Council to promote goals of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, especially Social Teaching of the Church and care for the poor. Work with USCCB to acquire funds for such projects.
  • Find opportunities to recognize and meet the needs of local farmers, laborers, craftsmen, etc.—by promoting the Church’s teaching on the meaning and dignity of labor, by advocating the rights and needs of local business and farms, by assisting them to preserve and improve their trade as a creative model of the Trinity.
  • Assist families to purchase homes and land around parishes so they could be within walking distance of each other and of the church--as a way to facilitate the encounters necessary to communities of blood, work, and thought and the closeness to love, beauty, and the opportunity for prayer which are the fount of joy. And the conversation that promotes love of one's place, local artistry, story-telling, etc.
  • Promote the establishment of or continuing work of orthodox schools dedicated to true scholarship in the Catholic intellectual tradition.
  • And finally . . .

Catholic Trade Schools
We need to promote an understanding of the dignity of labor and the understanding that humans are called to serve the One Body of Christ in different ways. All parents want the best for their children. But we cannot equate "the best" always with a clerical or management position, always a white-collar job, always a high-paying job with no financial risks. All over the country we see the foundation of excellent Catholic Liberal Arts or Classical schools dedicated to forming men and women into true scholars. But not everyone is called to be a scholar, and we demean scholarship if we arrange it so that everyone can "excel" in it. We need a Catholic Trade School movement. We need farm/trade schools which could offer a solid Catholic formation as well as a serious training in agriculture or such skills as carpentry, masonry, etc. Wouldn't it be a great day when someone admitted to himself, "I like to work outdoors; I like to work with my hands; I've always been interested in fixing x or y. And I am no good at Latin. And I would be a horrible teacher. I should learn animal husbandry or carpentry."

But where are there Catholic Trade Schools? To intern in one or teach at one I found I would have to go to the Phillipines or Bolivia. And what will I share with my brother if he goes to the Classical private school and I go to trade school? What if I want to understand and love the Catholic Faith, read some of the same books, know some of the same poems, have the same heroes, sing some of the same songs? What if I want to understand the dignity and purpose of my work and vocation as thoroughly as my brother is going to learn in his classes and teach in a school? But I am not called to teach, or be a lawyer, or join the priesthood. Can we not try for a culture where manual laborers and scholars inhabit the same world?

I envision a diocesan educational program that would offer two tracks--one scholarly, one for craftsmanship, each participating 2-3 days weekly in some shared programs. Here is a link to the first rough draft of a curriculum that could do this. But again, a curriculum presupposes a culture.


Anonymous said...

wow, your insight is incredible


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