The CET Email Discussion


An ongoing discussion of incarnating Catholic culture in our lives
Part 2, Advent 1997

Dear friends,
I've received several responses to my first letter A Possible Solution, which I will begin to pass on to all of you. Again, the Latin phrase is lacking. I apologize for the computer (and for on-line readers, for the cyberspace). The handwritten letters I received blossomed with personal character, and it seems a blasphemy to translate them into type. But, such is life.


From Richard Fahey of the Christian Homesteading Movement:

Dear Regina,

Thanks for your timely letter. It comes when I am planning a Catholic Young Adult Festival next summer and three short courses on celebrating the Feasts.

We have been working out "the Solution" for 35 years and feel we have a great many pieces of the puzzle that you express you want. People simply need to come to our programs! The Christian Homesteading Movement was founded in 1961 with the ideas you express in mind. Problem was, there were no Catholics interested! We have taught truth-seeking humanists, and later, devout fundamentalist homeschooling families. But now Catholic interest is blooming and we feel our 35 years of experience is just what they are seeking.

This coming year, we are planning several Catholic programs. A Catholic Basic Homesteading Week, July 4 to July 11 (St. Benedict's Day, with a celebration on that day), A Catholic Young Adults Festival August 13-15 (the Assumption) and 3 workshops in June, July, and September to learn how to celebrate the Catholic Holy Days.

The mystery of the Incarnation has always been central to our life and I appreciate your thoughts.

Through all my years, I have seen people wishfully thinking about Catholic community, but never beginning where they are.

First, go to Mass frequently. Bring home the culture of the Mass. Extend your arms in prayer as the priest does -- it's the oldest Christian prayer position. Say "Peace be with you" (or "thee") when you greet each other in the morning. Break bread (the father) and GIVE it to the family. Share a common cup of wine on feasts. Sing Psalms. Read Scripture. Wake people up by saying "Lift up your hearts!" and have them respond, "We have them lifted up to the Lord!"

Bring the Mass into your daily life!

Follow the liturgical calendar. Celebrate Baptismal Days. Renew vows and sing love songs on Marriage Anniversaries. Get or draw or paint a picture of each child's patron saint. Celebrate the day.

When a family does some of these basic things, they will have a culture to bring to Catholic community.

I hope we will meet some of you and your children this summer as we sing and dance and learn to center our lives in the Divine.

In Christ our King,

Richard & Anna Marie Fahey

Regina comments: Regarding the "orans" position of prayer: Elsie Luke, the drama teacher at FUS, once taught our class something that I find to be a simple, effective prayer. It was an action-meditation on the "Glory Be" prayer. While praying, "Glory be to the Father," we reached up, thinking of our Father in heaven above us. As we prayed "and to the Son," we reached out in front of us, as to another person, thinking of Christ, God become man like us, and for "and to the Holy Spirit" we crossed our arms on our breast, remembering the Holy Spirit who dwells in the temple of our body. I would like to add that you can repeat the same movements for the second part of the prayer: "As it was in the beginning" (remembering God the Creator above us), "is now" (the immediacy of Christ among us, working through us, becoming incarnate in our lives), "and ever shall be," (the Holy Spirit will, pray God, someday transform our bodies to be alive in God forever in the) "world without end, Amen." End the prayer with a slight bow. If the motions are done while chanting the prayer, as is done in the Office, it can be very moving and beautiful. I recommend it.

From Beth Dougherty of Steubenville, Ohio:

Dear Regina,

I enjoyed your letter, and appreciated being on the list of "interested types." After reading it through, I amused myself with highlighting the things which already describe our lives, and which I (objectively, of course) consider a tolerable mean or meap-tide mark of Catholic family culture (today -- subject to change without notice). Things like daily Mass and/or rosary, frequent confession, evening prayer with the Salve Regina, head-coverings in Mass, skirts in public (activities permitting), and celebrations. With less alacrity (and pleasure) I note where my families (or my own) weaknesses lie -- a bold yet open evangelical spirit, for example. We tend to socialize with people we are sure like us (or pretty sure, anyway), rather than people whose feelings about us (and vice versa) we are not sure of. We are timid about suggesting that others join us for fun and prayer. This year's harvest festival had no litany because my cantor couldn't come, and I was shy of asking anyone else. I am a poor social organizer -- when do I make the time, at a dinner or gathering, for music and recitation, or a group rosary?

I like the idea of a "lay prelature" but shrink from the thought that such might require organization, leadership, and oversight. This springs from my determination (which you obviously share) that the family, as a sacramental community, is an autonomous unity -- and also, probably, from a consupiscent resistance of authority (ask Shawn!). I'm not at all sure that you envision leadership, oversight, and so on -- your use of the word "conversation" to describe the exchange of thought in and around "Caelum Et Terra" and its one-time subscribers, seems to me a felicitous disavowal of external restraint on the "conversants."

I find myself drawn back to the list of addresses for your "Possible Solution," and like to find my name in company with the names of those on the list whom I know. Is that what I would like, then? A list? A loose brotherhood? -- of people who can, or wish they could, or hope to, say "yes" to 2/3 or more of your list, expanded by consensus, or by consensus edited, or "commitments?" How would such a loose community be fostered, particularly for people separated geographically from others "on the list?" C.L. (Communion and Liberation) seems to unite itself through a magazine, and yearly gatherings. Now, Daniel Nichols will sober any of us who begin to think of editing a magazine, with a few hard facts, and the fruits of his experience. Besides, I think it's beside the point, like deciding you should attend daily Mass and setting about as the necessary or desirable means to that end, building a chapel in your backyard. I don't have an answer for these questions; I'm just throwing them out. Probably you already have thoughts on this.

(Regina's note: No, I didn't, so I'm listening to your suggestions intently)

At any rate, there's already so much out there we should and haven't yet read. Perhaps that could be a loose point of unification -- a reading list we all pick away at, or a "book of the month" (or two months, or a year) which we all hope to read, contributing to a growing shared Catholic foundation of thoughts for all of us. Or a round-robin journal-letter, in which one family per month keeps a family journal, for one week, of its daily work-and-religious life, and shares it with the other families. (This is not an original idea. My mother-in-law (and mother in the Lord) subscribes to a Farmer's Wife journal, the name of which escapes me just now, the main feature of which each month, is four such "week-journals," from four different farming families. As an aside, you'd be surprised how many of these families are Christian homeschoolers.)

We love the idea of a shared summer vacation, a week in the country together, but if the Almeidas and we both go, who's going to feed the goats and chickens? As them if we can all camp on their new land, 42 acres of woods just 1/2 a mile or so from the T.O. R's in Toronto (a mile and a third, by the road, from us) and only ten minutes from two daily Masses (at least).

And any family that likes can drop in any time after December 20 (the close of "A Christmas Carol" for dinner an a shared rosary (I'll try to be bold) and music, if anyone cares for two slightly wheezing recorders. We'd love to see any-or-all of you.

God bless you,

Beth Dougherty.

Regina comments: Regarding organization or leadership, like Beth, I shy away from the idea. I have an aversion to "fiddling with other people's lives," particularly when there's no need to. I don't think any of us should be approaching this solution with the idea that it will support your marriage or solve your family problems or make your kids into Catholics, or anything like that. A community can't give you those things -- you and your family and God have to give those things to each other. This sounds brutal, but it's a bare fact, so I would like to say it up front. I would hope we wouldn't look to this group to do something like that. But what do you all think?I'm sort of guessing that this might be something that would help our roots to get a little deeper into the soil, to stretch us and grow us and nurture us in our faith -- sort of like fertilizer.Having said that, I'm sure that practically speaking, we'll need some sort of organization. I like Beth's phrase "consensus" -- that, I think, is what we can safely search for, so long as it's a balanced consensus.

And what would we need leaders, hierarchy for? We have the Church. Each of we married folks have our own sacramental community. I think any of us putting a "leader" over us would be terribly artificial, at this point. What sort of leadership do the Amish have? Isn't their leadership basically "Church elders?" If we're not attempting to be a religious community here, do we need any kind of Church leadership apart from our parishes? I really don't know. Does anyone else have an idea?

I suppose it would depend on what we want to do. Should we want to organize some type of yearly festival, it might be good to appoint "prelature servants" temporarily to oversee these activities. (And they are allowed to refuse the next time around if they are too tired or too busy with other things).

Now, this is crazy, but for organizational models -- I just began thinking about the Society for Creative Anachronisms. I subscribe to their email list and I enjoy reading their exchanges, with all the medieval flourishes. They seem to be a group of crazy people who have a lot of fun, and I admire that. I've never met any of them in person, one of the terrible side-effects of email.

Their group is centered around these tournaments and games they have -- if anyone's ever seen their fights, with blunted swords and medieval weapons, it's pretty impressive stuff. So they have local groups organized into kingdoms, baronies, and so on, and organize yearly "wars" and tournaments. They elect "kings" and "barons" whose job (aside from lording over people) seems to be to organize these events for the rest. I sort of like that idea. Perhaps, as they do, we could elect people to be "stewards" of the festivals for the next year. This can be thought over. But I think it might be a lot of fun. (I have a medieval fetish. But surely you all know that by now?)

Another thought on organization is something that a member of the San Egidios Community (based in Rome) said to me about how their group started. "It was all friendship. We were a group of friends. We decided to be friends with the poor. And the friendships kept growing and spreading until we have what we are today (RDS: a worldwide organization that was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995). But it all started with friendship."

I believe Dorothy Day described the beginning of the Catholic Worker Movement in the same way. Well, I think that we are beginning with friendships. And maybe that is an adequate basis to work from. Does anyone else have any advice here?


"Puzzle Pieces,” later known as “the CET Conversation” is an informal discussion among friends, Catholics interested in low-tech, agrarian culture and the apostolate of beauty. To add your comments to the discussion, email Christopher Zehnder.


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