The CET Email Discussion


An ongoing discussion of incarnating Catholic culture in our lives
Part 3, Lent 1998

Use creatures as they should be used: the earth, the sea, the sky, the air, the springs and the rivers. Give praise and glory to their Creator for all that you find beautiful and wonderful in them. --- Pope Saint Leo the Great

(This quote was from a sermon that Fr. David Nott of Richmond copied for me after I discussed the "conversation" with him for a bit. I thought I would share it.)

Dear friends,

Just a quick note here and a few more updates.

A request, by the way. If you have material you want me to include in the discussion, such as an article, pamphlet, etc., consider making me about 20 copies and sending them. I am have been given the loan of a photocopier to pass these around but don't want to abuse my privilege by making too many copies, if I can help it. Don't worry about photocopying letters - I can type those and put those in columns so that I can squeeze as much in as possible....

1. On the spiritual end of things...I wanted to send this off before Lent started. Lisa Delmar has suggested that we enter into a time of prayer, fast and discernment about this whole idea before we take any (further) concrete steps. I think that's wise. Why don't we offer up this Lent and Pentecost for this intention? In the traditional Catholic way, we can use Lent to pray for this intention and Easter-through-Pentecost to thank God for answering our prayers to the fullest measure.

The way I thought we could do this communally in the most minimal way (so that even kids could participate) would be to pray a short prayer together every day, if possible.I thought we could use these short prayers adapted from the writings or sayings of our proposed patrons St. Benedict and St. Francis. I've put them on a prayer card graced with the artwork of Dan Nichols (a piece from our "private collection.") I thought it would be especially fitting if the domestic priest of the home (the father) could lead his family in these prayers. They could be said in a responsorial fashion (like antiphons after the readings in the Office of Readings) if so desired, the father doing the first part, the family responding. Or the father could just pray the entire thing himself, as an exhortation for himself and the family.

Probably the easiest thing would be to add on these prayers to others you already say. For instance, if you pray a family Rosary, the father could start out by praying St. Benedict's exhortation and end with St. Francis's. If you don't regularly pray a family Rosary, the prayers would work equally well around grace before and after meals.

For personal meditation for the parents and teens and older children, I picked out a passage that the father could also read from the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe as a sort of "lectio divina."

Also I recommended a simple song to be sung or played, in honor of the Holy Spirit whom the Holy Father has dedicated this year to, "Spirit of the Living God," by Michael Iverson. Or "Come Holy Ghost," my husband's favorite.Of course, if people feel moved to offer up other prayers, additional fast days, Masses, rosaries, or other spiritual acts for this intention, please do! I am only suggesting the minimum so that everyone can participate.

2. As far as implementing something practically, Mr. Fahey has some suggestions in his letter (included below) and I have one of my own, which I tentatively call "Help with the Harvest." My in-laws, Tom and Candy, have a 13 acre farm in Greenville, Michigan (above Grand Rapids) on which they raise vegetables, pigs, assorted poultry, strawberries, and sweet corn.

Their strawberry harvest is in June, and I thought perhaps we could start implementing somewhat of a teen festival by sending your teenagers (with or without yourself) to the Schmiedicke farm for a week or a long weekend this summer. Tom and Candy can promise camp ground, the use of indoor facilities, some kind of daily prayer (their boys like to go to 7AM Mass at the Carmelite monastery nearby) and lots of interaction with their own teenagers (Nathan, Sarah, Matthew, and Maria) and the younger kids. Having helped with the strawberry harvest before, I can add that there might be soccer games and some afternoon trips to Lake Michigan after work is done. If you don't know anything about planting strawberries or work on a small farm, the Schmiedicke teens will be happy to teach you. Maybe we can organize some kind of Irish dancing and other activities. Anyhow, Tom and Candy and family would welcome anyone who can come to help out the week of June 20-27 or for part of the time. (The date is a bit tentative right now as they're not sure how the growing season will go, but Candy said that's a safe enough bet) If you don't have teens but would like to come and help out, I bet that would be fine, too.

So, any responses to this idea? We can refine it, do more or less, but I thought we might as well start bouncing the idea around. If other farm families want to organize something at their farms, that might also be doable.

All right, on with your letters! I begin with the letter I had lost when I sent out the last round of letters.

From Lloyd and Penny Connour of Pulaski, Iowa,

Dear Regina and family,

Judy Bratten sent us a copy of your recent "possible solution" letter. We're happy to hear that people are trying to address issues connected with establishing Catholic agrarian communities.

We were unaware that Caelum et Terra existed until Daniel Nichols sent us the second to last issue. We were unaware that there were Catholics thinking along the same lines that we were, so we placed an invitation for conversation in the last issue. The wording of the invitation expressed our earlier ecumenical appeal. We are still exploring the Catholic within other Christian traditions, especially the more historic churches, i.e.: Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Anglican, as well as the Old Order plain traditions. We now emphasize our Catholic identity. We moved to Iowa in 1993 with the intention of beginning a plain community. We placed similar invitations in several periodicals. We were hoping that others might join us. When that didn't happen, we decided to begin ourselves as a middle-aged couple whose children are grown and out on their own. We have written the intentions, resolutions, rules and disciplines for our community, the Brethren and Sisters of the Common Life. We began out of the consensus of our own understanding. In our location, our community is called Wayfarers. We hope that other Brethren and Sisters of the Common Life communities will spring up, with the same intentions, rules, and disciplines.

We are sending you a copy of our Rule. We would be happy to be in correspondence/conversation with anyone about the recovery of Catholic agrarian culture. We have been in correspondence with over 50 families or individuals with varying levels of interest and understanding. At the present time, there are just two of us.

We wish for you and your family that the joy of Christ's Advent will fill your hearts this Christmas and throughout the New Year.

Yours in the poor Christ,

Lloyd and Penny Connour
Pulaski, Iowa

PS: We believe that Fr. Mannion's article is an implicit parallel of what we are trying to do. We are enclosing a copy. We also recommend "Plain" magazine.

Enclosed: A long article by Fr. Francis Mannion on "Benedictine economics and the Challenge of Modernity" from ABR 47:1-March 1996, an 8-page rule of the Wayfarers (RDS will see about typing it out sometime soon) and a booklist.

Regina comments: Beth Dougherty has suggested a common booklist. Let's try and start to compile one. I will recommend a book Lisa Delmar loaned me, Living More With Less by the same woman who did the More With Less Mennonite cookbook. Talk about challenging Lenten reading! It's personal as well as global, and challenging on both counts. Anyone else have good suggestions?

From Larry G. Lewis of Ontario, Canada (a friend of the Connours above)

Dear friend in Christ, Regina,

I was a subscriber to Caelum Et Terra from its inception, and, like you, I will always be very grateful for the conversation it began and which is surely continuing, as evidenced by your letter, A Possible Solution. I am thankful to Lloyd and Penny Connour for passing your letter on to me. I am taking the liberty of writing to you, as a bystander, to offer you encouragement and to put forward a response to your proposal. I have taken this liberty because I believe in what you and your group are aiming towards. Be assured that everything I write is to encourage you and nothing is to hinder your good work.

A. Common Aspirations

Is it a fair summary to say that you and the families you address aspire to a Catholic way of life which has these characteristics? 1. Catholic identity -- Christ-centered; family-centered; completely committed to the Catholic faith and morals; careful observance of the Church's fasts, feasts, and devotions; a Catholic ethos and piety maintained in the home. 2. Simple life -- less technology, and perhaps over time towards a defined level of appropriate technology; -- less materialism, which could be a move over time toward an appropriate asceticism for family life -- adoption of a distinctive, archetypal form of clothing appropriate for families. 3. Communal life -- where families live close to one another, communal activities will be fostered and perhaps the hard work towards a Catholic form of life parallel to the Old Order Amish/Old Order Mennonites or the Hutterite Brethren/Bruderhoff will begin to be established.

B. What Type of Association?

I am very heartened that there is a will to continue the conversation begun by Caelum Et Terra. Every step to make this conversation a reality is prophetic for Catholic families during these times. It is my understanding that the families you address are widely scattered, some living on farms individually or in close proximity to one another while others are living in towns or cities? If the families genuinely wish to keep in touch with one another, and aspire to further an integral Catholic way of life as espoused by Caelum Et Terra, I recommend that you continue to do so in much the same way as you came to know one another through Caelum Et Terra.


1. Caelum Et Terra Annual Gatherings

The best thing you can do for one another, especially for your children, is to continue the face-to-face annual gatherings. A conversation must first and foremost be face to face; then, it can be carried on secondarily through writing. (As a guide, I have not met you nor any of the families face-to-face. Consequently, my conversation with you which has to fill in a lot through imagination, is necessarily hampered.)

I recommend that you continue to call the gatherings "Caelem Et Terra Annual Gatherings." This gives emphasis to the source of the coming together and maintains the tradition, the handing on of what has been received. I wouldn't suggest a separate gathering of youth, but rather that certain activities be organized as part of the Gathering.

(Regina comments: I am still trying to figure out why I feel such a need for a specific youth gathering, and will hazard a defense, though I need to think more on it. Perhaps because although this would be fun for the teens, it would be an apostolic work for we adults. Also because perhaps it would make us consider just what we are trying to hand on to our children. Is it a way of life just for us, or for them too? Are we doing this for ourselves or for our families? For some reason, having teen events seems to be a healthy, unself-conscious way of doing it. In some groups, the focus seems a bit too much like navel-gazing -- the adult members so conscious of what they are trying to accomplish and so anxious to proselytize others into it while their kids sit off on the sidelines, waiting for Mom and Dad to finish up and come home. Whereas if all the adults put their energy into doing something for the teens and their other kids, I feel like the rest -- form, substance, even converts -- might come. Am I babbling or does this make any sense? I would like to hear others' opinions on this)

2. Caelum Et Terra Conversation:

I think it would be possible to continue the "Caelum Et Terra Conversation" by means of a simply-produced letter. The participating families would submit articles, letters, updates on what they are doing, how-to articles, recommended books, good articles from periodicals, etc. to one person. This individual would simply put together what has been received and would send out, let us say, five copies to individuals representing five regions of the country. These five representatives would make copies for the families in their region and send them out. In turn, these families would sent copies to other interested parties or on an ad hoc basis.

This method sounds messy and inefficient, but I am just trying to come up with a "distributist" method, given that a periodical isn't possible. Is this not how underground movements under repressive regimes operate?

(Regina comments again: Sounds possible. I would need to check it out with my husband (whom I have put in charge of my projects, since I tend to overcommit) but perhaps I could be the aforementioned "one person" since I can type fast, have less kids, am not homeschooling yet, and also have email access, since some of this discussion is going on electronically. I suppose if we want to be incarnational about our economic ideals, we should take this suggestion and be distributist as opposed to socialist (or is it communist?) with me as Big Writer over all. I smile. But again, what do you think? Any volunteers to be "local messengers?" (Let's say "messengers" as opposed to something horribly vague and corporate like "regional coordinators" lest we start thinking this whole enterprise is something really important.))

It would be a very informal letter to keep the conversation going and to foster links among the interested families. The regional representatives[Regina: local messengers :) ] could bill the families for the cost of photocopying and postage. It would probably be sufficient to communicate twice or thrice a year, surrounding the annual gathering.

[Regina isn't sure about that. She likes to talk]

3. Level of Organization:

I recommend that the level of organization be kept to a minimum, specifically the "Caelum Et Terra Annual Gathering" and the "Caelum Et Terra Conversation," as described above.

4. Prelature

I would not recommend this kind of organization nor would I use the term. My reasons are:

(i) The mention of the word Prelature would set off alarm bells among the clergy

(ii) Your movement is a lay movement, not a clerical movement. The aspiration to or application for prelature status would kick in a whole ecclesiastical, canonical, and clerical apparatus and procedure.

(iii) From your letter, I believe that there are many different visions of "how we should live", different visions of the shape of a Catholic culture, different opinions about where to draw the line with regard to technology, etc. At the same time, I believe all the families are drawn in the same general direction. Therefore, I would suggest that you leave your association with one another at the level of the Gathering and the Conversation. Out of this, local communities might well begin to take shape. Over the course of time, some families might find it possible to move to another location to join other families who have worked out a more precise vision. The annual gathering and letters could well foster such local developments and, at the same time, provide encouragement to those who are unable to make such a move.

b. Community

I would also not refer to your group as a community. It is important, I believe, to limit the word community to a group of families / individuals living in the same area. As stated above, communities might well develop in particular localities as a result of your efforts.

(Regina comments yet again: I agree that I was probably mistaken to use the word "prelature" and I think we would agree that "community" is not a good word to describe our current situation. We should probably avoid using it. How then would we describe our current situation? Under canon law, what we might have at first would rank as an association of the faithful, not under any Church authority. Dan Nichols had suggested that our spiritual focus would be the Assumption, the marriage of heaven and earth, of caelum et terra. But the name "Association of the Assumption" sounds a little too sibilant and God help us if anyone should abbreviate it. My husband and I were kicking around name ideas, and we brought up Tolkien again, and I joked and said we could call ourselves the Fellowship of the Thing, since we didn't have a Ring, and then it occurred to me that a Fellowship is sort of what we have, don't we? We definitely have friendship, and a certain comradeship in terms of a goal or vision, as Mr. Lewis says. So what about "Assumption Fellowship?" Or "Fellowship of the Assumption"? Or "Caelum Et Terra Fellowship"? I personally prefer the first, it being the shortest. The juxtaposition of the definitely Catholic word "Assumption" with the semi-Protestant connotations of "Fellowship" has a nice intrigue, I think. Again, comments? We can vote on this, since I'm terrible at naming things.)

4. Commitments:

The one hard and fast commitment should be to complete and whole-hearted assent to the faith and morals of the Catholic Church. The other commitments which you put forward are all excellent. They should serve as a kind of umbrella for each family or individual or group of families to incarnate locally. Indeed, how these commitments are incarnated could be part of the conversation in the circulating letter. I suggest a couple of minor revisions to the commitments.

a. Poverty - this is a heavily weighted term with a particular ecclesiastical meaning. It is a perfectly good one, but not well understood. I suggest that a more appropriate and more easily understood term would be simplicity, or simplicity of living.

b. Chastity - Once again, this term carries a particular ecclesiastical meaning. I suggest it be replaced by the more explicit "Modesty in Dress."

5. Economics and Technology:

These two areas of life which indeed envelop, penetrate, dominate, and order almost every sphere of the main stream of life, are, I believe, the two main stream of life, are, I believe, the two main topics for you and the families to wrestle with and to try to arrive at a common understanding. These two areas need to be brought to account and cut down to their appropriate size.

As you stated in your letter, it is these two areas which generate the most disagreement. However, with sufficient contemplation and understanding brought to bear on them, I think a common Catholic consensus can be achieved, at least within particular Catholic communities.

As a word of caution or prophecy, I would predict that unless groups of families bring Catholic discernment and prudence to bear upon the economic and technological orders, it will be possible neither to have a Catholic community, nor a Catholic culture.

6. Common Dress

I was pleased to see the topic listed. It is indeed uncommon during these times to find anyone, lay or clerical, who understands its theological and cultural importance. It goes right back to Genesis and is found throughout the Scriptures. The great irony is that, while in the Church rarely a word is said about clothing's incarnational significance, the media most clearly understand the power of the meaning of clothing. Even the most recent movies and commercials dress their nuns and monks in full habits!

Nevertheless, I would leave clothing to be decided upon by individual families or groups of families. The important thing is that families adopt simple, distinctive, archetypal dress, free of the fashion industry, and ordered to perennial Catholic goods. It may well happen that families in various locations will adopt the same dress. So much the good. This commonality should be arrived at locally and not across the localities.

7. Patron Saints

I recommend that Caelum Et Terra's patron saints, St. Benedict, St. Francis, and Our Lady of Guadalupe be retained.

8. Final Word:

What you are doing is a very important and very good work within the Body of Christ. I sincerely pray that the families will be able to keep in touch with one another and that your effort will engender mutual encouragement and support. Catholic Orthodoxy is sustained by the integral relationships of three sacred sources - Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and the Sacred Magisterium. If one or two of these sacred sources is missing, Catholic faith and morals erode.

A similar parallel can be made for a Catholic Orthopraxis. A Catholic Orthopraxis (and it must always be understood that there can be more than one Catholic Orthopraxis) is sustained by the integral relationship of Cult - Culture - Cultivation. Where these three are kept interlocked and in balance, a Catholic community should find it possible to flourish and to maintain its identity.

Sincerely in Christ Jesus,

Larry C. Lewis

Regina comments: Thanks very much, Mr. Lewis, for joining the discussion. I found your letter edifying, and welcome other's comments on it. Perhaps with some more imput, we can sort of draw out a more or less concrete sketch of some general guidelines in the way you've done soon.

From Teresa Squire, Maryland

Dear Regina,

Sorry I haven't gotten back to you sooner! Here are some stamps, please keep it up! The most recent letter was very enjoyable, especially Richard Fahey's contribution and your suggestion of praying "the Glory be." My 19-month old son Owen enjoys it and tried to imitate it right away!

Well, at least we've started some sort of community by mail. You may get some more members from down here. Great idea about having a meeting this summer at the Fahey's homestead (late summer would be preferable for me, as I am expecting a baby in June). I was just reading over a copy of the "home birth letter" by the Tippetts. Maybe you should mention them in the next letter? A lot of networking (the non-tech kind) could come out of the "community on paper." [Regina: "fellowship," you mean :)].

I loved the idea presented in the first letter of our apostolate. For now, maybe we could share ideas on how to meet this goal. A good source of interesting ways of celebrating Catholic feasts is provided by Women for Faith and Family. $10 will get you two booklets - one centered around Christmas and the other around Easter. I incorporated a lot of their ideas into our celebration of the Christmas Holy Days. Their address is

Women for Faith and Family,
P. O. Box 8326, St. Louis, MO 63132.

They update it regularly so that you can send in suggestions.

Teresa and Andrew Squire.

Regina comments: I use two books I found out about from my in-laws: the excellent The Year and Our Children by Mary Newland, and the cookbook A Continual Feast. Ronda Chervin and her daughter have also written a book on the topic, The Book of Catholic Customs and Traditions (Servant Publications).

From Richard Fahey, the Christian Homesteading Movement, Oxford, NY

Dear Regina,

Thanks again for Puzzle Pieces. You mention about meeting here. That would be fine with us. The best date is June 7, the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity. We will be finishing up a Survival Course on June 6 about 12:00 and guests are welcome to come any time Saturday.

There are two times a year that the full moon coincides with two great feasts. Most educated Catholics know the full moon comes during Holy Week each year. If it's clear on Holy Thursday even, that moon helps stimulate you to keep vigil. When I was younger, I'd stay up all night in memory of Jesus not sleeping and go to be after 3 PM Good Friday. Now the family takes an hour each through the night. A very worthwhile exercise.

The other full moon feast? 57 days after the feast of the Resurrection is Holy Trinity Sunday. It takes about 60 days for two lunar cycles so if the Holy Week full moon is on Holy Thursday, the Feast of the Holy Trinity will be graced with a full moon. This year the moon will be almost full. All creation is full, fertile, and in its glory just then. What a perfect time to come together and share the God-grace we are impelled by!

We invite you to submit topics to lead the group in discussion with. We invite you to prepare a song, poem, reflection, or skit to glorify our God. We ordinarily have a fire and a dance in the evening. We require men to wear long pants and women long dresses when visiting as well as the children. Does anyone know a priest who might come to celebrate the liturgy?

It is easy to express confusion and reaction to all that is wrong with society and the Church. On the other hand, it takes creativity, solitude, and prayer to bring forth positive directions, illumination, and good things to practice right away.

One in the Lord,

Richard and Anna Marie Fahey.


The Wayfarer's Booklist includes

Butler's Lives of the Saints (Regina comments: 4 handsome volumes at $140, an excellent investment for any Catholic family. We just got ours and I am so excited to have it!)
Robert Ellsburg's All Saints
Roots of Faith (early Chtn spirituality) ed. Robert Van de Weyer
Remembering the Christian Past, Robert L. Wilken
Sacred Reading, the art of Lectio Divina, Michael Casey (Regina notes - the heart of Benedictine prayer)
Abuse of Language, Abuse of Power, Joseph Pieper
Prayer, the Mission of the Church, Jean Danielou
Letters from a Catholic Dissenter, Joseph V. Roberts
Heart of the World, Heart of the Church by David Schindler
The Brotherhood of the Common Life and Its Influences, by Ross Fuller
The Brethren of the Common Life, Dr. Albert Hyma
The Imitation of Christ, Thomas A Kempis
The Way of Living Faith, a Spirituality of Liberation, Segundo Galilea
Why We Live in Community, Eberhard Arnold and Thomas Merton
From Brokeness to Community, Jean Vanier
Still Following Christ in a Consumer Society, John Kavanaugh
Easy Essays, Peter Maurin
Apostolic Farming, Catherine De Hueck Doherty
Either Or: The Gospel or Neopaganism, Carl E. Braaten & Robert Jenson, ed.
The UnSettling of America, Wendell Berry
What are People For? Wendell Berry
Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community, Wendell Berry
Another Turn of the Crank, Wendell Berry
Downsizing the USA, Thomas Naylor and William Willimon
From Cottage to Work Station, Allan C. Carlson
Alternatives to Global Capitalism, Ulrich Duchrow
Amish Society, John A. Hostetler
A Quiet and Peaceable Life, John L. Ruth
Community for Life, Ulrich Eggers (Hutterites)
Plain Magazine (see above no longer in print)
Communio International Catholic Review, P. O. Box 4557, Washington DC, 20017-0557
Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television, Jerry Mander
In the Absence of the Sacred, Jerry Mander
Technopoly, Neil Postman
When Technology Wounds, Chellis Glendinning
"Notes Toward a Neo-Luddite Manifesto," Chellis Glendinning
Rebels Against the Future, Kirkpatrick Sale (Luddites)

"Puzzle Pieces" 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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