The CET Email Discussion
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The Caelum Et Terra Conversation

(Puzzle Piece 6, Vol. 2)
Winter 1999

The Circle is Widening...
Other news is that more people have asked to join in. As always, if you want to continue receiving this newsletter, send stamps to me or to your troubadour (the person who mailed you the newsletter). (Short) articles and black and white artwork are appreciated.
This also means that more Troubadours to help distribute, mail, and photocopy are needed, so let me know if you can help out.
I received the following correspondence from Tom Storck and his friends Corky Vinter and Leszek Syski, which started after they read an article by the late L. Brent Bozell on community. This is exactly the type of discussion that makes up The Conversation, and I’m happy to receive any comments or additions to it.

Three Married Men Discuss Community

Corky,
I'm not sure what L. Brent Bozell would have us do - those of us that have banished television from our homes many years ago already. Is the next step to bomb the TV stations? Cut the cables? How do we respond? What does Thomas Storck say?
Leszek

* * * *

Thomas Storck says that you're right, banning TV from our own homes is the first step. What then? Trying to convince other Catholics (and any others) not only to get rid of TV, but of the meaning and importance of this whole cultural question; and then, even trying to recreate a Catholic culture. Where? In our own hearts, in our own families. And even, if possible, in our own parishes and neighborhoods, and for those brave enough, to actually start Catholic communities. Is most of this so hard as to be nearly impossible? Yes. But unfortunately, there is no other program that is required by the times.
Tom

* * * *

Tom,
Thanks for your response to Leszek's question. Here are some thoughts that came to mind. It seems to me that a true Catholic culture arises naturally as a consequence of sufficient numbers of people embracing and living out the teachings of the Catholic Faith as best they can. Catholics become inspired to provide example and leadership to those around them. When you suggest starting a Catholic community, I'm not sure exactly what you mean.
The idea of naturalness is important. Starting a Catholic community from scratch would be artificial. I think that's one reason so many communes and "communities" fail. People join on their own initiative and voluntarily give up personal freedom in conforming to community standards that can be arbitrary or based on the dominant personalities. Over time, these artificial restraints lead to petty resentments that tend to escalate. Human weakness gets magnified, which is why so many of these arrangements fail. In the case of Amish communities, they're not starting from scratch. They are simply conserving a way of life their ancestors started with and they grew up with. Celibate communities with members all of the same sex where a special vocation is involved is also a separate case.
In the family, there's a natural community with a hierarchy and the whole idea of the "Domestic Church." A Catholic family is a Catholic community that we do in fact start when we get married. In the world at large, a different dynamic is at work. The conversion of Rome was a result of Christian individuals and families being the "leaven" in a hostile, pagan environment. In a general sense, just living the Faith wherever we are is one way of starting a Catholic community, although we might not be around long enough in this world to see the results.
In Front Royal, VA, where I live, a Catholic community is forming naturally, since people gravitate to environments where other people support their world view. There's no organizer or specially written rules for Catholics living out there. Catholic families in Front Royal reinforce each other in living the Catholic Faith. Those who already live there or migrate there can be said to be "starting" (or at least expanding) a Catholic community, which is clearly growing. Nonetheless, there's a long way to go and plenty of non-Catholic residents in the area to be converted.
Corky

* * * *

Corky,
I agree in part with what you wrote. But I have two reservations. First, I do think that there is a place today for intentional (as they are sometimes called) Catholic communities. The community in New Hope, KY is one example, and I believe there is a similar one in the Dakotas, and probably others. Yes, there are dangers in such undertakings, such as those you mentioned, but I don't think we can simply dismiss them as unnatural, unorganic, etc. Most of the world is unnatural and unorganic, and I think that sometimes we have to do things that in earlier times would have been unnecessary.
Secondly, as I have said many times before, in print and otherwise, I think many Catholics do not understand the extent to which our surrounding culture undermines the Faith. That is, many seem to think that as soon as obvious evils are removed (abortion, pornography, contraception, divorce, etc.) everything else can more or less go on as before. I disagree with this. I think the implications of Catholicism are much more far reaching than many people think. Therefore, to simply have a lot of Catholics settle down in one place, while definitely a good thing, will not necessarily lead to a real Catholic counterculture. In fact, giving the necessity to make a living in an anti-Catholic culture and economy, we will have at best a truncated Catholic culture. Sometimes, and I emphasize sometimes, an intentional community can overcome some of this by trying to create its own economic structures, etc.
Tom

* * * *

Dear Tom,
Thanks for your comments. I intellectually agree there is a place for intentional communities, although I do have mixed feelings about them on a personal level. I find the question itself intriguing since it appeals to certain romantic sensibilities, and it raises the basic moral question of how should we live. This discussion is helpful in thinking through these issues.
On the one hand, intentional communities are a sign of contradiction to the world and all its vanities. They provide a potential haven from a world of bad influences all around us. As you mentioned, we're so entrenched in our current secular culture, that we don't even see how much the surrounding culture undermines our living out the Faith. The fortitude, sacrifice, and devotion of those engaged in intentional communities is very admirable.
On the other hand, there's a sneaking feeling that intentional communities are disengaging themselves from the general population in a way that reflects a siege mentality, that they're simply "opting out." Ironically, there may also be a kind of subtle materialism or even Puritanism in seeking to immerse oneself in an isolated environment of natural beauty. I admit these criticisms are subjective and may even be prompted by the jealousy or sadness of those who lack the virtue to make such a radical break with their more comfy conventional life styles.
In trying to be more objective about intentional communities, I know of no official teaching that condemns or prescribes them. My conclusion is that one's decisions about starting or joining such communities comes down to prudential judgment and discernment of God's will. In that case, it's a personal matter and not one of general morality. As part of living an examined, as opposed to an unexamined life, it's something that should be investigated and prayed about, if for no other reason than that such places do exist and are legitimate ways for Catholics to live.
In using the term "artificial," I didn't mean to imply unnatural or inorganic. I know these terms are problematic. I meant "artificial" in a relative rather than an absolute sense. For example, Reston, VA, Columbia, MD, and even Greenbelt, MD, began as the brainchild of a master planner. In comparison, most towns and cities develop over time in a more "organic" way. In this sense, the existence and characteristics of a place like Reston is more "artificial" than Annapolis, MD. At the same time, you can say they're both "artificial" since they're man-made.
My view of the rise of Catholic culture is that it comes about as byproduct of many people living the Catholic faith. Isn't that how it came about where it appeared more generally in the past such as the High Middle Ages? It comes about more like Annapolis did rather than Reston. An intentional community could end up with a Disneyland version of Catholic culture. I see that kind of thing happening in Ohio where a family started something called Catholic Familyland. It might even become a franchise -- McCatholic Community?
You make the point that most Catholics don't understand the implications of living in a full-blown Catholic culture. I agree with you, especially since I don't grasp the fullness it would entail either. I've never lived in a true Catholic culture and can only go by my limited knowledge and limited power of imagination.
Even though I can potentially participate in creating or joining an intentional community, I don't think the Catholic culture of the High Middle Ages came about as a result of intentional communities. In fact, historically, don't intentional communities eventually fizzle out? It's not that there's not a place for them. It's just that they are inherently limited to a particular time and place, unlike the perennial Church.
I suspect that true Catholic culture to be catholic needs to be universal. Ultimately, it comes down to people responding to the universal call to holiness. I'm not sure that a person who starts or live in intentional communities are necessarily more truly "Catholic" than all the Catholics in a local parish.
No one knows how things will ultimately go in Front Royal. In some ways it seems to be heading in the right direction, though still far from the final destination. Perhaps you and Leszek (with your families, of course) can move out there and help speed things along.
Corky

* * * *

Corky,
Thanks for your response and clarification. Although an intentional community could be a retreat from our duty to evangelize the world, so can anything else, even a scattered group of Catholics content with their situation. Moreover, I think that one thing we need today (not the only thing, but one important thing) is a group of Catholics living the fullness of Catholic faith and life precisely as a sign of the beauty of the Faith. Unfortunately this is something rarely seen in a parish, and in the nature of things, perhaps cannot be in this age except in a separate community.
As to organic/unorganic: in Latin America there is a very old tradition of town planning that goes back to colonial times. I don't see a town that is planned as necessarily worse than a town that isn't, anymore than a building that is unplanned (a heap of stones?) than a building that is planned. Pius XI said that in the economy, the "created intellect" is a better guide than free competition. I live in Greenbelt, as you know, and it is much more human place to live than a town "planned" by market forces alone. "More human" does not necessarily mean "more unplanned." Economic planning has a very bad name in the U.S., very often deserved, but planning per se is not bad.
Lastly, I fear that if Catholics simply come together - in this day and age - someone is going to have to instruct them that there is more to a Catholic culture than not having abortion, divorce, etc., essential as these are.
Tom

* * * *

Dear Tom,
There seem to be pitfalls and benefits whichever way we go -- whether intentional communities (Bardstown), semi-intentional communities (Front Royal), or unintentional communities (downtown Manhattan or Anacostia). I do like your comment about planned versus unplanned. Yet, there's always some kind of planning going on by somebody, whether coordinated or not, for the common good or not. Pius XI is definitely right about planning versus the anarchy of "free competition." There's still the problem of disordered planning.
"Suburban sprawl," is an example of bad planning, which wouldn't exist without man's "created intellect." A lot of suburbia is not due to free competition but to strict zoning laws along with restricted, regulated competition.
I wouldn't rule out the possibility that good planning, and the creation of an intentional community could become a seedbed for a more general Catholic culture. I'd have more confidence in that possibility though, if there was an historical precedent. Do you know of an example? I believe widespread conversion is necessary to alter the general culture. From what I know of history, widespread conversion comes about mainly through heroic virtue of saints, persecution, martyrdom, and miracles, all of which stimulate greater responsiveness to God's grace. Would an intentional community have this effect?
Corky

* * * *

Corky,
Thank you for your continuing comments. When I was writing yesterday I totally forgot (doubtless a symptom of my aging) that there were numerous intentional Catholic communities in 19th century America, and in fact I actually wrote an article about them in Caelum et Terra, called "Catholic Colony-Making in Nineteenth Century America," if I remember the title correctly. They tended to call them colonies instead of communities then. Loretto, Pennsylvania was one of them, founded by Fr. (Prince) Gallitzin, and it is still an overwhelmingly Catholic village, though (like everywhere else) suffering from the surrounding culture.
Have any of these led to widespread conversion or cultural change? Most Catholic efforts have not done so, unfortunately, so I think we should not judge intentional communities with a higher standard than we do other projects. But as I said yesterday, I think one of the things we need now is a model or example of Catholic life lived in its fullness, not just to attract converts, but to show Catholics that Jesus Christ wants to transform both our personal and social lives. Although religious orders should be this kind of model or example, the fact that they are celibate leads some people to think that their example does not apply to them. In the Middle Ages I believe that groups of married lay people often gathered around monasteries, establishing a kind of intentional community even in the midst of a Christian society. So I do think such communities are a good thing, and today perhaps a necessary thing.
When Caelum et Terra was being published there was a lot of interest on the part of its writers and readers in establishing such a community, and I thought that something was actually going to happen. I now understand more the difficulties, and I think that it is especially difficult to gather people who are married, have children and established jobs, are in their 30s, 40s or 50s. I am still interested in such a community, but unsure under what circumstances we would want to participate. You also may have heard of the Society of St. John, that new religious order in the Diocese of Scranton that wants to establish Catholic villages. I find this very interesting also.
Tom

* * * *

Dear Tom,
Thanks for the information. I have heard of the Society of St. John near Scranton. I received an informative letter from them in the mail a few months ago. It was quite well done and made their project look inviting. I think the letter was also asking for money.
I think part of the attraction in learning about and discussing such things as intentional communities (or colonies), is a universal longing for paradise on earth as expressed in Plato's Republic and Saint Thomas More's Utopia. Of course, as Christians we know we can never have heaven on earth. So there's an interesting contrast between those who proceed with that realization, such as the Catholics in Loretto and the Amish, and others who apparently don't, such as Plato himself and, for example, Bronson Alcott with his Fruitlands. The fact Catholics realize you can't have heaven on earth might give them an edge in attaining some success. It sounds worthwhile visiting Loretto some time.
The point you make about age applies to me. I don't expect any radical changes for myself for the foreseeable future, unless some drastic event occurs. The biggest factor in staying where we are is proximity to other Catholic families with children. Over time, our children should form lasting friendships to reinforce their Faith, instead of undermining it.
It seems the most likely candidates for forming an intentional community would be younger Catholic couples starting families. The rest of us will just have to remain missionaries among the non-believers.
Corky

* * * *

Corky,
Please don't write us old fogies off just yet.
I think that the thing that keeps the old fogies out of intentional communities is that we've been around the block a couple of times and can spot a harebrained scheme when we see one.
I received a mailing from the Society of St. John also. I wonder why they are asking for money. If they want to start a village, why are they not asking for people? Presumably the village would be self-sustaining, and be able not only to support itself, but eventually launch further colonies to repeat its own success.
Tom mentioned communities gathering around monasteries in the Middle Ages. I think that is the key -- there needs to be a focal point of the community which is animated by Jesus Christ himself. We may not need to have a monastery, but we need to have a solid core.
Lay people cannot offer religious obedience to superiors the way solitary celibates can. If my religious superior demands something of me that may cause me harm, I can and should (unless there is any question of sin) obey. If my religious superior were to demand something of me that could cause harm to one of my children, I could not obey. Hence, as a father, I cannot accept a religious superior. My state in life is incompatible with that type of commitment.
I have seen some examples of Catholic intentional communities which appear to trespass on the prerogatives of the family. That is not acceptable. The monastic model can exist in the core of the lay community, but it cannot be the model for the larger community.
Catholic lay communities, of necessity, must allow families to move into, engage in, withdraw, or move away freely. The budding Front Royal Catholic community does respect the authority and autonomy of the many families involved. Maybe the thing that is missing is intentionality. For a family to decide to uproot and move, there needs to be some assurance of the permanence of the new arrangement. The monastery of the Middle Ages was there for good (and for Good), and was also very cognizant of the community gathered around it and of its own pastoral responsibility to that community.
In the meantime, we need to continue our discussions about the Catholic Milieu (both the book and the vision). Corky, I think your choice of Tom's book for our "default topics" was inspired. And the book is inspired (informally speaking) as well. Tom does not offer fully developed answers, but asks the right questions. Amidst the current political scandals, pondering the vision of a Catholic society is like a breath of fresh air.
Leszek

* * * *

Corky,
Yes, we're more apt to get something good if we're not asking for too much. Just as if we don't expect our marriages to be absolutely perfect we're more likely to get very good marriages than those who look to them for perfection.
Tom

* * * *

Corky,
The question remains: Is there value in developing intentional Catholic communities? And if so, how can this be done?
The second question for any person or family considering moving to a Catholic community (intentional or spontaneous) is that of personal calling. Should we "bloom where we are planted" or should we uproot to a (more) Catholic community?
Leszek

* * * *

A comment by Regina:
I think that having older married couples is important in the makeup of any intentional community. I say this from experience – the covenant communities were made up largely of young impressionable families. Since everything – family life and marriage as well as community – was new to them, at times perhaps they sacrificed more than they should have.
What most older families lack in energy and mobility, they often make up for in experience. When things started going bad in a few covenant communities, in many cases, it was the older couples who smelled the rot and asked the most questions and eventually, pulled out first. Conversely, the younger ones toed the party line, bore the brunt of the explosion, and the disillusionment.
Having said this, I recognize that in most cases, it is easier for singles and younger couples to adapt themselves to a community structure that already exists than for the domestic community that is already "set in its ways." It's hard in either case.

Book Review: Asphalt Nation
submitted by David Alexander

Recently I discovered a book that reminded me of why I live here in town, rather than in the suburbs. I quote from a review of the following book I found at Amazon.com:
"Americans spend more than 8 billion hours each year stuck in traffic. This is just one of the horrifying statistics mentioned in Jane Holtz Kay's Asphalt Nation: How The Automobile Took Over America, and How We Can Take It Back, an eye-opening look at the relationship between Americans and their cars. Kay asserts that the automobile is destroying our communities, our environment, and our economic competitiveness, and her supporting arguments are pretty persuasive. In addition to the billions of hours wasted in gridlock, Kay notes that our daily drives are becoming longer and more frequent, and that increased mileage has nullified any advances in emission controls.
"Asphalt Nation is comprised of three parts: the first, 'Car Glut: A Nation in Lifelock,' examines the impact of the automobile culture on life in the United States today. 'Car Tracks: The Machine That Made the Land' traces the history of cars from Henry Ford to the present, while 'Car Free: From Dead End to Exit' imagines a happier future without automobile dependency.
"What makes Asphalt Nation far more interesting than the typical anti-auto diatribe is Kay's discussion of the cultural mores that helped create America's current car glut--namely, our attitudes toward land use and growth management; her comparisons between American and European practices in these areas are particularly interesting. Others have written about the American love affair with the automobile, but Holtz revisits the discussion with lively writing and a dramatic narrative."
I suspect that this sudden change in "cultural mores" took place around the end of World War II, when the great American suburban sprawl began. I would contend that the stage for the crisis of faith in North America was set amidst this environment as well. There is more to tell about that later. For now, consider for a moment how the automobile has affected our interaction with parish life, and our ability to inculcate Catholic values in our daily lives.

New Book by Thomas Storck!

Foundations of a Catholic Political Order
published in 1998 by Four Faces Press

To order, write to
P.O. Box 902, Beltsville, Maryland 20704. Price: $13.95, plus $2.00 shipping & handling, and $.70 tax for Maryland residents.

(TS: By the way, Dan Nichols did an excellent design for the Four Faces Press colophon or logo, which is on the front of the book and the title page.)

Letters from some New Folks …

Dear Regina,
I enjoyed our phone call yesterday. I've read Parts 3,4,5 and your original piece from the website. I've been interested in community since a young adult and was part of an intentional community for 3 years (a bunch of us living in an apartment complex, sharing meals, gathering weekly) at that time. Since we broke up in '86, I've moved a lot and we've grown as family (8 kids, 4 in heaven & 4 here). We "discovered" the Brothers and Sisters of Charity (BSC) in 1992 and have been "home" ever since. While our motherhouse at Eureka Springs, AR, is most known to people, the community has always been a group of people focusing on how to follow Jesus more completely, ever since the Alverna meetings in the early to mid-80's. Our Domestic Expression (those not living in monastic foundations) has grown to about 400 people, with formal regions, etc., but with very little of the bureaucratic trappings of some organized groups. In our region we have many families interested in intentional community, with one group of four families "clustered" in a neighborhood in the west suburbs of Chicago.
I've been interested in the Connour's foundation since I read their ad in C&T, although I had remembered them as Anglican from their ad. I'm much more interested since reading their conversations.
Joe Hicks, BSCD
Dubuque, IA

[RDS: To be fair, not everyone who has joined the BSC has had a positive experience, and I won't give them my wholehearted recommendation at this time, but I included the link above, with reservations.]

Caelum Et Terra's next Incarnation?

Regina,
Thanks for contacting me. I am indeed interested in "resurrecting" a Caelum Et Terra-oriented journal. I've been meaning to contact Daniel Nichols for some time now, and have just not yet done so.
I have quite a few ideas about what I want to do with the new journal, but I have not yet committed any of them to paper.
I've been thinking of calling it: "Yeoman: a Peasant's Journal of Goodness, Beauty and Truth." (I am a lover of medieval culture, so bear with me). I'd like to continue C & T. columns such as: Family Culture - Notes from the City - Homesteader's Journal (though not necessarily Eric Brende alone) - Good Work -- and perhaps adding a column on the works, writings and ideas of Vincent McNabb, OP; Belloc and Chesterton.
Original essays would be the mainstay, just as in C & T. I will have a look at your "C & T Conversation"; Cricket Hayden has told me a bit about what you've done and I remember your "Seven-dress wardrobe."
Our family is at present looking to buy a small farm in Southeastern Indiana; we hoped to be moved by Summer of '99. I'd like to get the new Journal started later this year--a quarterly.
You might want to check out the website I have for a children's magazine I edit (and write) called St. Joseph Messenger.

AMDG
Michael S. Rose
Cincinnati, OH

A Fellow Medievalist Writes In

I happened on your "Puzzle Pieces" on the Chesterton page the other day and was delighted. As I'm sure your aware, many people with no initial contact with each other are hearing the Spirit say some very similar things (something reminiscent of the spontaneous "TV bonfires" in Michael O'Brien's Eclipse of the Sun.) Our family and several friends families have been thinking along very similar lines here on the Left Coast (we currently live in Lake Elsinore, California)
As a bit of background, my wife and I are converts from Mormonism to Catholicism (received this last Easter). We were brought out of Mormonism primarily by the pro-life movement (long story) and wandered for a time through various Protestant denominations. I was finally brought over to the Catholic Church, primarily by reading Chesterton, Belloc and (to an extent) Cardinal Newman. We are a family of seven (my wife and I, David 15, Genevieve 14, Nicolette 12, James 10 and Antionette 6) and have always been homeschoolers. Our interests include literature, poetry, music, art, history (particularly the Middle Ages), karate, and (somewhat paradoxically from the rest) science fiction.
So much for background. As I said, we have been mulling over many of your ideas (or apparently, God's ideas) for some time. We ditched the TV about a decade ago, and are starting to eliminate videos. Newspapers and secular magazines have also been eliminated. We have been struggling to create a Catholic culture. We would LIKE to live in a more agrarian setting, but so far have been unable, and make due with a garden and pets. We have been looking for models to help in networking with other families, and I have gotten several new insights from your on-line postings. I doubt we would be able to make even annual gatherings to your "neck of the woods," but something similar here on the Left Coast might be arranged.
In MY "flight of fancy" I had even contemplated creating a tiny mediaeval village with a few families. After all, out here, attractions like "Mediaeval Times" are popular (California is the birthplace of the SCA,) so a bed and breakfast and small tour/craft-fair might just be profitable enough to be sustainable - combined with farming. But this is simply a daydream at present.
We have also done some thinking along the "Archetypal Dress" lines, and have bantered back and forth about possibilities such as habits or at least simplified clothing. Of course, being of Scottish descent, kilts would have to play a significant role for us - particularly the Great Kilt and particularly on special occasions! Actually, the kilt makes a good working outfit in a cold climate (although I recommend a pair of shorts underneath!)
But enough of my proselytizing! I just wanted to drop a line to say that I'm glad your materials are available on the web, and I intend to check often. If you have an email list, I would love to be included in it if it isn't too much trouble. My address (which of course you can read in the header of this letter!) is [email protected] We also have a web-page in the rudiments of construction (to view, click here). . At the moment, all that we have are a few of my writings on apologetics (particularly to Mormons) and a few pieces of my daughter Genny's art. But feel free to visit anyway.
Many thanks and God bless
Keith Campbell

Mary Dress Pattern Now Available!

Regina adds: By the way, the pattern for my mock-medieval "Mary Dress" (mentioned in the Seven Dress Wardrobe article) is now available (at least in test form) from The Cottage Door, run by Peter and Catherine Fournier. I'm grateful to Catherine for pushing me to actually get this pattern into print for others to have, and right now we're selling test samples for folks to try out so that we can "work the bugs out." If you're interested, you can email them at Cottage Door. or write to:
Domestic Church Communications
c/o Fournier, R.R.#3, Arnprior, Ontario. K7S 3G9 Canada.
Fax: 613-623-7208

Wanted: A Catholic Plain Magazine

Greetings in the Name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!
I can't believe that I found this site, quite by accident, I might add. I sent a subscription in for Caelum Et Terra in early 1997 and was informed of its demise so I was overjoyed to find this info on the web.
Here's a little background: I am a convert to the Catholic Church (29 March '97), having been raised Lutheran. My wife and I (we're in our early 30's) have two children so far, aged 3 and 11 months. We live in suburban Detroit, though we have talked about moving to a nice, rural Catholic community, preferably in Michigan! Ha-ha!!
I have always had a love of history and gardening and have many fond memories of my mother's garden and canning and sewing home-made clothes and watching my grandparents do the same, etc. I've also had a long fascination with the Amish and in my road to the Church, God led me down some mighty interesting paths: genealogy, Francis Schaeffer, Wendell Berry, the Southern Agrarians, Plain Magazine, John Hostetler, to name a few. Of course, the Lord also led me to many other good Catholic examples like Chesterton, Belloc, and a host of other Catholic apologists and defenders like Catholic Answers, Ignatius Press, The New Oxford Review, The Wanderer, etc. I was raised in a more traditional Lutheran denomination and heard the "Pope is the anti-Christ" kind of talk as a boy so it is truly by the grace of God that I am a Catholic today. My wife was raised Catholic and I even talked her into leaving the Church to become Lutheran before we were married!
I currently volunteer for a lay Catholic apologetic and evangelization group in the Detroit area and we publish a bimonthly magazine, all through volunteer efforts. Presently, I work at a publishing company as an editor/technical specialist (computer nerd) some 30+ miles from my family and parish, though I am looking for something closer to home. Our parish has a very godly priest who has attracted numerous home-schooling families, has started 24-hour Adoration, and will speak the truth in love. I think there are many others who long for a stronger Catholic community but it seems so difficult given all the obstacles of a high-priced suburban city with all the noise and traffic and "stuff."
Anyway, I would just like to sign up for the newsletter and help out in anyway I can. If you need any money, please let me know. I was very disappointed to find out that Caelum Et Terra had ended and equally as happy to find that you good folks are attempting to fill the gap. I enjoy Plain Magazine very much, but it just isn't Catholic and it really does make a difference.
May I also suggest that some folks may want to do some reading on the rural German Catholics who lived in Hungary and present-day Romania and surrounds. They were/are called the Danube-Swabians, or Donau-Schwaben, and their communities (even as recently as 1900), resembled the Amish in many ways. The villages were typically not much larger than a few thousand and each village had its own unique style of dress. Sadly, however, most of these communities were destroyed after WWI and WWII, though there are a few remaining villages. There are still groups around the country who try to preserve their cultural heritage, though, like everything else in our society, it is difficult. Just a thought.
Please let me know what I should do to receive the newsletter and if there is anything I can do to assist in spreading the word.
May the Lord Bless and Keep You!
Your servants in Christ,
Tony & Karen Gerring
Lincoln Park, MI

From a "Harvestal Alumna":

Dear Regina,
Hi! We hope that this note finds you and your family happy, holy and healthy. Michael and I are joyously setting out on the first months of marriage and have found them to be quite blessed so far.
I was writing you to say how much I enjoyed meeting you and your family -- extended, friends, etc. this summer [at the first Strawberry Harvestal]. Also, that it revived in me the spirit – the deep desire – to seek others who are like-minded in this – to start a Catholic agrarian-based community (someday) or simply join one ….
Anyway, my mom mentioned to me that you had sent out a "conversation" Caelum Et Terra newsletter, and I would be really interested to be on your mailing list… I've enclosed a few dollars to cover your mailing cost and I look forward to corresponding!
Heather Grumbine (formerly Chirdon)

Regina notes:
Heather and her family, the Chirdons, are a Catholic family who are professional Irish musicians and dancers. They added great richness to our first Harvestal by attending and sharing their talents with us all. For those of you who were wondering if we were going to attempt another Harvestal sometime this summer, all I can say is that it's very much in the planning stages (I am expecting baby number three in June, so I am not sure how involved I can be this year). The Harvestal was originally conceived of as a chance for teenagers to help a Catholic farming family with their harvest and has been expanded to include whole families. Last year's Harvestal was held at the Schmiedicke farm (my in-laws) in Michigan for a week, and was draining but the teens loved it. If anyone's interested in resurrecting, joining, or hosting the experiment, let me know and we can start talking about it.

Anyone for Draft Horse Journal?

Dear Regina,
I am indeed interested in receiving a printed copy of the newsletter. I'm hardly a convinced Luddite: I found great material for our confirmation class on the Eucharist by doing a quick search of the EWTN document library. My computer time happens at work, though, and I'm not sure that's a valid use of your tax dollars (I'm an employee of the National Park Service).
Down to business!
1. I love your ideas on the restoration of Catholic culture and am delighted that you consider the "incarnational" aspects of your philosophy as expressed in dress. I too tend toward anachronistic fashion; my wardrobe might be best expressed as 'deadhead Amish,' i.e.: elements of both plain clothing, old-hippie vintage stuff. Not always as attractive as my husband could wish, ahem! I'm fascinated by your description of hair treatment – the hairnet/snood approach. I too want to pray with a covered head and lace mantillas just don't do it.
2. Is anyone in your group interested in obtaining old issue of The Draft Horse Journal? I've subscribed for years, loving the magazine, though I own neither horse nor land. Perhaps these back issues should go to live with someone who is actually farming. I'll part with several years' accumulation for the cost of shipping, so long as they go to a good home.
God bless you and your family! Keep the joy of loving Jesus in your heart, and share this joy with all you meet, especially your family. Let us pray. Mother Teresa, pray for us.
Dominus vobsicum
Martha Downing

Thank you and welcome to the conversation, all you new people who wrote in! May God bless you all this Lent and Easter and hopefully we'll be writing again in the Spring. This Plant Assasin (the Black Thumb of Death) is resigning herself to the third attempt to make Things Grow in the Ground, and hopefully this year with the help of my Farm-Boy husband we'll have a garden in. Since the wonders of God never cease, I may have more to our harvest than wild raspberries and potted basil this year! Peace and good!

Puzzle Pieces,” later “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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