In a Nutshell
The Bloomington Catholic Worker is currently a collection of four families (8 adults, 9 kiddos) attempting to live out the radical love demanded of us by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. We are attempting to “create a new society within the shell of the old”. We are a flawed and sacred experiment, following in the tradition of “houses of hospitality” found within the Catholic Worker movement.
We are an independent organization, with no official connection to the Roman Catholic church, whose members share most aspects of life together. This allows for a certain amount of intentionality that we would struggle to create otherwise. In particular, it allows us to offer hospitality (a place to sleep, food, and community) to those in need.
Peter Maurin said that we need to work towards a society “in which it is easier to be good.” Living in community allows us to structure our lives in a way that makes it easier to do the “good” of hospitality. We live in three adjacent small-ish single-family homes, using our spare rooms (7 total beds) as spaces for folks who would otherwise be homeless. Because all three houses have children, we require that guests commit to keeping our spaces safe and sober. Although this limits who can stay with us, there is no shortage of those in need who fit within those parameters.
Other than helping meet their expressed interests and needs, we do not try to change or preach at our guests. Thomas Merton said, “The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image.”
The Church has a rich history of offering shelter and material support to those in need. The Catholic Worker movement believes this is best done at a personal sacrifice. Doing this work offers us a unique and meaningful window into the suffering and joy of others that we would not otherwise be present to. We pray that we are shaped by these experiences and stretched to love more.
In the last seven years, we have had about 120 separate guests stay with us. Of course not all have ended well for one reason or another, but as Dorothy Day said, “love is the measure.”
Spirituality & Economics
We each recognize (and continually fail to honor) the inner work necessary to have our efforts come from a place of generosity and love rather than obligation and a disconnected sense of morality. To that end, we share a daily morning prayer routine, a weekly reconciliation time, and attempt to carve out space in our days and weeks for Sabbath rest and reflection. We happen to each come from within the Christian tradition and have been particularly influenced by the radical life and message of Jesus.
Catholic Workers share Pope Francis’s concern with the modern industrial capitalist system’s preference for profit over people and the environment. We recognize the rejection of individualism and greed as a spiritual practice and as an extension of solidarity towards those who are on the receiving end of our system’s injustices.
Most of us work part-time jobs in Bloomington (church work, social work, mosaic-artwork, and doula-work) and contribute approximately 50% of our income towards collective expenses such as food, utilities, bus passes for guests and property maintenance. We are also reliant upon the generosity of others (money, jars of milk, hand-me-downs) who support our work.
We seek to walk a razor’s edge between “enough” and holy precarity, recognizing that our ideas of “enough” might seem silly to those on either side of where we are.
Check out the writings of Dorothy Day, Peter Maurin, Emmanuel Mounier, John Howard Yoder, Stanley Hauerwas, Thomas Merton and Wendell Berry for a deeper look into the spiritual/theological leanings of our own community and the Catholic Worker movement in general.
We aspire towards living in harmony with the rest of nature, taking cues from land-and-craft based Catholic Worker communities such as the electricity-and-petroleum-free White Rose Catholic Worker and so many other groups and individuals seeking to live in less destructive ways. We are always looking for ways to reduce our carbon footprint and be more self-reliant. Let us know if you can help us in that regard!