Friday, January 20, 2006

Catholic Re-settlement

As readers of Bethune Catholic know, I have just finished John Senior's classic-"The Restoration of Christian Culture". He says many things which are worthy of discussion: TV, music, reading, talking, community, family, the Eucharist, Our Lady.... and the list goes on.

In the past 10 years or so I have seen and been part of many discussions on forming Catholic communities. There are various names and models for this: Catholic re-settlement, Catholic ghetto's, agrarian communiites. etc. People have deliberately tried to make these work (with very mixed success) and in other cases, the community just happened (again with mixed success.)

A single post outlining all I have learned (or think I have) over the years on the subject would be too lengthy (to read and to time consuming to write). But here are a couple of thoughts for anyone planning such an endeavor:

1. If you somehow form a community of 'like-minded' people, the community needs to work towards some level of self-sufficiency. I mean that all the men can't be leaving the community every day for work. They need to find employment in or very near the community-or being working towards that goal. Part of the community that makes it so, is that everything is right there. It is not a suburb where all the men leave to work in the city everyday. This is how the culture started breaking the family down to begin with. (Note I am not talking specifically about self-sufficiency for its own sake)

2. If it is an agrarian community, note that the American model is flawed. In America we want to put our house right smack dab in the middle of our 40 acres (keep the neighbors at arms-length and stake out the property lines.). While good fences may make good neighbors, the neighbors should be close enough that community really exists-so culture can flourish. If you look at those places in Europe today and yesterday where Catholic culture flourished, you will note that often these farming families all lived in the village in close proximity. The fields they owned and worked were outside the village. They lived together.

3. One big problem with the "planned" community, is that it takes more than a generation, maybe 2-5 generations, to really make it work. This is because the natural community is the family, and their most natural support is the extended family (not simply a "like-minded" friend). These resettlements (whether planned or unplanned) don't usually include (at least initially) extended family. This makes the community growth rocky. (You can ditch a friend - even like-minded one, but it is hard to ditch Uncle Haryy). But I would imagine that if they can stick it out a few generations (which means that most of the children remain in the community as do their children), then there is a real shot at making this succeed as the extended family will now be there also.

Just like H. Belloc (am I quoting John Senior's quoting of Belloc correctly?) said that it takes a year to make a farmer into a city boy, but it takes several generations to make a city-boy into a farmer. (I am living proof that it certainly takes more than a year. I can't even keep my chickens safe from my own dogs.)

Just some thoughts...Some may ask how my choices for our family in the past few years correlate to these goals listed above. That is another long story....

From Bethany, the small holding in Bethune...Oremus pro invicem!

PS-Have some announcements concerning Requiem Press on my other blog today!

1 comment:

Zach said...

Jim, I'd like to read that long article someday ... it sounds like you might have your own book waiting to happen eventually.