How Ought One to Live

Oct 27, 2016 by

How Ought One to Live

“There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace. To avoid the first danger, one should plant a garden, preferably where there is no grocer to confuse the issue. To avoid the second, he should lay a split of good oak on the andirons, preferably where there is no furnace, and let it warm his shins while a February blizzard tosses the trees outside.”

A Sand Country Almanac: By Aldo Leopold

What does it mean to be normal. What is the normal way of living one’s life. Norms change over time, but perhaps it is not normal that we are looking for, but rather how does God intend man to live. We live in a world full of extravagant technological advances. We have the ability to do things that were unfathomable to previous generations. Technology is not evil, but nor is it good. It doesn’t exist in a vacuum, but rather in a real world with real world consequences. It is value laden, and it changes our lives significantly.

Once upon a time human beings grew food and ate it. We are unique amongst creatures in that we are the only ones to have discovered and used agriculture. Our God-endowed reason allows us to not only pick the wild berries, but to cut, plant, cultivate, and improve them. We even discovered how to create thornless blackberries, which surely is a marvelous thing if you have ever picked from the entangled brambles of the wild ones. Certainly agriculture, which is the purposeful growing of food is a critical aspect of humanity’s ability to survive. Without it our population would surely nearly disappear in comparison to our current numbers.

Our world has forgotten what it means to be normal. While we have seen advances in technology beyond our wildest dreams, at the same time we have seen the moral disintegration of our families and communities. When I originally discovered the Catholic Land Movement I was enthralled by the vision it put forth of a family returning to the land to grow their own food in the midst of a rural community rooted in the faith. However, the vision of the founders was based in a world that no longer exists. Today rural life has dissipated into something much less that it once was. Too often rural parishes are comprised of members who have seen many years under the country sun. Too few young families inhabit such places today. The founders presupposed that a local village would provide faith, community, and culture. Today it provides a Wal-Mart and a bar… Too often families who seek to return to the land find themselves seen as backwards and isolated.

Yet, over and over again I have heard from voices as far away as Asia and Europe that say they too feel the longing for the land. Families who feel that their lives are fragmented and long for the unity that the Catholic Land Movement presented. It has led me to discern more clearly what I understand the New Catholic Land Movement to be. I see it now more as a set of ideals rather than an organization. I don’t see it ever organizing into a group that has people hired to promote is ideas. Rather I see it simply as a set of ideas and ideal that can be lived by individuals or families no matter where they find themselves. Those ideas are very simple: Reuniting the life of the family, uniting work, faith, and family life, and living simply on the land. The exact way of living out these ideas are left to your own discernment.

I believe it has now come to a time when I need to again put forth these ideals in the context of our modern lives. Too often those who return to the land find themselves completely disillusioned. Rural life and community are not what they once were. Thus why I have often promoted the need for a Catholic center such as a monastery or university to ground the life of such families. I will be writing more over the coming weeks and months. I plan to go back over many of the ideas I have written on in the past, and to update them as needed. I still believe, as did Servant of God Catherine Doherty that farming is the way of life meant for the majority of men. It is what God intended them to do.

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12 Comments

  1. James

    +JMJ+

    Aldo Leopold. Sand County Almanac. Great book.

    Have you ever heard of Henry Beston’s Northern Farm? You should grab a used copy off Amazon. As good – in some cases better – than “Almanac”. Both books hold prominent spots on my shelf!

    All I can add is that I 100% agree w/you, and Servant of God Doherty. I am now doing what I can farming my (small) yard. My first year was “meh”. But my carrots were superb! and, I got one good-size sweet potato!!

    Pax Christi.

    James

  2. Fabien

    Hello,

    Congratulations for your work ! I follow your articles from France, the oldest daughter of the Catholic Church.

    God bless you and your family.

    Fabien

  3. Hi Kevin:
    Greetings from a long-time fan of your writing and your endeavors to restore the Catholic Land Movement.
    As I’ve read your writing and your attempts to get something started, I notice always the same tension: On the one hand, a deep and sincere recognition of the vital role of agriculture in order to restore a real, organic Catholic culture: “When I originally discovered the Catholic Land Movement I was enthralled by the vision it put forth of a family returning to the land to grow their own food in the midst of a rural community rooted in the faith.” Of course, for most Christians, this seems like a silly exercise in nostalgia, and that faith can just as easily thrive in a modern urban or suburban context. But I think the history of the Church in the United States has shown that Catholicism can’t thrive for long when it attempts to assimilate to a foreign culture, and modern secular culture is deeply foreign to the Catholic spirit, including its natural affinity for agrarianism.

    On the other hand, your experiences have led you to a recognition that this vision is nearly impossible to live out, because of the lack of support for a family considering embodying this vocation.

    But I’m concerned about your shift away from seeing the Catholic Land Movement as an organization, and favoring instead conceiving it as a “set of ideals”. Of course getting the ideas out there is important, and your writing is incredibly clear and convincing. But I have two questions:
    1) isn’t there already an INCREDIBLY STRONG body of writing supporting this vision? I’m thinking of the Social Encyclicals from Rerum Novarum to the present, as well as Belloc, Chesterton, Dorothy Day, Peter Maurin, Vincent McNabb, Wendell Berry, and so many others: who could ask for a stronger, clearer vision of Christian agrarianism? True, much of this writing has been forgotten and could be updated to address contemporary concerns, but it seems to me that the issue is getting those ideas into the mainstream, which seems best accomplished through an organized, concerted effort.
    2) it seems to me that the strongest argument against Catholic Agrarianism is similar to the argument against Distributism: sure, this vision sounds great, but it’s simply IMPRACTICAL and is therefore a Quixotic waste of time. What is needed to counter this argument are lots of examples of people LIVING THIS OUT, but I’m afraid that won’t be possible because of all the profound challenges involved in doing so. It seems to me that what is needed is a supportive community, which would inevitably be some sort of ‘organization’.
    That being said, I agree that creating a typical ‘non-profit organization’ where people are basically working for pay and the whole focus is on writing grants to keep the organization afloat financially is the wrong model.

    I hope you and your family are doing well, Kevin. Keep writing!

  4. Mrs Christabel Pankhurst

    The physical setup for these aspirations are still viable here in West Cork. We have the rural Catholic, farming and community life. We even still have blackberries with thorns. However in our small community we are very divided. The majority are novus ordo, We have a quite a few SSPX, a lesser number of Resistance and a handful of Sedevacantists. We used to talk about the Church and the land but now the community closeness has gone.

  5. Ray Schindler

    Dear Kevin,

    I like your post. I also am one of those “who have seen many years under the country sun.” The time has come for me to advertise the sale of house and twenty-six acres of rocky ground fit only for growing grass — which is, however, located three miles from the Clear Creek Monastery near Hulbert, OK, and is on a blacktop road.

    I hope to hear from you. I think it might be of interest to the readers of your blog to hear about this sale. My e-mail is rlsch2008@gmail.com and I would provide details to anyone interested in knowing more. (Asking price is $350,000)

    Thanks,
    Ray Schindler

  6. I’m swiping that quote at the start of this entry for my blog. Just letting you know.

  7. By the way, I sure hope to see more frequent entries here.

  8. JMJ

    We need help living in a Catholic community. Four years ago we left everything and have tried settling among catholic homesteaders in Oklahoma. Somehow individualism is still so strong and interdependence looked down upon. My husband is a Naprotechnology doctor and though we have tried to learn how to farm with others people are too busy to do things together. We cannot do this alone. Do you know of communities that would welcome a family like ours?

    • NIdahoCatholic

      Yes, North Idaho in the St. Joan of Arc (FSSP) community. There are a number of families on the land, and we work (and pray together). I have never seen anything like it.

  9. Alex Leach (Aus)

    Dear Kevin and Family,

    I have followed your adventure with great interest. May God lead you to the right place to serve Him in renewing our culture.

    United in prayer

    Alex

  10. Teresa

    Hello! I’m sure you’re busy with family! Any chance of more writing happening soon?

  11. Teresa

    I’m glad you are writing again! Wanted to share this blog with you. I think you and Mary will enjoy, if you haven’t discovered it already. http://www.baconfromacorns.com/when-your-livelihood-goes-up-in-flames/

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