In 1932, just as the Great Depression was getting underway, an itinerant philosopher named Peter Maurin found himself in New York City. There he met a young woman, a spiritual seeker and social activist who had just converted to Catholicism. Her name was Dorothy Day.
Together Maurin and Day founded the Catholic Worker Movement, at the heart of which lay a newspaper and several houses of hospitality, places where poor and hungry people could receive a meal or a place to sleep. Their goal was to create a society where it was “easier to be good,” changing modern America from being “a society of go-getters to a society of go-givers.”
How did they go about making this change? By following the practical precepts of the church, which flow directly from Matthew 25, namely, the corporal and spiritual works of mercy: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned, shelter the homeless, bury the dead, counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, pray for the living and the dead. When these are practiced, they realized, one’s concern for “peace and justice” is no longer an abstraction or a harmless wish with no effect. It becomes real and impactful.
Upon our death we can take no earthly treasures with us. We leave behind our wealth, our power, our social status, our degrees, and our titles. Yet paradoxically, in Maurin’s own words, “what we give to the poor for Christ’s sake is what we carry with us when we die.”
“What we give to the poor for Christ’s sake is what we carry with us when we die.”- Peter Maurin
Adapted from Fr. Robert Barron