Thursday, August 6, 2009

Peter Maurin: Apostle To The World

Although, I haven't really read much of his writings and I would say my grasp on this ideas are pretty basic. Most of my understanding comes from a synthesis of his ideas written by others. But from what I have read, I find that Maurin offers an insightful and fundamental guide for what it means to be a Christian in pursuit of social justice. His ideas have provided me with the beginnings of a basis for understanding the experiences and stories of people I meet daily on the margins of society. He provides a vision of inclusion, rooted in Christian spirituality that for me provides an anchor for belief, as I often struggle to find faith to be relevant in this day in age. In many ways, we can describe Maurin as a modern day prophet. Maurin was a French peasant who emigrated to Canada and then the United States in search of his Christian vocation. He is likely best known has being a co-founder with Dorothy Day and the source of the personalist philosophy of the Catholic Worker Movement. Maurin falls within a Franciscan tradition of voluntary poverty, which Maurin expanded upon to mean a village economy, where crafts, farming, and a personal way of life could be established. The foundation of this life is a religious affirmation from which flow prayer and communal sharing. Poverty, in Maurin's view, opened one to the call of God and neighbor and made the person and the community dependent on both. For me this is significant as it gives legitimacy to a focus on social order and figuring out what it means to live missionary in regards to influencing and changing society as whole. Maurin thought that the social order had a singular mission: to protect and nurture the person's journey toward the mystery of God, thus promoting the possibility of salvation. The social order existed to mirror and express the spiritual dimensions of the person. The trappings of an order built for itself--large-scale industry affluence, and militarism--that we live in today are certainly elements of structural sin, that most of Christianity fails to even acknowledge. For Maurin the Catholic tradition provided the resources for personal and societal transformation. Jesus is at the center of this transformation, and to thus believe is to enter a new life of love and service. A person who follows Jesus is intimately involved in the life of a people who have been called to transform self and bid others to enter that transformation. Communities of Christians are formed precisely for these reasons; to praise God, to order personal life, and to reorder the large social life. For me, the spiritual life of these communities rooted in the story of Jesus and the traditions that have evolved from his life and death offer a rootedness providing for a profound level of renunciation commitment and sacrifice. Perhaps this can be seen here at L'Arche, where many for deeply religious reasons have commited themselves to lifetimes of living amongst people with devepmental disabilities. Even just from my four months here, I have gained a deep appreciation for what that kind of commitment entails. As I move out to Vancouver, I look forward to a deeper experience of what it means to live in a community similar to what Maurin advocates for. Keep reading my blog as I hope to share some of these experiences with you.

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