Thursday, May 23, 2013

Back to the Land

The apostolic farmer is a man of integrity and he deals with things of integrity. There is nothing deceitful about a field. It is honest, straight and clean, for it comes from the hands of God. The farmer touches God in his creation as it came from his hands.

Somewhere along the road of history man began to pollute fields and to rape this planet with his greed and with a technology that is sometimes used to pervert what God had intended for us. Earth and water are defiled with all kinds of things that do not belong in them, and people have become unhealthy, eating junk food and greed-motivated, polluted food products.

A farmer deals with the mystery of life. We were watching a film showing the whole process of growth, and someone remarked that they couldn’t understand what happened in that little seed to make it grow. Frankly and simply, what happened was a mystery of God.

Because he touches God all the time in the mystery of nature and so is familiar with Him, a farmer can easily tell others about God. Respectful of himself, of the soil and all growing things, he communes with God and hence can communicate to others this God with whom he relates so easily through everyday work and life

The apostolic farmer is a man of prayer; he talks to God about the needs of the animals, about the seeds he has to plant. He knows his limitations, and it is on his knees that he begs God for light, for ingenuity, for vision, so that he can produce something out of nothing. For he understands very well that alone he can never do it, but with God all things are possible. It is said that with God, the impossible takes only three minutes longer! The main point is that God has said, “Without Me you can do nothing.”
Catherine de Hueck Doherty, Apostolic Farming

Reflection – This little book of Catherine’s is so wonderful – I’ve been re-reading it these days as I excerpt bits and pieces of it for the blog. It’s hard to excerpt, actually, because every bit of it is a vital part of the whole, and it is hard to find short passages that stand on their own. But for anyone genuinely engaged in environmental issues and concerned about planet earth and our life on it, this book makes a unique contribution.

Catherine is really going radical and deep here, striving to give a picture of life that is fundamentally at odds with modern technological society. It is as if the whole project of our society has been to get us far away from God’s created order and design as possible, to insulate, abstract, separate ourselves as much as humanly possible from the earth. Oh, a few people still farm—as few as economically possible—but those farms increasingly operate on such a vast scale that they too lack this closeness to the earth but become instead one more technocratic plant.

I read recently an article positing that soon we will not need to raise animals for meat – individual cuts of meat can be grown in laboratories from stem cells. I don’t know how speculative that article was, but there we have it: one more step in the utter removal of humanity from God’s good earth.

Meanwhile, it seems that every time we turn around, this technocratic approach causes more problems yet, more environmental degradation or health issues. Remember mad cow disease? I don’t really trust a scientist to grow me a drumstick – the chicken seems to know how to do that just fine, actually. We’ll probably all end up with mad drumstick disease or something.

Underneath and surrounding this strange separation of man from creation, man from the earth lies a deep spiritual malaise which both causes and is caused by it. We don’t want to depend on God; we don’t want to encounter our own limitations and poverty; we don’t want to engage in a process where we are not masters of the outcome.

And then, separate from the earth and its ways, its rhythms, its tender mercies and its stern exigencies, it is easy to forget God who in a sense made his creation as a reflection of his own tender mercies and stern demands. And so we go—continuing to rape and despoil the earth for as long as we can, while staying as far from it as we can.

And so we go in Madonna House—not fuming and fretting about these things, not protesting and storming the barricades. We farm. We touch our own need for God and our littleness before Him. We experience the sore muscles, the sweat and toil of the summer, the anxious care for the weather, the health of the animals, the harvest and its preservation.

We farm, and in that farming we believe we are offering a radical alternative to modern urban technocratic society. And that is MH’s approach to environmentalism and its challenges.

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