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While The Catholic Worker newspaper had originally called for the church to establish houses of hospitality, readers' confusion and Day and Maurin's generosity made Day's apartment a hub for those in need of a meal or a cup of coffee.Before long, they were renting a larger space to care for people, and then a whole building.
He often takes a backseat to Day in stories of the movement they co-founded, and the aspect of the Catholic Worker that he's most associated with — farming communes or "agronomic universities" — was for decades considered one of the movement's biggest failures.
However, in his very poverty and meekness, Maurin found his vocation: as a disciple of Christ on a mission to transform the modern world — in his own words — "from a society of go-getters to a society of go-givers." Now, 70 years after his death, Maurin's vision of a constructive program to reshape society through a synthesis of "cult, culture and cultivation" is gaining traction as it resonates with modern ecological and societal concerns.
Maurin "presented a vision of farming communities that honored mind, body and spirit," said Eric Anglada, who felt burnt out after living in an urban Catholic Worker and joined St.
Isidore Catholic Worker Farm in Cuba City, Wisconsin.
Peter Maurin speaks at a retreat at the Catholic Worker Maryfarm in Easton, Pennsylvania, in September 1940.
(Courtesy of the Department of Special Collections and University Archives, Marquette University Libraries) Day supported striking workers, for example, but Maurin's refrains were "strikes don't strike me" and "work not wages," said Brian Terrell, a longtime Catholic Worker who originally joined the movement and worked with Day in New York, but currently lives at Strangers and Guests Catholic Worker Farm in Maloy, Iowa.
He read extensively and began to develop the ideas that would inspire the Catholic Worker movement.
Maurin decided that modern society had failed and it was time to "build a new society in the shell of the old." This would happen through a "green revolution": a return to life on the land that would synthesize cult (religion), culture (learning and arts), and cultivation (agriculture).
While Day understood and supported Maurin's message, she also brought her own ideas and expertise.
When Maurin convinced Day to start a newspaper to spread his ideas, he imagined it would consist of nothing but his own "Easy Essays," short poetic compositions written in blank verse, meant to be read aloud, and filled with repetition and plays on words to catch people's attention and be accessible to all.