Loaves and Fish

8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to him, 9 "There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what are they among so many?" 10 Jesus said, "Make the people sit down." Now there was much grass in the place; so the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 11 Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, "Gather up the fragments left over, that nothing may be lost." 13 So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten.     John 6:8-13


Dorothy Day had a mission, she was to feed the poor and homeless of the land. How, you might ask? Well, with the help of Peter Maurin, they co-founded a little newspaper called The Catholic Worker. A newspaper meant to motivate the Catholic people to help others and change the system.   

House Of Hospitality 

Not being Catholic, I don't totally understand the "works" philosophy but I do understand that is it important to the Catholic faith. "Works" being the acts, according to the Vatican Council II, "Men and women... can rightly regard themselves as furthering the creator's work by their labor, as being concerned for the well-being of their fellows and as making a personal contribution to the achievement of the divine plan in history".              

Maurin brought a social vision shaped by papal social encyclicals and French Catholic thought. While Day, who converted to Catholicism in 1927, brought a background of experience in American radical movements. Along with the Houses of Hospitality, Peter brought the idea of self-sufficient farming communities. The first was located on Staten Island and was so small that it was called the "garden commune". The second farm was located in Easton, PA. Both succeeded but very slowly. (Day, 44-47) 

"We were just sitting there when Peter Maurin came in.

We were just sitting there when lines of people began to form, saying, "We need bread." We could not say, "Go, be thou filled."  If there were six small loaves and a few fishes, we had to divide them. There was always bread.

We were just sitting there talking and people moved in on us. Let those who can take it, take it.  Some moved out and that made room for more. And somehow the walls expanded. 

We were just sitting there and someone said, "Let's all go live on a farm."

It was as casual as that, I often think.  It just came about. It just happened...

It all happened while we sat there talking, and it is still going on." 

From the Postscript of Dorothy Day's book The Long Loneliness, on the beginning of the Catholic Worker movement.


       The Catholic Worker                 Communities 

Return to Home           Return to Dorothy Day       Canonization

Return to Religion in American History

Arin Cox

Last updated 04/16/01