A blog for Catholic men that seeks to encourage virtue, the pursuit of holiness and the art of true masculinity.
Two Acres and a Cow: Our Back to the Land Adventure
September 20, 2016
My wife and I have had a dream for several years.
We’ve dreamt of a little house in the country with a few acres, a big garden, and some chickens—a life close to the land and in touch with the rhythms of the earth. We’ve envisioned a place where we could learn to work with our hands and know where our food comes from.
We’ve also dreamt that this little place in the country life would be anchored by a Catholic community and sanctified by the beauty of a strong liturgical life. And maybe, when we’ve felt really ambitious, we’ve dreamt of playing some small part in the the renewal of Catholic culture.
Perhaps it isn’t the American dream. But it is our dream. And now, it is becoming a reality. In less than a week, my wife and kids and I are packing our bags and headed south to rural Oklahoma where we will live close to Our Lady of Clear Creek Abbey.
Are you crazy?
More on our upcoming move in a minute, but first, a little bit about why we are doing this. After all, why would a young family comfortably living in the suburbs of a large city decide to move to a remote and economically poor rural area, far from family, friends, and all that is familiar? Why would we leave a parish we love and a state we’ve called home for years, to start all over? Here are some of our motivations.
Catholic Agrarianism – For years now, I’ve imbued the works of writers and thinkers like G.K. Chesterton, Fr. Vincent McNabb, Wendell Berry, Vigen Guroian, Catherine Doherty, Pope Pius XII and a host of others. These men and women, to varying degrees, have articulated a vision of Christian rural life that is more than mere sentimental pining for the simplicity of the past. Rather, they emphasize the importance of subsidiarity and authentic community, stewardship of the earth, the importance of economic self-sufficiency, the virtue of labor, connection between culture and place, and more. I love reading about these ideas, but at some point, they must be translated into action, and that is what we are doing.
Hard Work – I work from home, and my job involves sitting at a computer for 8 hours a day. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret this. I love what I do and technology is what is enabling our move to the country in the first place. But my work is entirely mental in nature. I don’t build tables or plant crops, or do anything that involves real bodily labor. Yet, we are bodily creatures and I am convinced bodily labor is not only good, it is necessary, in some form or another. Why not simply get a gym membership, you ask? Because I tend to laziness and procrastination. A gym membership is optional, and any optional labor is easy to shirk. Tending animals and a garden, on the other hand, requires work that can’t be delayed (unless you want all your animals to die and crops fail). Moreover, the labor of husbandry provides tangible fruit. Rather than exercising to look “buff,” the labor of caring for things produces food for your table.
Materialism – A few miles from where we currently live, developers are building a huge, luxury shopping center. This shopping center is only a couple of miles from the local mall. Between this new shopping center and mall are literally hundreds of stores where everything imaginable is sold. And that isn’t the end of it. Every cornfield, every small patch of green grass in our small town is getting bulldozed to build more stores. Within 5 minutes of us, there is a Wal-Mart, Menards, Meijer (a Wal-Mart competitor), at least 15 restaurants, Starbucks. Oh, and three grocery stores, each more luxurious than the next! That’s all within five minutes. It is consumerism gone mad, and there is no end in sight. By American standards, we live a simple life. We shop rarely and don’t consider ourselves materialistic. Yet, despite that, we find ourselves being tempted by the dazzling onslaught of stuff. We eat out more than we need to, and we find ourselves wanting and buying things we don’t need. Despite our best efforts, we are unconsciously sucked in by the culture of consumerism. At a very deep level, we want out of this way of life. Part of our God-given vocation as humans is to create. We don’t want to be mere consumers. And so we are reorienting our lives to break free of the trap.
Monastic Stability – We live in a fast changing world, a world that is quickly becoming hostile to Christianity. This isn’t the first time in history this has happened, either. Just as Christians congregated around Benedictine monasteries during the collapse of the Roman empire, we are moving toward the stability of Clear Creek. Put another way, we are exercising the Benedict Option. Some call this escapism, but we call it common sense.
There are other reasons we are moving, but suffice it so say that we are seeking to shape our life around what we believe, rather than shaping what we believe based on the way we live.
Headed to Clear Creek
Clear Creek Abbey is home to about 50 monks. Each day, they pray the liturgy of hours as it has been prayed for centuries. They work and pray and offer hospitality to pilgrims and guests. These monks are in the midst of a huge construction project, building an abbey church that will long outlive any of us, and will likely survive for centuries.
Surrounding this monastic foundation, there is a small but growing community of Catholic families, young and old, that share the vision for traditional Catholic rural life and Benedictine prayer and work. It is to this community that we are moving.
We hope to share more about our move in the days to come. Please keep our family in your prayers!
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