Beginning Culture Recovery
Let’s begin with money. No one likes to be told what to do with their money. It cuts at the heart of our human selfishness, and money in a marriage may not be the root of all evil but it is frequently the source of many fights. Money is inescapable in this modern American society where I have lived all my life, and like a permeable gas, it seeps through the crevices of any membrane of piety or apostolic work. Every apostolate must be framed as a business proposal, every cultural endeavor must be squeezed into the box of financial cost, as though that were the most decisive issue. As the Second Vatican Council observed, “many people, especially in economically advanced areas, seem, as it were, to be ruled by economics, so that almost their entire personal and social life is permeated with a certain way of thinking.” (Constitution on the Modern World)
This “economic way of thinking” can build you a house, even a mansion, but it is a house with no doors or windows for escape. No matter how hard you search for a crack away from its material omnipotence, you cannot escape its benevolence, its standards, its evaluation. This is the world we wanted: a comfortable and comforting world, with material relief always within our reach, and we seem to have gotten our wish, but it has turned out to be the wish of Midas. It is us we have made into a golden statue, unable to think or imagine apart from its standard. A world that can be objectified, philosophically or scientifically, can be price-tagged, and the grime and the gum of the price tag has turned out to be the greater annoyance. It can never be fully removed from our thoughts.
But yet Christ calls us, and we who desire to follow Him long to step away from the tax table of our invested concerns, as did the apostle and Gospel-writer Matthew, and follow Him on this tremendous adventure. Is it even possible?
Right now, I live with my husband and assorted children on a homestead at the foot of the Massanutten ridge of western Virginia, and we struggle to make ends meet, having embarked on an artistic apostolic life some twenty-five years ago when we married. There is a bit of Dicken’s Micawber family in us: we are jolly, enjoy being generous, and find the battle to live within our means a constant discipline, with misery lurking behind the next medical or automobile emergency. We will probably always struggle. Yet somewhere along the way, I met Lady Poverty, that great love of St. Francis, and I called out to her. And the peace and freedom that came along with her welcome was unexpected and tantalizing. It is about my friendship with her that I write this first of journals.