When my wife and I were married, we had one desire: to serve God as missionaries. We wanted nothing in life but to devote ourselves to evangelization, education and works of mercy. I passed on opportunities to go to medical school and on an easy path to a university career as a classicist to work in elementary and secondary Christian education, where I believed there was greater need for help. I had seen all I needed to of the world and knew that I wanted my life to be devoted to spiritual and eternal objectives, not material and temporal ones. Today, our desires for a simple (but strenuous) life devoted to evangelization and charitable works remains our goal. We are more zealous than ever to seek a higher level of self-sacrifice and service and know that there are many other families like us who simply haven’t had the opportunity available to make such a change.
We have been contacted by many Catholic families who want to live a radically different life than is normally found among Catholics in America. We have spoken with many families who want to devote themselves to prayer and work for the sake of the Gospel. Our Lord is the source of this desire, for He has already said,
Now, some will say, “Yes, but we are married…we can’t be called to that life.” How can someone leave CHILDREN, as Jesus says, unless they be married? Of course He is speaking to married people as well as single. He is not referring to the ababdonment of one’s responsibility to his or her children, as St. Peter did not neglect his own children in following Christ, but is revealing the greater purpose of life that gives true balance to parenting and family life: our family life is to be Gospel-oriented. Good parenting is defined not by some material standard of provision, but by the service of the ultimate goal in life: the salvation of the world. If you are yearning for something more, that yearning may be worth reflecting on because it can be fulfilled.
The problem many families face in America is that they were raised with an understanding of life that led them to make decisions that they now regret and despise. For example, many went to college and took student loans they were told would pay themselves off…only to find that they don’t pay themselves off. Others bought houses that impressed them and pleased their relatives when they were young, but now see the vanity of such investments. Now, with children that they want to live saintly lives and receive a godly education, they desire a freedom to live with a different focus in a community with like-minded families. Unfortunately, that community doesn’t seem to exist.
This is not an escape from work or the world that such people desire, for the rule of St. Benedict is summarized by “Prayer AND Work”, not “Prayer INSTEAD OF Work”. St. Paul made it plain that a man who doesn’t want to work should not eat and that a man who doesn’t provide for his own family is worse than an unbeliever. The difference is that what it means to work and what it means to provide for one’s family in St. Paul’s mind is very different from what it means in most American minds. Most Christian children are BORED because they have no real work to do and no purpose and “provision” means entertaining them and keeping them occupied. That kind of “provision” will never end and parents will find themselves feeding a growing monster–selfish and consuming with no virtue. Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” and we find ourselves raising children to do nothing but receive. That’s not happiness–and we know that.
Dania and I have been discussing and praying about this for a long, long time because we see how much there is for lay families to do in Christian missions–here in the US and around the world–and how great a need exists for Christian community where families are free to worship God, pray and work together in works that serve Christian goals. Christian families are eager to be generous and give of themselves and all that they have, but they are divided up and spread out as individuals on desert islands, hardly able to pay their own bills BECAUSE of that isolation and lack of community. No, that isolation is not “normal” and it isn’t good either.
Moreover, we want our children to receive an excellent education, in an environment conducive to true Christian formation–not only of the intellect but also of the child’s character and habits, with good friends and surrounded by good examples. We want men to have a balanced life of prayer and work–not working to chase the wind, but to contribute to a community that works together for the explicit purpose of storing up for ourselves treasure in heaven. We want women to have support and help from other women who share their burdens and weaknesses to fulfill their duties to their husbands, their children–and Christ–with joy.
Therefore, we would like to invite any Catholic families or individuals interested in developing a self-sufficient Catholic community here in Monroe, NC to contact us. We have 60 acres of land here in Monroe (and more available all around), an already established farm that can serve many families, opportunities to serve the poor and engage in the missionary work of the Church, and a giant window of opportunity to do something really wonderful. Dania and I want to answer what we perceive to be God’s challenge to do more and greater things, sacrificing more and sharing all that is ours with other Christian families.
We will expand and develop the works we have already begun here as more workers arrive and share in the work with us and we will give up all that we have to welcome new families. Our family has learned to be content with very little. We have acres and acres of land that is open and have already been approached about buying neighboring parcels. The Missionaries of the Poor are 5 minutes away, we’ll be starting a missionary-oriented Christian school, we’ll be running a complete working farm, developing businesses that serve the community and working in Christian missions while we all live together a life of humility and service. We will pray together, work together, teach and care for our children together, help one another, share our different gifts and abilities and build a community that allows the light of Christ to shine before all the doubters. Most of all, we will worship God and give him the glory, praise and thanksgiving He deserves from us. This, I believe, is the real yearning in our hearts. We have been too long surrounded and choked by the thorns of this life and have become unfruitful. In a community, we can free one another to grow and bear fruit by lives that are balanced and free.
Are we crazy? No. Jesus is crazy and we are His disciples. We will simply be showing our children that the lives enjoyed by saints are not just stories to entertain children, but are actually lived by modern Christians as well. Our Lord tells us to order our lives around the resurrection, to not desire the things other people seek, to take no thought for our lives and needs, but to seek first His kingdom and righteousness–knowing that God wants us to and will help us! We will not orient our lives around our deathbed and will lead a life that makes no sense to people living to avoid death. Our goal, however, will be to convert them to the truth rather than follow them in falsehood.
We’re inviting people to whom this DOES make sense to come and enjoy such a life with us. While people in the world (including Christians) will criticize us and others who do likewise, they will also complain about their own life with their next breath. What makes us strange is that we’d rather fix the problems with the freedom God gives us and encouragement Christ gives us, than defend our problems and live a life complaining about things we could have trampled underfoot but chose not to. If you ask me, THAT is the life that is strange.
We’re not inviting the worry warts, so if your brain immediately begins racing with worries and questions, “What shall we eat? What shall we drink? Wherewithal shall we be clothed?”—then this is probably not for you. If you don’t find this idea attractive, you don’t need to say anything because we’re not asking you. We don’t need to hear the objections…we know them all.
However, if you have come to understand exactly what we’re talking about and share a desire to embrace the opportunity to serve Christ more perfectly through a collaborative Christian community, we’d like you to join us. Don’t worry, the same God who has filled your heart with the desire for a mission-oriented life will provide for the needs of that life, for “a worker is worthy of his wages”. It will take a lot of work and we’ll need to learn to love and give ourselves to one another for Christ’s sake–but that growth is only going to make us more holy and happy. That challenge is one of the chief benefits of community life, not the problem with it. This is not an escape from the world, but a gathering together of an army to engage more triumphantly with it. What the world needs is not half-Christians who are known only to their pastors, but living saints who lead sinners in the decisions, changes and actions that they themselves need to make. Jesus said to sinners, “Come and follow me.” and that is the model for our work in missions, parenting, education and evangelization. Sinners must have somewhere to go…and someone to follow. We want to be those people and create that place. St. Francis made many more Christians than any of his worldly-wise critics did. Why, after all, do we want our children to learn about the radical Christians in history? Because they are the ones who influence the world.
Aren’t you tired of hearing Christians complain about politics, the economy, their churches, their work, their debt, the schools, on and on? Let’s stop complaining like a bunch of wimps and create a real, living solution. There has been enough talk. We all know what’s wrong…and many of us, I believe, know what needs to be done. It’s been done before, after all. WE need to make the sacrifices, accept the burdens, absorb the sins, pay he debts, provide for the needy, edify the Church and preach the Gospel. It’s OUR job…not someone else’s.
I’ll leave you with this morning’s closing prayer, which again encouraged me to move forward with this desire:
“Lord Jesus Christ, true light of the world, you guide all mankind to salvation. Give us the courage, strength and grace to build a world of justice and peace ready for the coming of your kingdom, where you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.”
If you’d like to discuss this, please contact us privately at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
William and Dania Michael