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Posted July 12, 2010 in My Dear Family:
Apostolic Farming

by Catherine Doherty.

Our farm was born very humbly and simply, in "blood, sweat, and tears," in endless discussion, with much frustration, and also in much beauty and with much perseverance.

Let us look at this farm as I saw it in my heart and mind. Of course a farm can be looked at from a hundred angles, but to me it was always an apostolic angle, and I looked at farming as "apostolic farming."

Our farm was born very humbly and simply, in "blood, sweat, and tears," in endless discussion, with much frustration, and also in much beauty and with much perseverance.

Let us look at this farm as I saw it in my heart and mind. Of course a farm can be looked at from a hundred angles, but to me it was always an apostolic angle, and I looked at farming as "apostolic farming."

Why? Because the word, "apostle" means one who is sent to bring the Good News.

So when we say we are engaged in apostolic farming, we simply mean that we are engaged in farming because we want to spread the Good News by bringing God not only to the countryside but to all those who pass through Madonna House.

We bring it by living the Gospel, and there is no better place to live the Gospel than on a farm.

Apostolic farming must be love that spills itself onto the earth not only to cherish it, work it, get the best out of it without harming it, but also to love it as God loves it.

There is no denying that apostolic farming is a very slow process, and that it teaches farmers many lessons that are not learned in spiritual books. It strips them naked of many pre-conceived notions and makes them whole again. For he who works with the earth gets healed of his wounds.

But if you haven’t the guts to endure trial and error constantly, to face endless failures in a small way, realizing that failures are stepping stones to success, if you haven’t the desire to start over again realizing that farming, like everything else with God, is always "starting all over again"—then there is no apostolic farming.

An apostolic farmer must be alert to everything. So much depends on this alertness of love, on this self-forgetfulness, on this getting away from centering on one’s own problems.

The creatures of God with which the farmer deals, both plants and animals as well as the people it feeds, need his constant attention.

Apostolic farming demands the whole of a man or woman. It is the best way to die to self because the demands of nature, of animals, are there to remind him like no bell in any monastery can remind him, of the duty of the moment.

If you miss a day, there will be no hay. If you plow a little too late, there will be no harvest. If you seed one hour too late and a storm comes, then all your work will be undone.

There are in the world two people who really touch God. The priest touches God in his very essence. The farmer touches God in his creation as it came from his hands.

The apostolic farmer talks to God about the needs of the animals he deals with, about the seeds he has to plant. He hears the voice of God.

The apostolic farmer is a man of vision because he forever has before him the unlimited horizon of the earth. He gets up on a hill and he sees more earth, more fields, and more trees, and he remembers that only God can make a tree.

The apostolic farmer is a man of prayer. He knows his limitations, and it is on his knees that he begs God for light, for ingenuity, for vision, so that he can produce something out of nothing. For well he understands that alone he can never do it, but with God all things are possible.

Deep are the roots of the apostolic farmer. Deep is the idea of apostolic farming.

But its roots, deep as they are, like its fruits, are always God’s, and they are fertilized with the things of God which are death-to-self, poverty, obedience, knowledge of the value of time, veneration for all creatures. Even the tools of farming should be as holy to the apostolic farmer as the vessels of the altar.

Yes, these are the things I think about when I think about farming.

Excerpted and adapted from Apostolic Farming, a booklet put together from a talk by Catherine Doherty in January 1959. A newer edition (2001) is available from Madonna House Publications.

 

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