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IN THE MARKET PLACE by Ammon Hennacy - Catholic Worker odds & ends
July 11th, 2007
12:39 pm


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IN THE MARKET PLACE by Ammon Hennacy
"Gandhi went to heaven with his shoes on" said a priest from Pakistan as he noticed the picture of Gandhi by my desk. The next day he brought me a picture of Tolstoy which I attached to the postcard of Atlanta prison that Tom Sullivan sent me from Georgia. Kropotkin, Malatesta, Debs, Jefferson, Joe Hill, Albert Parsons and John the Baptist complete my roster so far of radical saints. This Father Pinto is a friend of Father Visuvasam of South India whom I found occupying my room when I returned from my speaking trip in New England. They have both spoken to us about Vinoba Bhave and the history of the early Christians, converts of St. Thomas from the first century in India. These priests accept Gandhi and pacifism without question, although they are puzzled about anarchism. They are in this country to learn about our credit unions, technical efficiency and our approach to social problems. They are happy men and a joy to have with us although our slang befuddles them. Bedbugs are something they knew nothing of and now that Father Visuvasam has a dozen of them working on him he asks how I got along with them. I explained that they do not bite vegetarians so I was never bothered with them.

Professor Claude Bourcier of Middlebury, Vt. college had written last fall asking me to speak at his college and other places in the state. Upon inquiry it seemed that ecclesiastical authorities felt that I "did not have the proper attitude toward my civic responsibilities," which was putting it mildly. Professor Bourcier ordered four of my books for the authorities and within a few months they felt that I had the same right as St. Peter to obey God rather than man. Accordingly on April 18th I spoke at Trinity College in Burlington, Vt. About 25 nuns and 75 students were present and a few of the students showed interest after the meeting. A professor from St. Michael's College was present and I was pleased to spend the night with Professor Spencer and his charming family. Mrs. Spencer made French whole wheat toast which at midnight with maple syrup was appreciated. (They buy cracked eggs nearby at a third the regular price.) In the morning we drove through the rain where I spoke to his class. He outlined on the blackboard that there were those who wanted more government and those who desired less government, but here was a person who did not believe in the State at all. I was deluged with intelligent questions, and I learned later that the next day the class discussed the problems which I had presented.

That night I spoke to a small group of Protestant pacifists in the Episcopal church in Brattleboro, spending the evening with my old time Quaker friend from Phoenix, Charles Kelly, at nearby Putney. This Putley School is of the type of the Progressive school in Fairhope, Alabama where I taught in1924. The next day being Founders' Day with a vacation for all I could not speak to any classes as had been planned.

I spent the night as the guest of Father Barrett at St. Mary's in Middlebury. After Mass in the morning he looked up the word anarchism in an encyclopedia and thought that it meant chaos and that we ought to have "law and order." I replied that we had bad law and disorder. After some further dicussion he asked me to speak to some 8th grade classes at 11 o'clock. I told the youngsters about my Quaker great-grandmother and how the Quakers were kind to the Indians and were kindly treated in return. I also told some snake stories about the Hopi and of the wonderful Hopi way of life. I then explained that I was not a Hopi or a Quaker but that there was a way by which I could carry out these same ideals within the Catholic Church, and proceeded with an explanation of the Catholic Worker pacifist anarchist ideas. The youngsters and the nuns asked many questions.

Professor Bourcier then had me meet some local intellectuals at a luncheon where the main interest was why, a radical, had joined the Catholic Church. It was a matter of grace from God and not intellect, I explained. For the next three hours I spoke briefly and then answered questions from the students of a philosophy class at Middlebury College. Only two of those present were Catholic. Then it was time for a sort of assembly meeting in a larger classroom where the response was enthusiastic. Mrs. Bourcier made me an omlette at 6:30 pm.

The local newspaper had announced that a Catholic anarchist would speak that night at St. Mary's parochial school and at Mass the previous Sunday the same announcement was made. Here I had a standing-room only wonderful meeting until the last questions were asked around 11 pm. Some students came who had not heard me and also some non-Catholics from the town.

I had noticed "The Long Road Home" by John Moody of Wall Street, an old friend of Peter (Maurin's) in Father Barret's library and borrowed it to read on my way. That night I spent at the home of Justin Brand, an organic farmer, a non-Catholic who reads THE CATHOLIC WORKER. As I left the next morning Professor Bourcier introduced me to the local bookseller who purchased a copy of my book.

Bob Stowell of Cabot, Vt. had written to me previously and I was anxious to meet him. Along near dark I walked the longest 1 1/4 miles on record up a dirt road where the ground was still springy with frost and the snow was melting and the water running in refreshing streams over the rocks. I still like rain and water after my years in Arizona. Finally I reached an old farmhouse and met young Bob Stowell and his wife Ann. He had taught English and Russian literature at a state university and was fired for his pacifist ideas. He had bought this fifty acres for $700 dollars and another fifty across the road for $200. He had repaired the house and barn and without a phone or electricity was happy. Ann brought out whole wheat bread made from wheat which they had ground themselves and some cottage cheese and mint tea. My new friends were pacifist, anarchist, vegetarian Quakers so we had much in common. In the morning I made friends with the beautiful Jersey cow, saw the hand printing press where Bob makes some cash income for land and poll tax, and the loom where Ann weaves. In the afternoon I spaded a plot 18 by 30 feet and dug up some parsnips. For the first time since my childhood days in Ohio where I had dug "pasnips" as my grandfather called them, I had all of this delicious cold climate food that I could eat. Bob and I being both men who could talk and work at the same time, we explored all the ramifications of radical thought and action, meanwhile throwing a Vermont stone now and then out of the garden. Bob will sell his fifty acres across the road to any young Green Revolution couple for what he paid for it, although there is not much of a house on it. Bob had made a date for me for that Sunday afternoon at nearby Goddard College in Plainfield where the main questioning I went through from these liberal-minded students was why I had joined the "worst church." They were a lively group and lots of fun.

Andy Mills and his pretty little wife had me speak in a Methodist church last spring in Columbia, Mo. and now that they were on their last lap preparing to go to India as missionaries.Here at Hartford they had me speak to a group of students. Andy and some other friends were pacifist but not Catholic or anarchist but they all liked THE CATHOLIC WORKER. Upon arriving I found that there had been some discussion before the meeting was allowed to be held on campus. Those in charge of the rooms felt that the President of the college should accept the responsibility of having an anarchist there. He felt that the Board of Trustees ought to have the responsibility. Andy would not delete the word anarchist from the announcement and it was finally settled that if the word Catholic were put in front of the word anarchist (as is usually the case) I would be welcome. I suppose the idea was that no one would get the impression that I was a Protestant anarchist. So I can now tell my Catholic friends that I am hiding behind Holy Mother the Church. Faculty members and students were in the rather small audience and the questions later from the students were provocative. As usual, why a rebel would join the Catholic Church had to be explained.

The secretary of the Christian Union, a pacifist non-Catholic, had asked me to speak to the students here whenever I was up this way. I was also welcomed by several Cathoic students from the Newman Club although the club as such was embarrased that I was in the vicinity. From 7:30 I spoke as I usually do for about 45 minutes about my youth as a Baptist, my days in prison where I became a pacifist, a Christian and an anarchist; my years as a social worker in Milwaukee and finally acquaintance with the CW and my life in New Mexico and Arizona and of the Old Pioneer and the Hopi and now my anti-tax campaign. The meeting closed at 10:30 and interested students discussed the problems until long after midnight. The atmosphere here is bourgeois and secular but the interest in vital problems is not hampered by dogma. The next morning Professor Schultz had me speak to his class. I had met him the night before as he greeted me saying "I've read and argued with you in your column for years over your radicalism but the thing that finally got me was your life on the land and the Hopi, and now I won't argue. He was a Catholic and a World War II veteran. I was sorry that I did not have time to meet his five daughters and his wife, but I had to rush to get to Boston that night.

When Father O'Connor had heard me speak to the Quakers in Cambridge over a year ago and when I had gotten aquainted with him at John Cort's he asked me to speak to the Newman Club. Here I had an interesting meeting of students and townspeople with Father O'Connor in the front row enjoying my discussion with patriots in the audience. John Cort came in with a package of whole wheat flour in the midst of my meeting and that night I was happy to see Helen and the new baby, Alice. Afterwards I phoned the friends around Boston whom I was not able to meet in this hurried trip.

A student by the name of Bob Morris bought a copy of THE CATHOLIC WORKER and my book at 43rd and Lexington last fall and asked me to speak at Holy Cross whenever I was up that way. When I arrived from Boston he greeted me cheerfully with the information that the Dean had called him in that afternoon with the news that the CW was subversive and that I would not be allowed on the campus. Later in the day Bishop Wright wrote to Morris praising the CW and asking that I phone him after the meeting. When the Dean was shown this letter he allowed the meeting to proceed. I spoke for about 45 minutes and then answered questions until 10:30. About twenty students wished further information on these "subversive" ideas and it was 1:30 before I went to bed. I asked to be awakened at 5:30 to make the bus to New York. In point of interest and sincerity this proved the best meeting I have had in years, and all because of the courage of young Morris in not backing down.

Usually Union Square has been the one place where there is free speech the year round and always on May Day. This year radicals were tricked by authorities for April 30th and May 1st were allotted to the businessmen of that vicinity for their patriotic "Union Square, U.S.A." The Communists therefore had their demonstration on the afternoon of the 29th.Dorothy (Day), Bertha Tisius, Mary Roberts and I gave out about 2000 copies of THE CATHOLIC WORKER to the crowd and met some old-time friends. Paul Robeson and Howard Fast spoke.

Two Quaker professors at this college (Alleghaney) in Meadville, Pa. had used my book in classes and together with two Catholic students had asked me to speak to the students. I arrived at noon and the students at the co-op house had questions ready for me. Then a session with another class that had not known about the CW followed by an assembly meeting with further questions until evening. At dinner I was a guest in a fraternity house where most of those present I think regarded me as a curiosity, but a few students led a discussion of the problems I had presented earlier. Then I went to the home of a Quaker professor and until 11:45 was the target of questions of the students who had studied my book in class. This is the way I would prefer meetings with students, for although many of the same general questions were asked as usually come up, there was a deeper consideration of the issues. I was just able to get a train and arrive the next night in New York City an hour late for the first War Resister Dinner that I had attended in my 25 years of membership. Now I will commence soap-boxing at Wall and Broad Streets Tuesdays at noon and continue the selling of THE CATHOLIC WORKER daily.---------from the June 1955 issue of the CW.

(2 comments | Leave a comment)

Date:July 13th, 2007 06:46 pm (UTC)
That was a nice read. thank you.
I did not know Ammon Hennacy yet, but after reading
up a bit online I have to say that it was interesting
to learn about him.
peace to you.
[User Picture]
Date:July 22nd, 2007 02:42 pm (UTC)
Nice to know that Ammon can still interest and inspire people 37 years after his death.
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