Back to the Land, Back to the Lord | Catholic World Report
Property, prosperity, prestige, success, power, popularity—none of this lasts, emphasizes Marcus Grodi, author of Life from Our Land. In fact, they can all be distractions from attaining that which is most important
Marcus Grodi is familiar to many as the host of The Journey Home television series on EWTN and as founder of the Coming Home Network International. A native of Ohio, he studied polymer science at Case Western Reserve University and worked as an engineer before receiving his Master of Divinity degree from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. After more than fifteen years of youth, young adult, and pastoral ministry, he entered the Catholic Church in 1992, along with his wife Marilyn and their two sons, JonMarc and Peter (a third son, Richard, entered through baptism).
The author of several books, including two novels, Grodi's most recent book is Life From Our Land: The Search for a Simpler Life in a Complex World (Ignatius Press). He corresponded recently with Carl E. Olson, editor of Catholic World Report, about his new book and several of the topics addressed in it, including nature, agrarianism, spirituality, stewardship, technology, and life in 21st-century America.
CWR: This is a rather unique book in that it's not easily placed into a settled genre. It has some autobiographical qualities and it discusses various philosophical and practical issues relating to "living off the land", but it is not—as you emphatically state—about how to farm. How would describe the book in a few sentences? What were your main goals in writing it?
Marcus Grodi: Your opening statement says it well, because even when I go into a bookstore, I’m not sure where to look for it! There are elements of Nature, outdoor living, autobiography, economics, agrarianism, Distributism, a little bit of “preaching” and apologetics, but mostly I wanted to discuss rediscovering the most important priorities of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
There have been many times in history when Christians were claiming that the warnings of 2 Timothy 3:1-5 were surely coming true in their lives! But with one ear to St. Paul’s warning and the other to the evening news, it’s hard to believe there has ever been a time closer to fulfilling these details. All around us are people who seem oblivious to Eternity—and I don’t just mean our neighbors who don’t go to Church. I mean Catholics and non-Catholic Christians who have slowly over time become acclimated to a truncated version of the Gospel.
The ease, availability, and speed of technology, as well as a culture defined by the pursuit and accumulation of wealth, has carried so many of us along on a rollercoaster of supposed progress—and the only time many of us notice how completely our lives have been altered by technology is when we try to do anything “the old fashioned way.” We quickly give up and return rejoicing to the newer, easier, quicker, cheaper way, because the muscles we need to do things “the old fashioned way”, as well as the patience, have all atrophied. And the point of this is that this is also true of our faith—the disciplines, devotions, and service that once were normal have been supplanted by the easier, quicker, and more readily available. And of course, I’m not pointing fingers—this is true of me, too, which is what the book is about.
In this book, I've tried to describe how I came to discover this; how I rediscovered the core of the Gospel of Jesus Christ by tending sheep, cattle, and other livestock; by failing at gardening; by trying to understand what is going on with our culture and economy; by getting a grip on preparing for the future of my family when the day comes that I no longer have an income to pay the bills; by understanding what is happening to my friends and family as they fail to see the need of Christ and his Church — and for some this has meant not coming to see this before passing on to their reward; and to ask myself, with all the opinions out there, how can I know which opinion is true? My goal in writing this book was hopefully to help at least a few more to find their way through the narrow gate.
CWR: Early in the book you write, "I’m a believer! But I’m also a forgetter, and I have come to realize that nature is a great reminder." What are some of the things you are reminded of when in nature? How does our distance from the nitty-gritty of nature—as a culture and nation—affect the way we see, think, and understand reality?