Inspired by the Writings of John Paul II, Peter Maurin, and St. Anthony Marie Claret Loome Theological Bookstore relocates to Claret Farm in Stillwater
As Peter Maurin, one of the founders, along with Dorothy Day, of the Catholic Worker movement, wrote it is time “to blow the dynamite of the church”. The dynamite to which Maruin referred was the Catholic Church’s counter-cultural social teaching. After 10 years of studying the writings of John Paull II on work and the new evangelization, Peter Maurin on the restoration of society, and St. Anthony Marie Claret on sustainable family farm life, Christopher Hagen, proprietor of Loome Theological Booksellers of Stillwater, MN, decided to blow the dynamite of the church by relocating the bookstore to a nearby family farm. In August of 2012 he moved his family to the farm which they christened Claret Farm, and then soon commenced moving the largest theological bookstore in the world, consisting of nearly 100,000 books. From September through December the move continued while his family began the adventure of farm life. This Spring, Hagen is putting the finishing touches on the new Loome Theological Booksellers farm location just in time for the Grand Opening Celebration on Friday and Saturday April 26 and 27.
Christopher and his wife, Christelle, dreamed for 15 years of running a bookstore together and living on a farm with their 5 children. Along the way, primarily under the influence of the Stillwater Catholic Worker community, they encountered and studied the writings of John Paul II and Peter Maurin. John Paull II taught them that “work is for family” and therefore the parents’ careers should serve the family and conform to the family’s needs, not the other way around. Maurin often wrote in pithy energizing phrases like “eat what you raise, and raise what you eat”. Maurin also advocated the "agronomic university", a place where he envisioned that workers could become scholars and scholars could become workers. Maurin taught that the house of hospitality for the poor was necessary, but should be considered as Phase One in a broader plan to renew a dying society. For Maurin, who had grown up in an agricultural region in France, the house of hospitality necessarily must be followed by a Phase Two, during which individuals and families would learn to provide for themselves, instead of relying on the generosity of others or being dependent on the government. This process of learning and training was to be carried out in the “agronomic university”.
While preparing a lesson for her homeschooled children, Christelle studied St. Anthony Marie Claret, a nineteenth-century priest, apostle and missionary, who was archbishop of Santiago, Cuba. While archbishop, Claret wrote a book on farming, originally published in Spanish, that encouraged families to work small farms and own small businesses, because he believed that this provided stability for families and for society. He encouraged small family farmers to grow a diversity of crops, so that they would be less dependent on the large sugar farms of the day. He even tried to open a school much like Maurin’s vision of an “agronomic university”!
Challenged and set on fire by these ideas, in the winter of 2012 Christopher and Christelle decided to do what they could to fulfill John Paul II’s call for the new evangelization by aiming for something they’d never heard of before: a bookstore combined with a family farm. However, they had little hope of finding a location for this farm/bookstore idea to put down roots. “Thanks be to God,” Christopher says “my wife, Christelle, loves to comb craigslist for houses! We had set a deadline of June 30th, 2012 for finding a farm. On June 30th my wife spotted a craigslist ad for the farm we now live on.” The farm location was better than the Hagens thought possible. Not only did it have a beautiful restored farm house, but it also had a shed large enough to hold all Loome Theological Bookseller’s books with an already finished portion as ideal retail bookstore space. Also on the property was a separate building suitable for hosting speaking events and reading groups, a long term desire for the bookstore and classroom space for an “agronomic university”. To top it off there was enough field acreage to begin their neophyte adventures in family farming.
Hagen finished moving Loome Theological Booksellers the Friday before Christmas. During the winter the bookstore has continued to build bookcases and unpack books at its new location at 2270 Neal Ave. N. Now, to celebrate the relocation and successful move, Loome Theological Booksellers is holding a two-day Grand Opening celebration on Friday and Saturday April 26 and 27. All books will be on sale at 20% off for customers who browse in-store. On Friday evening customers may attend a talk entitled “The Family Farm and the Restoration of Society” and on Saturday morning they may attend a talk on England’s famous convert, John Henry Newman, entitled “Newman’s Quest for a Real Spiritual Life”. Visit www.LoomeBooks.com for more information. There will also be refreshments and tours. Visit www.LoomeBooks.com for more information.
Loome Theological Booksellers was founded in 1981 to provide discerning readers with good hard-to-find or out-of-print books in the Christian theological and intellectual tradition. Visitors come from all over North America and Europe to browse the largest selection of theological books found in one place. Thousands of books are purchasable online through www.LoomeBooks.com.
Claret Farm put down roots in the fall of 2012. Read more about Claret Farm at www.ClaretFarm.com.