The following dissertation explores the theological implications of the advocacy and direct works of mercy undertaken by members of the Catholic Worker movement. Focusing on hospitality as the animating principle which guides the formation of members of this movement and directs their apostolic work, this project uses a combination of ethnographic methods, particularly participant observation, and text-based research drawing on both contemporary and historical sources from the founding of the Catholic Worker in 1933 through the present.
The opening chapter of this project examines the Catholic Worker as a contemporary, collective attempt at the imitation of Christ and hospitality as the primary askesis by which this is accomplished. Subsequent chapters focus on three primary areas of concern under the broader theme of offering welcome to poor and vulnerable neighbors: 1.) how racial and gender-based hierarchies influence our conception of hospitality and whether true hospitality is possible under conditions of exploitative patriarchy; 2.) how individuals and communities are formed by their practices and environments to embody hospitality as a stable disposition; and 3.) how a commitment to incarnating hospitality guides individuals and communities to assess and undertake risk in the process of welcoming and caring for others. The final chapter looks beyond the Catholic Worker to examine aspects of hospitality to which the movement has in previous generations been less attentive. In light of the contemporary racial reckoning which began with the founding of Black Lives Matter in 2013, the closing chapter looks to prison abolition and societal decarceration as areas where the Catholic Worker vocation of offering welcome to those on the margins of society might be employed in service to a creative, Black-led vision of broader hospitality.