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More Than A Story About Ammon Hennacy by LeRoy Chatfield

More Than A Story About Ammon Hennacy

By LeRoy Chatfield


I dare say from time to time in the daily grind of  our lives we have unexpectedly  crossed paths with another person who gives us pause, that is,  we feel the need  to stop, step back for a few minutes, and  take in what we have just experienced in order to measure it against our own life.  

In my case – now sixty years ago  – Ammon Hennacy was one such person.  Much too distant now to remember all the details,  I believe it was Dorothy Day’s Catholic Worker newspaper that mentioned Ammon Hennacy’s autobiography entitled The Book of Ammon.  I read it cover to cover and even as outrageously unorthodox I found it to be, I was mesmerized.  Ammon was a confirmed Catholic Anarchist!

He lived in voluntary poverty, picketed the U.S. Post Office once a month to protest the war, worked harvesting crops for cash only because he refused to pay taxes to support the war, became a lifetime vegetarian, was imprisoned for two years (including eight months of solitary confinement) in Atlanta Georgia for refusing to be drafted to serve in World War I and later in life opened a Catholic Worker House in Salt Lake City Utah to house and feed  homeless men addicted to alcohol.

How could this be?  Ammon professed to be a Catholic and I was a Catholic, in fact so Catholic I was a Christian Brother – a member of a  300 year-old monastic religious teaching order. Is one of us unorthodox? If so, which one?

I began to correspond with Ammon and his letters read just like his Book of Ammon – confident, conversational, easy to read, and always dedicated to his work with the homeless and protesting the war.

If you can believe this, I invited Ammon Hennacy to come to Garces High School in Bakersfield  California to speak to my senior religion classes – this is the same Bakersfield that was the home of the John Birch Society in California.  Nothing – I say nothing! – fazed Hennacy. He arrived on the Greyhound bus, spoke to my classes and  stayed a few days with the parents of one my students. He loved it! He talked his radical Catholic talk at every opportunity and answered every last question put to him. He never tired!

However, Ammon Hennecy is not the reason why I write this Easy Essay, rather it is Larry Purcell.  A few days ago, I received a recording of a talk Larry Purcell gave to Companions on the Journey in San Mateo California.

A short talk – 30 minutes in length.  I ask you to please sit down and take the time to listen to Larry Purcell. I make no predictions about what you will or will not take away from his presentation . . . I am still thinking about that myself,  but regardless of your personal  persuasion you will not be disappointed.

Compiled/Published by LeRoy Chatfield
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