Zebra 3 Report by Joe Anybody
Tuesday, 10 November 2009
Dorothy Day: Giving Proof that the Gospel Can Be Lived
Mood:  energetic
Now Playing: Dorothy Day an anarchist and a pacifist and my hero

Great piece today from St. Louis...this is quite meaningful to those
of us who have founded houses in her name, and to many who simply
learn a better way to put in our time on Earth from her:

Dorothy Day: Giving Proof that the Gospel Can Be Lived
By Sharon Autenrieth


Special to the Post-Dispatch

Dorothy Day http://www.catholicworker.com/ddaybio.htm  was an
anarchist and a pacifist who was arrested multiple times throughout
her life (the last time when she was in her 70s).  The FBI had a 500
page file on her, and Herbert Hoover hoped to see her arrested for
sedition.  She’s also been called “the most significant, interesting
and influential person in the history of American Catholicism” (by
historian David O’Brien in “Commonweal” magazine), and the Vatican has
approved considering her cause for canonization.

That’s my kind of saint.  I love Dorothy Day.  In the great communion
of saints, there are a handful of people that I look to as my heroes
and role models, my “household saints”.  Dorothy Day is one of them,
and today is her birthday.  She  was a “sign of contradiction”,
“holiness not easily domesticated”, to quote Robert Ellsberg.  She
managed to defy stereotypes, and confound both supporters and
opponents over the course of her life.

Her radical politics came before her conversion to Catholicism, but
her political commitments only grew deeper when she came to faith.  In
the gospel she found a rejection of power, oppression and violence and
a call not only to serve the poor, but to be one of them.  Her
advocacy for justice was now accompanied by a devotion to works of
mercy and to life in community.   Along with the eccentric French
peasant and itinerant teacher Peter Maurin
http://www.catholicworker.org/roundtable/pmbiography.cfm, Dorothy
founded the Catholic Worker http://www.catholicworker.org/ movement.

I am reminded of Frederick Buechner’s line that “God makes saints out
of fools and sinners because He has nothing else to work with.”  I
think Dorothy would have enjoyed that, and agreed, seeing what came
from the partnership she had with Peter Maurin.  There are now over
185 Catholic Worker houses of hospitality, including three in St.
Louis, and it all started with soup and coffee in Dorothy’s kitchen.

Dorothy Day never abandoned her anarchism or pacifism.  Her politics
were a scandal to Christians who felt the church should serve as
chaplain to the state and maintain the status quo.  Her religion was
incomprehensible to the anarchists, Socialists and Communists with
whom she’d spent her youth.  But Dorothy continued to reach out to
both sides, seeing herself as a faithful daughter of the church, and
yet a radical called to disturb the comfortable - even when the
comfortable were in the pews, or the prelate’s office.  And so she
often found herself, as she once wrote in her column “On Pilgrimage”,
talking “economics to the rich and Jesus to the anarchists.”  It
wasn’t an easy path.

“Don’t call me a saint,” Dorothy Day once said. “I don’t want to be
dismissed that easily.”  Perhaps she recognized that we often try to
add a soft-focus glow to our heroes, and avoid dealing both with their
real humanity and the real challenges they present to us.  As much as
I admire Dorothy, I know that she wasn’t perfect.  Her early
assessment of the Cuban revolution turned out to be far too
optimistic, for instance.  On a personal level she struggled with
anger and when once asked to hold her temper replied, “I hold more
temper in one minute that you will in a lifetime.”  That, too, makes
her my kind of saint.  Her imperfections didn’t prevent her from
following Christ with a devotion and determination that is astonishing
to me.  As Robert Ellsberg said of her, she spent her life “giving
proof that the gospel could be lived.”

Dorothy was a prolific writer and my spirituality and politics have
both been shaped by her words.  Of course, Dorothy Day would point out
that my politics should simply be an expression of my spirituality,
not a separate category.  I’m still learning from her, and I’m not the
only one.  Her continuing influence is seen not only in the Catholic
church but in intentional Christian communities, the New Monasticism,
the  Christian Anarchist Movement.

I’ll give the last word to Dorothy on her birthday.

What we would like to do is change the world–make it a little
simpler for people to feed, clothe, and shelter themselves as God
intended them to do. And, by fighting for better conditions, by crying
out unceasingly for the rights of the workers, the poor, of the
destitute–the rights of the worthy and the unworthy poor, in other
words–we can, to a certain extent, change the world; we can work for
the oasis, the little cell of joy and peace in a harried world. We can
throw our pebble in the pond and be confident that its ever widening
circle will reach around the world. We repeat, there is nothing we can
do but love, and, dear God, please enlarge our hearts to love each
other, to love our neighbor, to love our enemy as our friend. —
Dorothy Day

Yours for a nonviolent future,
Tom H. Hastings
Director, PeaceVoice Program,
Oregon Peace Institute
2009 PeaceVoice Conference:

Posted by Joe Anybody at 7:00 AM PST
Updated: Tuesday, 10 November 2009 10:08 AM PST

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