Dorothy Day – Catholic Worker

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Dorothy Day – Catholic Worker

“The teaching of Christ, the Word, must be upheld. Held up though one would think that it is completely beyond us—out of our reach, impossible to follow. I believe Christ is our Truth and is with us always.” ~ Dorothy Day – Founder of the Catholic Worker

See: Dorothy Day – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Day

See: Catholic Worker Movement – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_Worker_movement

The Aims and Means of the Catholic Worker

Reprinted from The Catholic Worker newspaper, May 2012

“The aim of the Catholic Worker movement is to live in accordance with the justice and charity of Jesus Christ. Our sources are the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures as handed down in the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, with our inspiration coming from the lives of the saints, “men and women outstanding in holiness, living witnesses to Your unchanging love.” (Eucharistic Prayer)”

Source: http://www.catholicworker.org/aimsandmeanstext.cfm?Number=5

Dorothy Day’s spirituality is marked by these characteristics:

“Love of Scripture: Throughout her life, Dorothy received comfort and inspiration from the Bible, especially the Psalms, the Pauline writings, and the Gospels. They were part of her daily meditation, and scripture verses and images spontaneously wove themselves into her writings. The example and teachings of Christ were at the heart of her spirituality.”

Source: http://www.catholicworker.org/dorothyday/ddbiographytext.cfm?Number=3

The website of Casa Juan Diego, the Catholic Worker community in Houston, invites viewers to click on a link to its “Mission Statement” that takes them to the New American Bible’s text of Matthew 25:31-46: http://cjd.org/about/mission-statement-of-casa-juan-diego/

The Final Judgment – Matthew 25:31-46

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” ~ Jesus (Matthew 25:31-46)

“In the Twenties, [Dorothy] Day had admired Emma Goldman’s revolutionary spirit — but not the activist’s frank espousal of “free love.” “I was revolted by such promiscuity,” Day wrote. Some fifty years later, Day was greatly distressed when two “brilliant women” came to her to proclaim themselves lesbians. In a letter to her friend Sister Peter Claver, Day lamented that the pair paid “no attention” to Scripture or the writings of St. Paul on this subject. “It is all ‘women’s lib,’” she continued. “And I am just not ‘with it’ anymore, and you can imagine the kind of desolation I feel.” Day’s personal revulsion at homosexuality did not prevent her from approaching homosexuals with genuine Christian love, although undoubtedly she found this most difficult. As early as 1952, long before their civil rights campaign became a major issue in America, the Catholic Worker asserted that “Society has been very unfair to homosexuals.”

Source: Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker, by Nancy L. Roberts (pp 91-92) – http://www.sunypress.edu/p-185-dorothy-day-and-the-catholic-wo.aspx

The Catholic Worker Movement – http://www.catholicworker.org/index.cfm

Dorothy Day’s unpopular stance – http://youtu.be/i7s09HNJIZI

The Life of Dorothy Day – http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/?p=14669

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“As a Christian convert, Day managed to integrate elements of her secular political philosophy with Catholic social teaching in an intellectually credible way. She absorbed the Catholic esteem for distributism—widespread ownership of the means of production—and united it with her pre-existing taste for anarchism. For Day, anarchism was not the absence of all government. It was local self-government. She envisioned a society of small businesses and farms directed by individuals in small communities. She was opposed to the dominance of both large corporations and expansive centralized governments. She appealed to the Catholic principle of subsidiarity, which states that the most local unit of society capable of handling a matter should do so. She had a Franciscan regard for instantaneous, unmediated aid to the poor, person-to-person. She had far too little faith in the state to keep easy company with American liberals.

That difficulty increased in the 1960s as the Sexual Revolution unfolded. Day refused to go along with it. She was now too steeped in the full range of Catholic teaching to be enticed by calls for a loosening of Catholic moral teachings on birth control, divorce, premarital sex, and abortion. She set herself firmly against the claims of homosexuality. She instinctively recognized that the openness to human life represented by concern for the poor was equally represented by respect for the procreative power of sex. Despite her own libertine past, she does not seem to have feared the charge of hypocrisy. She viewed her own history with shame and sorrow. She believed the youth of the ’60s were sinking into the same sexual mistakes she and her peers had made in the ’20s. Some of the young liberated volunteers in her ministry began to see her as something of an old hag.

Dying just after Reagan’s election, Day passed from the political scene just as it was altering beyond recognition.  Soon the Catholic Left, planting itself firmly within the Democratic Party, would tacitly agree with the Secular Left not to make too much of a fuss about such things as abortion and homosexuality. Indeed, an unseemly ménage à trois would soon develop between the Catholic Left, the Democratic Party, and the pro-choice movement. It would have been difficult for a leftist Catholic like Day, self-consciously faithful to the Church’s teachings, to find her place in such a scene.”

Source: Dorothy Day and the Catholic Left – http://reflectionandchoice.org/2012/11/29/november-29-the-longest-loneliness/

“It’s probably fair to say that Day is more readily embraced by those who are active in liberal, rather than conservative politics. But when looked at through a political lens, she presents challenges to all—and especially to those who don’t want to acknowledge that this woman who could be considered a hero of left-leaning Catholics also came to believe that abortion was a grave evil.”

Source: Misunderstanding Dorothy Day Misunderstands Mercy – http://www.patheos.com/blogs/theanchoress/2011/09/07/misunderstanding-dorothy-day-misunderstands-mercy/

“In her The Long Loneliness she tells us that even in her youthful pre-conversion days she was “revolted” by the practice of sexual promiscuity. In her belief that sex should be confined to marriage, she also ruled out homosexual sex, which she regarded as abnormal. She had witnessed lesbian relationships in prison and same-sex relationships sometimes developed in CW hospitality houses, but once discovering them, she would not permit openly gay couples to continue residing in the houses. Her paper did, however, maintain (in 1952) that “society has been very unfair” toward homosexuals. In short, her attitude was to criticize homosexuality, but counsel love and compassion toward homosexuals themselves.

Dorothy also maintained a traditional Catholic attitude toward birth control and abortion. In 1962, she noted that such issues, as well as overpopulation and euthanasia, often came up when she spoke at non-Catholic colleges and universities and that the question of human control over the life of others was extremely important. To understand the official Catholic position (and hers) on birth control measures such as the use of condoms is difficult for many people today, especially environmentalists concerned about all the environmental problems brought on by a global population that has increased more than fourfold since 1900. The Catholic stand on abortion is easier to comprehend even if one does not share its absolutist position on it. But Dorothy was at least consistent. She was against killing, whether in war, capital punishment, or abortion, which she considered a form of genocide, no “ifs, ands or buts.” As she wrote in her December 1972 column in an open letter to Fr. Dan Berrigan, the anti-war activist, “When it comes to divorce, birth control, abortion, I must write in this way. The teaching of Christ, the Word, must be upheld. Held up though one would think that it is completely beyond us—out of our reach, impossible to follow. I believe Christ is our Truth and is with us always.”

Source: The Wisdom of Dorothy Day, by Walter G. Moss (pp 56-57) – http://www.wisdompage.com/2012%20Articles/Dorothy_Day_Wisdom_Essay%202d_Moss.pdf

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“Having had an abortion herself, Dorothy understood the pressures on women to abort their children. She believed whole-heartedly, however, that abortion was the wrong solution to a ‘problem’ pregnancy. She affirmed the rights and dignity of women, but also the life of unborn children. Nurturing life, she felt, should be a priority for all adults, and sacrifices needed to be made for the next generation. Here is a picture of the unvarnished Dorothy:”

Read more: http://vivificat1.blogspot.com/2008/09/dorothy-day-on-women-right-to-choose.html#ixzz2ZbRAqHkd

Servant of God Dorothy Day, by Jim Forest – http://www.catholicworker.org/dorothyday/ddbiographytext.cfm?Number=72

Dorothy Day Documentary: Don’t Call Me a Saint – http://youtu.be/RKiLCDaCAOU

Dorothy Day 1977 – http://youtu.be/oDkv2ULYSXA

Dorothy Day on Christopher Close Up – http://youtu.be/lZOOWZTaFNA

 

Dorothy Day espoused Scriptural morality along with compassion for the sinner, as should we all…

“In the Twenties, [Dorothy] Day had admired Emma Goldman’s revolutionary spirit — but not the activist’s frank espousal of “free love.” “I was revolted by such promiscuity,” Day wrote. Some fifty years later, Day was greatly distressed when two “brilliant women” came to her to proclaim themselves lesbians. In a letter to her friend Sister Peter Claver, Day lamented that the pair paid “no attention” to Scripture or the writings of St. Paul on this subject. “It is all ‘women’s lib,’” she continued. “And I am just not ‘with it’ anymore, and you can imagine the kind of desolation I feel.” Day’s personal revulsion at homosexuality did not prevent her from approaching homosexuals with genuine Christian love, although undoubtedly she found this most difficult. As early as 1952, long before their civil rights campaign became a major issue in America, the Catholic Worker asserted that “Society has been very unfair to homosexuals.”

Source: Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker, by Nancy L. Roberts (pp 91-92) – http://www.sunypress.edu/p-185-dorothy-day-and-the-catholic-wo.aspx

“Dorothy Day [had a] profound commitment to the riches of Catholicism led by a hierarchical, authoritative Church, not by arbitrary “free spirits.” This is often missed by those who write about Day, as if she was merely a rebel whose political anarchism (which developed into a deep Christian  personalism) translated into an anti-episcopal attitude. They don’t understand that Day’s life makes no sense unless you first understand she centered it around Christ and His Church. Belief in the reality of the supernatural, the reliability of the Scriptures, the power of the sacraments, the efficacy of prayer, the binding truth of the magisterium as communicated by the pope and bishops in union with him–these are the things that motivated Day to act on behalf of the poor and for peace, not worldly ideology.

Alas, Day’s life continues to be viewed—constantly but mistakenly—through the lens of secularism. Her cause has become a political football. The New York Times, the New Yorker, and more than a few “progressive” Catholics have all tried to appropriate day for the Left (never mind that she was a thoroughgoing opponent of birth controlabortionhomosexual activitywomen priests and trendy liturgies).

But some on the Right have been no less susceptible to misreading her. Ever since she began her spiritual journey, Day has been accused of being a dreamer, a political naïf, a fifth columnist and quasi-Communist fellow traveler. It’s a mysterious charge, given that Day became a Catholic to escape from the relativism and violent materialism of the Marxist-oriented Left—and, in turn, help others avoid it themselves. The earliest days of her Catholic Worker period underscore this. The Palm Beach Post of February 14 1937, reporting on one of her speeches, described her, if anything, as an active anti-Communist: “Miss Day probably is more familiar with actual communistic activities than any other woman in America today and has proved by her practical activities the power of applied Christianity to overcome the forces of anarchy and destruction.”

Source: Shall We Call Her a Saint? The Cause of Dorothy Day – http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2012/12/04/shall-we-call-her-a-saint-the-cause-of-dorothy-day/

“I feel that, as in the time of the Desert Fathers, the young are fleeing the cities–wandering over the face of the land, living after a fashion in voluntary poverty and manual labor, seeming to be inactive in the “peace movement.” I know they are still a part of it–just as Cesar Chavez and the Farm Workers’ Movement is also part of it, committed to non-violence, even while they resist, fighting for their lives and their families’ lives. (They, together with the blacks, feel and have stated this, that birth control and abortion are genocide.)

I agree with them and say–make room for children, don’t do away with them. Up and down and on both sides of the Hudson River religious orders own thousands of acres of land, cultivated, landscaped, but not growing food for the hungry or founding villages for the families or schools for the children…

And so, when it comes to divorce, birth control, abortion, I must write in this way. The teaching of Christ, the Word, must be upheld. Held up though one would think that it is completely beyond us–out of our reach, impossible to follow. I believe Christ is our Truth and is with us always. We may stretch towards it, falling short, failing seventy times seven, but forgiveness is always there. He is a kind and loving judge.”

Source: Day, Dorothy. “On Pilgrimage – December 1972”. The Catholic Worker, December 1972, 2, 8. The Catholic Worker Movement. http://www.catholicworker.org/dorothyday/Reprint2.cfm?TextID=526

“I would say that we are living in a hard school where from day to day there is a war going on in which we can only use the weapons of the spirit, and try to practice the non-violence we talk so much about. During the winter this conflict took the shape of a war between young and old, the twenty year olds and our senior citizens, as they are euphemistically called by the press. Since we were a community of need, it was the young ones, two of them, who in this case left to continue their work elsewhere. The next crisis was a moral one, not a simple one of techniques, or emphasis, or choice between two goods. A group of beats or those desiring to follow the life of beats, descended on us. This lasted some months. They came, they went.

My criticism was that they despised the life forces within man, that they were nihilistic rather than pacifist, that their contempt was directed against the very body of man, that temple of the holy Spirit, and that all the four letter words they used so glibly (and so reminiscent of our prison days) was to express this contempt, this hatred,–not only of the square, of the bourgeoisie around them, but of the life force in man himself. Also they lived and moved among the poor as though they were not there, taking their meager housing space, pushing in to table at the CW to get their share of the food, and so living that they disregarded the affront they offered the simple, reticent, decent and modest men among whom they lived…

Another occasion for my speaking on the subject of sex, was to a group of non-Catholic students, participating in sit-ins and freedom rides, and puzzled by the changing standards of our times, especially relating to sex. Certainly sex and its place in life is as pertinent as the discussion of war, capital punishment, and the role of the State in man’s life. I seldom speak at state universities or non-Catholic colleges without the question of overpopulation, birth control, abortion, and euthanasia coming up. The entire question of man’s control over the life of others, over the life forces within man, is one of the most profound importance today. Kirilloff debated the question–Did God create me or is my life my own, to do with as I chose? And as an absolute gesture of defiance, an assertion of independence, a denial of God’s existence, he took his life.”

Source: Day, Dorothy. “On Pilgrimage – July/August 1962”. The Catholic Worker, July-August 1962, 2, 3. The Catholic Worker Movement. http://www.catholicworker.org/dorothyday/Reprint2.cfm?TextID=792

Note: Kirilloff – or Kirillov – is a character in Dostoyevsky’s novel The Possessed, which is also titled: The Devils or Demons.

“Alexei Nilych Kirillov is an engineer. He is a thorough nihilist, and has decided his own will is the ultimate reality. He means to commit suicide, and Pyotr Stepanovich means to use his suicide to further his revolutionary purposes. He is a “thoroughgoing madman”, driven to such a state by his obsession with the belief that man can only stop living in fear of death when he rejects such fear to such an extent that he is willing to kill himself without any care. A man who can do this becomes the true God in Kirillov’s view.”

Source: Demons (novel) – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demons_(novel)

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“When it comes to labor and politics, I am inclined to be sympathetic to the left, but when it comes to the Catholic Church, then I am far to the right.” ~ Dorothy Day

“I, too, wanted to do penance for my own sins and for the sins of the whole world, for I had a keen sense of sin, of natural imperfection and earthliness. I often felt clearly that I was being deliberately evil in my attitudes, just as I clearly recognized truth when I came across it. And the thrill of joy that again and again stirred my heart when I came across spiritual truth and beauty never abated, never left me as I grew older.” ~ Dorothy Day

“Going to confession is hard—hard when you have sins to confess, hard when you haven’t, and you rack your brain for even the beginnings of sins against charity, chastity, sins of detraction, sloth or gluttony. You do not want to make too much of your constant imperfections and venial sins, but you want to drag them out to the light of day as the first step in getting rid of them. The just man falls seven times daily.” ~ Dorothy Day

“We believe that social security legislation, now balled [sic] as a great victory for the poor and for the worker, is a great defeat for Christianity. It is an acceptance of the Idea of force and compulsion. . . . We in our generation have more and more come to consider the state as bountiful Uncle Sam. ‘Uncle Sam will take care of it all. The race question, the labor question, the unemployment question.’ We will all be registered and tabulated and employed or put on a dole, and shunted from clinic to birth control clinic. . . . It is the city and the state and the federal government that is robbing them [the people] and pilfering them, too. They are taxed for every bite they eat, every shoddy rag they put on. They are taxed on their jobs, there are deductions for this and that.” ~ Dorothy Day

The Life and Spirit of Dorothy Day Today by Martha Hennessy

This talk will touch on Martha Hennessy’s grandmother, Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement which began in 1933. The Catholic Worker movement is committed to nonviolence, voluntary poverty, prayer, hospitality for the homeless, the exiled, hungry and forsaken. Catholic Workers continue to protest injustice, war, racism and violence of all forms. We will hear how the movement is alive today. Martha will share her experience with “Mary House”, the Catholic Worker House in New York City.

VIDEO – The Life and Spirit of Dorothy Day Today (1 of 2) by Martha Hennessy – http://youtu.be/Htu6ADWs5tQ

VIDEO – The Life and Spirit of Dorothy Day Today (2 of 2) by Martha Hennessy – http://youtu.be/Z7ISKNzMRtw

VIDEO – Q & A – The Life and Spirit of Dorothy Day Today” by Martha Hennessy –  http://youtu.be/LQzO2UD8uwU

See: Dorothy Day – Saint and Troublemaker – http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/religion/re0337.html

 

About ajmacdonaldjr

writer, author, blogger
This entry was posted in Activism, Bible, Charity, Church, Culture, Ethics, Government, history, Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Society, Theology, Violence, War and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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