Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Youth is the gift of nature, but age is a work of art

Stanislaw Lec


You can make a difference if you speak up and set your mind to changing things

A.G. Lafley

With courage you will dare to take risks, have the strength to be compassionate, and the wisdom to be humble. Courage is the foundation of integrity

Keshavan Nai

Dorothy Day

Dorothy Day began her adult life as a Communist seeking religious truth and ended it as a Catholic influenced by Communist ideals. She anticipated liberation theology by some thirty-five years.

Communism and religion may seem mismatched, but how good a match are capitalism and religion? "The scandal of businesslike priests, of collective wealth, the lack of a sense of responsibility for the poor, the worker ... There was plenty of charity but too little justice."

"We believe in an economy based on human needs, rather than on the profit motive."

Dorothy Day was born in Brooklyn in 1897, and raised mostly in Chicago. She attended but did not graduate from the University of Illinois. "I really led a very shiftless life, doing for the first time exactly what I wanted to do." In 1916, her family moved to New York and she went with them, to pursue a career as a revolutionary journalist. She became a regular correspondent for left-wing publications such as the Call and the New Masses. She got involved in the hot-button issues of the day: women's rights, free love, and birth control. In 1917 she joined pickets in front of the White House, who were protesting the brutal treatment of women suffragists in jail; they wound up serving thirty days in the workhouse at Occoquan. She had a series of lovers, got pregnant by one, and had an illegal abortion. On the rebound from that affair, she got married; but the marriage only lasted a year.

In 1926 Day found herself pregnant again. This time she was determined to have the baby.

"And then the little one was born, and with her birth the spring was upon us. My joy was so great that I sat up in bed in the hospital and wrote an article for the New Masses about my child, wanting to share my joy with the world."

The child's father was a committed atheist, but Day was determined to have her baptized as a Catholic, and to become a Catholic herself. It was impossible to do this and have her lover too: so after much heartache she broke up with him one day and was baptized in the Catholic Church the next.

"A conversion is a lonely experience. We do not know what is going on in the depths of the heart and soul of another. We scarcely know ourselves."

"A woman does not feel whole without a man", Dorothy Day remarked, and in 1933 a new man appeared in her life. Peter Maurin was an ex-peasant Frenchman, a compulsive pontificator and writer of dogmatic free verse. (Even Day admitted, "The trouble was that he never filled in the chasms, the valleys, in his leaping from crag to crag of noble thought." ) In the years to come he would be Day's muse and inspiration, and she always called him the "cofounder" of the Catholic Worker. Under his influence she decided to put out a newspaper, to promulgate her left-leaning but newly religious perspective.

"We started publishing the Catholic Worker ... in May, 1933, with a first issue of 2,500 copies ... By the end of the year we had a circulation of 100,000 and by 1936 it was 150,000 ... It was not only that some parishes subscribed for the paper all over the country in bundles of 500 or more. Zealous young people took the paper out in the streets and sold it, and when they could not sell it even at one cent a copy, they gave free copies and left them in streetcar, bus, barber shop and dentist's office. We got letters from all parts of the country from people who said they had picked up the paper on trains, in rooming houses. ... A seminarian said that he had sent out his shoes to be half-soled in Rome and they came back to him wrapped in a copy of The Catholic Worker."

Dorothy Day used The Catholic Worker to stake out the difficult terrain of neutral pacifism which she was to hold for all the wars of her lifetime. During the Spanish Civil War (1936 — 1939), the American left was enamored of the Republican side, a coalition of Communists, socialists and anarchists; American Catholics were mostly pro-Franco (as were Mussolini and Hitler), because the Republicans had a history of shooting priests and nuns.

"We were not, of course, pro-Franco, but pacifists, followers of Gandhi in our struggle to build a spirit of nonviolence. But in those days we got it from both sides; it was a holy war to most Catholics, just as world revolution is holy war to Communists."

In addition to the paper, Day opened a "House of Hospitality" in the slums of New York. Its purpose was to carry out those works that sound like such a good idea in theory; housing the homeless and feeding the hungry.

"There are several families with us, destitute families, destitute to an unbelievable extent, and there, too, is nothing to do but to love. What I mean is that there is no chance of rehabilitation, no chance, so far as we see, of changing them; certainly no chance of adjusting them to this abominable world about them -- and who wants them adjusted, anyway?"

"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 to a certain extent, by fighting for better conditions, by crying out unceasingly for the rights of the workers, of 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."

By the 1960's Day was acclaimed as the "grand old lady of pacifism" and left-wing Catholics such as Thomas Merton and the brothers Berrigan, as well as scores of young draft-dodgers, sought her out. The young people, however, were often dismayed by what seemed to be her reactionary stance on moral issues. She regretted her participation in the sexual revolution of the 20's and was opposed to the sexual revolution of the 60's. "This whole crowd goes to extremes in sex and drugs .... Also it is a complete rebellion against authority, natural and supernatural, even against the body and its needs, its natural functions of child bearing."

Dorothy Day died in 1980. After a lifetime of voluntary poverty she left no money for her funeral. It was paid for by the archdiocese of New York.



Certainly we disagree with the Communist Party, as we disagree with other political parties who are trying to maintain the American way of life.

I have long since come to believe that people never mean half of what they say, and that it is best to disregard their talk and judge only their actions

Dorothy Day

The 12 Days of Bailouts

You knew this was coming.


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You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.

Harlan Ellison