Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Saint for Today

Twenty nine years ago today, November 29, 1980, Dorothy Day died at Mary House, the Catholic Worker house in the lower east side of Manhattan. She and Peter Maurin had started the Catholic Worker in 1933 and it has spread throughout the world: communities living with the poor, providing their basic needs, and advocating for justice and nonviolence.

Robert Ellsberg who has collected her writings and edited her diaries includes her in his classic book All Saints. He notes how she combines seeming opposites:
The enigma of Dorothy Day was her ability to reconcile her radical social positions (she called herself an anarchist as well as a pacifist) with a traditional and even conservative piety.
I sense this too among many of the campesinos I meet here in western Honduras.

For Dorothy, there was no conflict between charity and justice. Her radical commitment to love was expressed in the works of mercy as well as in political advocacy. As Ellsberg wrote:
She represented a new type of political holiness — a way of serving Christ not only through prayer and sacrifice but through solidarity with the poor and the struggle along the path of justice and peace.
She is truly a saint for today - rooted in God's love and rooted in the reality of poverty and injustice.

She is a saint for Honduras today, suffering under intense poverty and a coup, where "elections" are being held.

She is also a saint who tried in her writing - she was, at heart, a journalist - to speak the truth to power and to show love.

A few days ago I got an e-mail from Jim Forest with this quote from Dorothy Day:
Writing is an act of community. It is a letter, it is comforting, consoling, helping, advising on our part as well as asking it on yours. It is part of our human association with each other. It is an expression of our love and concern for each other.
Dorothy Day, "On Pilgrimage" column, The Catholic Worker, October 1950
Since June I have been doing a lot of blogging and in the process connecting with many people whom I have never met in person. Their notes and comments, as well as the notes of friends, have been for me a sign of that love and concern for each other we all need. Thanks.

This all reminds me of the first verse of the second reading from today's liturgy, 1 Thessalonians 3, 12. The Spanish reads:
Que el Señor los llene y los haga rebolsar de un amor mutuo y hacia todos los demás, como el que yo tengo a ustedes...
I found no English translation that captures the force of this Spanish translation. So here's mine:
May the Lord fill you and even make you overflow with mutual love and love toward others, as the love I have for you.
Here in Santa Rosa we get water only a few times a week and so most houses have tanks on their roofs to store water. But some tanks don't have shut off valves and so when the tanks are full they run over, they overflow - "rebolsan." And so may love run over the tanks, the cups, of all our hearts.

1 comment:

Jim and Nancy Forest said...

Nice post, John. Just one minor correction -- it's Robert Ellsberg, not Daniel (Robert's father).