Dorothy’s autobiography ‘The Long Lonliness’ was published in 1952. Dorothy chronicles her involvement in socialist groups along with her eventual conversion to Catholicism in 1927, and the beginning of her newspaper the Catholic Worker in 1933.
Each week we read around 100 pages of the book and joined together to reflect each Monday evening. As we journeyed together themes of discussion revolved around what was her motivation in life? Who was this book written for? What would we ask her if she were here today? Nature, faith and activism. Each coming from a different approach and point of view, our understanding of Dorothy also morphed, moved and transitioned in our minds as she moved through her life.
Written in the 50s we were sometimes frustrated by her continual use of masculine vocabulary and the limitations of her era, yet sometimes we were elated by her love and compassion, and inspired by her determination and boundary breaking. As a single mother forging a way for herself in the Catholic church and a patriarchal society (often seen as one in the same, or a perpetuation of each other) her story challenged our group, our perceptions of her history and at times, our understanding of history (American and Russian) through politically radical eyes. As we closed the book together we took time to reflect overall on how we had changed, how we felt about Dorothy and about the book as a whole. While some wrote prayers, others reflections, I decided to join Dorothy and ignore the status quo by writing this poem below.
Life is ever changing
Challenges come and go.
The needy continue to struggle
Will the Church ever know
The importance of creation
of dignity of life
of food shared in abundance
and welcoming the stranger before you?
Our world shaped by war,
Yearns for inner peace
How would you deal with burnout?
Where did you find your joy?
Where did your strength come from?
Please don’t only say prayer.
What was your motivation?
Did you really care
about each and every person,
about God in human life?
Or was it about your faith
all the struggling, the strife?
O anarchist most holy,
O anarchist divine,
Whose work continues to inspire
Many hearts like mine.
Thank you for your commitment,
that broke through the daily grind.
For breaking hearts open
and healing others with your time.
Though maybe today we might not see eye to eye
Dorothy Day you amazing, strong, independent woman
(and even in YOUR time)
thanks for your light
long may it shine.