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But there was also an unforgettable night in a Greenwich Village bar where her friend, the playwright Eugene O’Neill, recited “The Hound of Heaven” for her – a poem whose obscure but deep message left her reeling and, she later said, eventually brought about her conversion.
In 1926 Dorothy had a baby daughter, Tamar – an event that profoundly changed her. Leftist friends (she was a Communist) mocked her new interest in the Gospels (they felt religion was a crutch for the weak), but Dorothy dug in her heels. Jesus promised the new society of justice they were all looking for, she said; and if Christians tended to be soft-minded hypocrites, that was not Jesus’ fault. She was determined to give him a try.
By the time Dorothy died in 1980, it was clear she had done more than try. Shaken by the hopelessness of the unemployed millions during the Depression years, she dropped all ambitions of becoming a famous writer and spent the rest of her life serving the poor (in whose face she saw Jesus), spreading her views of nonviolence (she was imprisoned many times for acts of civil disobedience), and passionately reminding readers through her books and newspaper articles that Christ demanded more than tithes, hats, and flowers on Sunday.
As far as Dorothy could tell, he demanded the readiness to wash vegetables, cut bread, and clean up after hundreds of noisy, often ungrateful guests, day after day, year after year. This she did gladly at the New York Catholic Worker – a communal hospitality house she founded and ran for the unemployed and homeless.
On a practical level, Dorothy’s witness lives on in more than 150 Catholic Worker Houses across the country. There is also the enduring challenge of her non-nonsense attitude to faith: “The mystery of the poor is this: that they are Jesus, and whatever you do for them you do to him.”
The works of mercy are a wonderful stimulus to our growth in faith as well as love. For anyone starting to live them literally, there is always trial ahead. Our faith is taxed to the utmost by painful experiences, and so grows and bears much fruit.
I was sitting at the supper table at St. Joseph’s House on Chrystie Street and looking around at all the fellow workers and thinking how hopeless it was for us to try to keep up appearances . . .
We pray for an end to war. But unless we combine this prayer with giving to the least of God’s children, and fasting in order that we may help feed the hungry, and penance in recognition of our share in the guilt, our prayer may become empty words.
Eberhard Arnold, Saint Benedict, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Joan Chittister, Dorothy Day, David Janzen, Chiara Lubich, Thomas Merton, Henri J. M. Nouwen, John M. Perkins, Mother Teresa, Jean Vanier, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, and others
Fifty-two readings on living in intentional Christian community to spark group discussion. Read More
Johann Christoph Blumhardt, Dorothy Day, Søren Kierkegaard, C. S. Lewis and Philip Yancey
Has there ever been a more hard-hitting, beautifully written, theologically inclusive anthology of writings for Lent and Easter? It’s doubtful. — Publishers Weekly Read More
Jane Tyson Clement, Dorothy Day, C. S. Lewis, Óscar Romero and Philip Yancey
Selections from the world’s greatest spiritual writers provide inspiration for the most widely celebrated holiday of the year. Read More
Midwest Book Review
Paul Louis Metzger, Patheos
Kyle Roberts, Patheos
David Swartz, Patheos
Byron Borger, Hearts and Minds Books
Publisher's Weekly starred review
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