Sunday, April 20, 2008

the dorothy day connection, part 1

“Poverty for Dorothy Day is more than a sociological problem; it is also a religious mystery.” - Thomas Merton (written for the book jacket of Dorothy’s book, “Loaves and Fishes”)

The two most influential persons to rise from American Catholicism in the 20th century are Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton. Merton and Dorothy corresponded regularly, and Merton contributed essays to the Catholic Worker newspaper. His letters to her show the special respect, even reverence, in which he held her.

In becoming a Catholic, Dorothy Day did not repudiate her social and political conviction; instead she found much that bolstered those convictions in the Gospel. Her role in the American Church was prophetic as she combined a radical position on social issues with a conservative and unquestioning theology of Church and sacraments.

Dorothy lived as one who was poor among the poor, her home was the soup kitchens of New York City's lower East side.

I’d say that Dorothy was Merton’s guide.

8 comments:

  1. Merton also befriended a fellow from Montreal, one considered a local saint, Tony Walsh. He founded Labre House that serves homeless men. If you could dig up something on that at some time in the future, it would be interesting. I know he mentioned Tony in his writings.

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  2. I'll keep my eye out for Tony, Barbara.
    I remember that before Merton was admitted to Gethsemani, he was working at a place in Harlem - I think for homeless men.

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  3. When Merton lived by Columbia Universtiy, he would help out at the Friendship House in Harlem that was started by Catherine Doherty who later founded Madonna House in Canada with her husband Eddie. He asked Catherine for advice about the type of vocation he should follow and they did keep up some correspondence while he was in the monastery.

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  4. Thanks, anonymous! That was the place in Harlem that I was remembering.

    Reading through MErton's journals of the time, it seems his vocation came down to Harlem or Gethsemani. He was very attracted to the life of poverty, one with the poor - that he would have at the Friendship House.

    Catherine Doherty must be who he refers to as "The Baronness"?

    In the end, Gethsemani was where he ended up:
    "Going to Harlem doesn't seem like anything special - it is good, and is a reasonable way to follow Christ: but going to the Trappists is exciting and fills me with awe and desire: and I return to the idea "Give up *everything* - *everything!* and that means something." (p. 456, Run to the Mountain)

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  5. yes Catherine was the Baronness (from when she lived in Russia) and she was often called "B". also Dorthy Day and the B were good friends, especially as they both grew older. back then it was not easy for laity to really get involved in the apostolate..only priests and nuns did that! so they needed each other for encouragement and support.

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  6. Thanks, anonymous. I've just ordered the latest book of Dorothy's writings, including the diaries, which is edited by Robert Ellsbury. I hope to get a better feel for her, personally.

    I love the photo too, Marc. Such peaceful "rightness" in the midst of so much weaponry and confusion.

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  7. Thanks, anonymous. I've just ordered the latest book of Dorothy's writings, including the diaries, which is edited by Robert Ellsbury. I hope to get a better feel for her, personally.

    I love the photo too, Marc. Such peaceful "rightness" in the midst of so much weaponry and confusion.

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