Dorothy Day (1897 – 1980) was an American author, social activist and devout Catholic follower of Jesus. She was a vocal force for social and economic equality based out of her faith and experience of God. She is responsible in large part for the movement that still exists today (even here in Oakland!) called The Catholic Worker.
She writes a lot about alienation and existential angst in the modern age, which she calls the long loneliness. She asserts that only love can get us out of the long loneliness by opening our eyes to how much we need the love of God and others, as well as the reality that we need to be loved by God and others. She wrestles from the theological affirmation of Paul who says that “love overcomes all things” from 1 Corinthians 13:1-13.
Questions for active reflection:
- How are you motivated to love and be loved by God and by others?
- How has being loved by other people, opened you to the radical affirmation that we are infinitely loved by God?
- Who are you struggling to love these days…..someone else? an enemy? yourself? family? God?
Some quotes from Dorothy Day’s writings in which she wrestles with the notion of love, service, solidarity and life.
“We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.”
“I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.”
“Love casts out fear, but we have to get over the fear in order to get close enough to love them.
“Don’t worry about being effective. Just concentrate on being faithful to the truth.”
“Those who cannot see Christ in the poor are atheists indeed. ”
“I believe that we must reach our brother, never toning down our fundamental oppositions, but meeting him when he asks to be met, with a reason for the faith that is in us, as well as with a loving sympathy for them as brothers.”
“Don’t call me a saint. I don’t want to be dismissed so easily.”
“The sense of futility is one of the greatest evils of the day…People say, “What can one person do? What is the sense of our small effort?” They cannot see that we can only lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time; we can be responsible only for the one action of the present moment. But we can beg for an increase of love in our hearts that will vitalize and transform all our individual actions, and know that God will take them and multiply them, as Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes.”
“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, by fighting for better conditions, by crying out unceasingly for the rights of the workers, 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. We can throw our pebble in the pond and be confident that its ever widening circle will reach around the world. We repeat, there is nothing we can do but love, and, dear God, please enlarge our hearts to love each other, to love our neighbor, to love our enemy as our friend.”
“Love and ever more love is the only solution to every problem that comes up.
“If we love each other enough, we will bear with each other’s faults and burdens.
If we love enough, we are going to light a fire in the hearts of others.
And it is love that will burn out the sins and hatreds that sadden us. It is love that will make us want to do great things for each other. No sacrifice and no suffering will then seem too much.”