Category Archives: Peace

Dorothy Day and the “Duty of Delight”

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by Annemarie Coman, Diocese of Joliet’s Catholic Campaign for Human Development Intern and Catholic Worker at the Nativity House Catholic Worker Farm

I’ve recently been perusing a collection of Dorothy Day’s dairies bound in a book by the title, “The Duty of Delight.” Although in many pictures Dorothy Day appears rather stern, it is beautiful to reflect on what I would like to call her “theology of delight.” Dorothy Day was by no means a frivolous person, and any account of her life will recount her tireless pursuit of justice, her determined work for the dignity of the poor, her strength of will and passion for peace. And how can we forget her actions as a citizen, her boycotting and outspoken articles in pursuit of peace that at one point even got her arrested? All of these point to Dorothy’s incredible grit and perseverance to do what her conscience demanded, and her conscience demanded a lot, guided as she was by her Catholic faith.

But I think it is also important ( and helpful ) to remember that Dorothy, as a human, like all of us, needed beauty and the delight of being a follower of Christ to sustain her in her work. She says, “It is joy that brought me to the faith, joy at the birth of my child 35 years ago, and that joy is constantly renewed as I daily receive our Lord at Mass” (328).  To Dorothy, it seems that delight and the hard work of her faith went hand and hand. Dorothy took great delight in the Eucharist, and in her diary she often notes her experience at daily mass, which she considered to be the climax of her day. Dorothy also delighted in the beauty of nature. In her diary dated September 1, 1962, she writes:

Mass at 8. Most beautiful surroundings. Low tide and I collected shells, very large mussels. Two “lights” which came to me in my life for which I shall be always thankful […]when I realized that the pleasures of the intellect would grow, that the delights in the search for God would never end—at the beach.

It is beautiful to me here that Dorothy mentions Mass and then the tide of the sea all in one breath, we almost don’t know if her phrase “beautiful surroundings” is meant to describe the first or the second experience. I would argue both. In both she sees the beauty of God, and delights in his presence. The next day, September 2, 1962 she writes again of this beauty:

Up at six. A still foggy day, very close. Great clamor from crows, great murmurings among starlings, laughing gulls. I can sit on balcony overlooking water. The smell of the sea at low tide[…]It is good to sit out here in early morning and think and pray[…] (337).

And again on June 8,, 1970:

All this a.m. sat in sun, basking in the beauty of the river (504).

In these excerpts one may wonder, what is this woman of action doing collecting shells, sitting and recording the actions of birds, the fog on a lake, the beauty of a river? How does this help her mission to serve the poor, to be a witness to Christ? It is clear though, that this kind of delightful contemplation was essential to Dorothy’s work and way of being. She saw this contemplation of beauty as more than just a frivolous gift to enjoy when one has time, but a “duty.” In fact, this duty of delight helps her as she thinks through her pursuit of nonviolence. The quote from September 2 continues in the following way,

To me the issue is always that of nonviolence as well as man’s needs on this earth where God put us to work out our salvation. How are we to achieve some measure of justice, striven for because of our love for our brothers?[…] I go to see Christ in my brother the Cuban… (337).

As Dorothy contemplates her mission of nonviolence and her trip to Cuba she delights in the beauty of nature and it does not “distract” her from her duty but rather fuels it. The beauty of God in nature feeds her soul to discover the beauty of God in her Cuban neighbor.

Might we all remember that delight is our duty as Christians, and it is not scarce. In the beauty of nature and the gift of the Eucharist we, like Dorothy Day, can draw delight and true joy in God’s presence and find the strength to work for peace and justice right where we are. In this way we can follow Pope Francis’ direction. For he says in The Church of Mercy, “And here the first word that I wish to say to you: joy! Do not be men and women of sadness: a Christian can never be sad! Never give way to discouragement! Ours is not a joy born of having many possessions, but of having encountered a Person: Jesus, in our midst.”

 

Works Cited:  Day, Dorothy, and Robert Ellsberg. The Duty of Delight: the Diaries of Dorothy Day. Image Books, 2011.

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Show Hospitality to Strangers: A Reflection on Peace Day 2016

 

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by Matt Walker, Peace Day 2016 Participant

The mass migration of men, women, and children flowing into Europe from North Africa and the Middle East has quickly become a global issue.  The numbers are staggering.  Host nations are struggling to deal with the influx of people from divergent cultures.  Pope Francis has acknowledged that “[t]he presence of migrants and refugees seriously challenges the various societies which accept them.”

It is heartbreaking to watch the seemingly endless line of men, women, and children making the arduous trek into Europe, often with nothing but the clothes on their backs and the few items they could grab in the minutes before leaving their homeland.  It is also difficult for most of us here in the States to relate, even in a small way, to the difficulties these refugees and migrants are facing.  Americans are far removed from the plight of these refugees both physically and spiritually.  How can we, who have been blessed with so much, identify and empathize with our brothers and sisters who have so little and face such dire straits?

I wanted to know more about the plight of refugees and migrants.  Fortunately, I learned that the Justice and Peace Ministry of the Joliet Diocese was hosting Peace Day 2016 which focused on the issues surrounding the refugee crisis, and how we as Catholics can better understand and empathize with the struggles these refugees are facing.

I listened to Deacon Greg Kandra of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association talk about helping persecuted Christians in Iraq.  I heard from Congolese refugees who were forced to live in UN refugee camps, all the while praying that they would be allowed to re-settle in the United States.  I watched videos of Catholic Relief Services providing food, clothing, shelter, and medical care to the refugees en route to Europe.  I was provided a small glimpse of what it might be like to be a refugee through a simulation devised by Exodus World Service, which showed me just how quickly life can change for the worse when you live in a country that is politically unstable.

It was heartening to hear that among refugees en route to Europe, the words “Catholic Relief Services” are synonymous with help.  Although these desperate men, women, and children may not know what those words mean, they do know that where they see the words “Catholic Relief Services” or the initials “CRS”, help is available to them, regardless of their religious background.  This brought to mind the words of St. Francis of Assisi, who called upon the brothers of his order to “preach by their deeds.”

Peace Day 2016 drove home the fact that issues surrounding refugees and migrants are more challenging than any 30 second news story can convey.  The United States has been blessed with almost boundless material wealth and resources.  With great wealth comes great responsibility.  As a Catholic and an American, I feel that each and every believer is called to do what he or she can to ease the burden these families are facing.  This is the foundation of the gospel.  To do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

The scriptures teach us “[r]eligion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”  The Church has been provided an opportunity to prove our devotion to God by assisting these refugees in their hour of need.  As I was writing this blog post, our Holy Father Pope Francis visited the Greek island of Lesbos.  When he left, he took 12 refugees with him to Italy.  These families have described the experience of being taken to Italy as

“dreamlike”.  One refugee named Hasan proclaimed “[t]he pope is an amazing, amazing person, an incredible person. Every religious person should be like the pope.”  Another refugee named Osama said “Peace has no religion.  If you think about it, we’re all human.”

Pope Francis was asked whether his taking in 12 refugees was insignificant in light of the scope of the crisis.  Pope Francis replied with the words of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta:  “It’s a drop in the ocean, but after this drop, the ocean won’t be the same.  I’ll respond the same way. It’s a little gesture. But all of us, men and women, must make these little gestures in order to extend a hand to those in need.”

That is the same spirit I felt on Peace Day.  We are all called to help. If every Catholic in the world were to perform a small act of charity in assisting the refugees and migrants, imagine how many of these families would be blessed to know that they are loved and cared for by the body of Christ.  That is what the Church is, after all.  We are the body of Christ, and the world is always watching to see whether or not we live up to our obligation.