Friday, June 20, 2008

The Duty of Delight

I've been gone for a while, out of commission, for that I apologize.  I've been reading quite a bit on Dorothy Day, both the great book out by the Zwick's on the spiritual and intellectual roots of the Catholic Worker movement and Dorothy's diaries, The Duty of Delight, which were recently edited by Robert Ellsberg. They are excellent, and I would recommend them for wonderful spiritual reading to anyone interested in or having a devotion to Dorothy Day.  They are especially rich with her own personal struggles and spiritual resolutions, things that resonate with the daily life of us normal people just trying to serve God, albeit probably each of us with out own "heroic" ideas.  Dorothy had plenty of those.  What is different is that she realized that those were useless without small daily repetition of small acts of prayer: Daily Mass, Office, Rosary, kind words and looks, Spiritual reading, etc.  She repeated frequently Peter Maurin's personalist commitment to self-organization.  It is not more authority that is needed, but commitment to personal growth.  It would be impossible to reproduce here the many great quotations from her diary.  They are 654 pages long, and I've been told that that is edited from 1400+.  Here is one small one though that has touched me in my seminary training. Maybe others can apply it to their own lives:
As I came down the street afterward a well dressed priest drove by in a big car.  Then I passed another -- also well dressed, comfortable... Then still another out in front of a most luxurious mansion, the parish house, playing with a dog on a leash.  All of them well fed, well housed, comfortable, caring for the safe people like themselves.  And where are the priests for the poor, the down and out, the sick in city hospitals, in jails.  It is the little of God's children who do not get cared for.  God help them and God help the priest who is caught in the bourgeois system and cannot get out.  
Dorothy does not just criticize, she recognizes that many priests and bishops are caught in a system they cannot escape from.  She mentions this also in the Long Loneliness.  Only with great struggle these days can many priests escape.  But it is possible.  The gate is narrow, but all is possible for God.  

Markel, SJ


Jim & Nancy Forest said...

I've also been reading Dorothy's journals -- a splendid book! The same quote you highlighted was among those that caught my eye. I worked closely with Dorothy in the sixties and cannot recall her ever speaking, even in the most private way, disparagingly of priests or bishops, however much she disagreed with them or lamented their entrapment in the surrounding society's material comforts. She longed for a clergy that embraced voluntary poverty, but it didn't occur to her that this would be brought about by anything less than setting an example. Finger wagging wouldn't work with others anymore than it works with ourselves.

Markel & Mason said...

Jim and Nancy Forest,
Thanks for your comment. Wow, you worked with her in the sixties. Any special stories? I have only lately picked her up to read the Long Loneliness, Loaves and Fishes, and now her diary, and I find her deeply inspiring. Please keep us in your prayers so that we can be this kind of clergy.

Markel, SJ