Monday, February 16, 2009

Daily Quotation

From Dorothy Day's journal The Duty of Delight:
Every one must go through something analogous to a conversion -- conversion to an idea, a thought, a desire, a dream, a vision -- without vision the people perish. In my teens I read Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, and Jack London's The Road, and became converted to the poor, to a love for and desire to be always with the poor and the suffering -- the workers of the world. I was converted to the idea of the Messianic mission of the proletariat. Ten years later I was converted to Christ because I found him in the people, though hidden.

In the people, not in the masses. The pope has pointed out in his Christmas message this year '44 the distinction between the masses and the people and these words called down the wrath of Stalin. The masses, insensate, unthinking, moved by propaganda, by unscrupulous rulers, by Stalins and Hitlers, are quite a different thing from the people, temples of the Holy Ghost, made to the image and likeness of God.
Both conversions are important. I see as one of my primary missions to convert my ninth graders in my scripture class to the poor, to God's love for the poor. And to Christ in the poor. They are inseparable. If I can achieve these two conversions, I will feel my teaching has been a success.

Day also points to the ability of books to convert, to change minds, to plant an idea. I realize that these kids no longer read, and that saddens me tremendously. I don't know where I would be without The Brothers Karamazov in high school, The Lord of the Rings and other great books.

I'm currently reading a short story in three of my classes to prepare them for the New Testament. I can already that many of these kids were never read to as kids as I was. They hardly knew at the beginning what to do, how to listen, how to follow a story. Gradually they figured it out and got into it. But their ears are out of tune. How will they pray if their ears are so out of tune? Their eyes are over strained, and their ears out of tune. Such is the situation of our kids.

But even more important than a book is a poor person. For a long time we have spoken of philosophy as a prolegomena fidei. But the poor should be named first. They are the best prolegomena. They are the ladder that brings us closest to the leap that we must all take: closer than art, music and beauty; closer than books and ideas; closer than anything else. For they are persons, imaging within themselves the kenosis most clearly. They must be studied. They must come to our classrooms and we must lead our classes to them.

Nathan O'Halloran, SJ


Jason LaLonde said...

This reminds me of how my heart was moved by reading Les miserables and Notre-Dame de Paris in 7th and 8th grade. One line that always stuck with me is that there is no sight sadder than that of seeing a young child wringing her hands because of worry.

I read to the 5 year old whom I live with here in El Salvador, in Los Pozos. He doesnt know how to read yet and I dont think anyone ever read stories to him before. It is a struggle with televovelas on the television every night, but we are making progress nevertheless.

God bless,

Nathan O'Halloran, SJ / Mason Slidell said...

Los Pozos. Haven't heard that name in a while. What a moving experience, to read to a 5 year old so far away in such a different environment. Yes, I remember it being hard to turn off the telenovelas. They have sadly replaced many aspects of an older culture that have been overrun. God bless you during your time down there. I look forward to hearing more about it.

Nathan O'Halloran, SJ

Ellen said...

Here's a neat poem that ties in.

The author is Strickland Gillilan

I had a Mother who read to me,
Sagas of pirates, who scoured the sea,
Cutlasses clenched in their yellow teeth,
"Blackbirds" stowed in the hold beneath.

I had a Mother who read me lays,
Of ancient and gallant and golden days;
Stories of Marmion and Ivanhoe,
Which every boy has a right to know.

I had a Mother who read me tales,
Of Celert the hound of the hills of Wales,
True to his trust till his tragic death,
Faithfulness blent with his final breath.

I had a Mother who read me the things,
That wholesome life to the boy heart brings
Stories that stir with an upward touch,
Oh, that each mother of boys were such.

You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be--
I had a Mother who read to me!

Nathan O'Halloran, SJ / Mason Slidell said...

Nice poem. In my case it was mostly my dad. I remember the day we finished "Where the Red Fern Grows." I was trying to hide my eyes so that others couldn't see, and he was trying to keep his voice from cracking. So sad. Yet great.

Nathan O'Halloran, SJ