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Beyond False Dichotomies

September 15, 2009
Dorothy Day

Dorothy Day

I feel like I’m constantly negotiating false dichotomies.  Thankfully the “communion of saints” can come to the rescue.  One of my new heroes in the past five years is Dorothy Day, who I didn’t know much about in my Mississippi days.  I’ve been learning about Day from my friend Margie Pfeil, who taught at our Duke summer institute.  (Speaking of false dichotomies, Margie–who teaches at Notre Dame and lives in a Catholic Worker House of Hospitality in South Bend–is that rare breed of faithful practitioner and theologian.)  Day was no bleeding heart liberal.  In Jason Byasee’s wonderful new interview Margie says Day believed that “we Christians tend to foist upon the state things that we need to take responsibility for at the personal level and as Christian communities.”  What Day envisioned was something like the work of today’s Bethel New Life in Chicago under Mary Nelson.  Yet more important for Day than “the works of mercy” was the gift and work of worship.  For Day, daily Eucharist and worship “was the culmination of everything else.  It didn’t merely have instrumental value.  She didn’t go to Mass to work more effectively.  It was to go deeper.”  Margie describes how Day also managed to be both organic and daring and remain faithful to the authority of the church.  Day inspires me amid the many false dichotomies I feel pushed into.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Randy G permalink
    December 2, 2009 11:24 pm

    This sounds like my discovery of Dorothy Day. About twelve years ago, I asked my spiritual director “Why do Christians seem divided between those who believe deeply and those willing to do something to help those in need?” She immediately sent me out to see the serendipitously showing “Entertaining Angels: The Dorothy Day Story.” I haven’t been the same since.
    Randy Gabrielse

  2. 4854derrida permalink
    January 26, 2010 4:24 pm

    I’ve just uploaded two rare interviews with the Catholic activist Dorothy Day. One from 1971, the other for WCVB-TV Boston in 1974.

    The videos are located here:

    Day had begun her service to the poor in New York City during the Depression with Peter Maurin, and it continued until her death in 1980. Their dedication to administering to the homeless, elderly, and disenfranchised continues with Catholic Worker homes in many parts of the world.

    Dean Taylor

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