Dorothy understood community

Yes, we have only nine houses and four farms. Before the war we had thirty-two houses, but the young men were all taken- literally every one. In New York here we had only a few older men. Now we have three or four young ones around all the time helping. You know how it is, a crowd attracts a crowd. At the same time, we have several other houses in Rochester and Philadelphia which are badly in need of help, and everyone wishes to stay here in New York. And no central authority to say “Go here or there.” One of the reasons we have so much help is it is voluntary and there is no “boss.” Of course I have the right to say who cannot be head of a house, and the groups accept my authority there. But at the same time, I can pass a judgment and say “so and so does not represent the movement,” and so and so will go right on representing the movement, and there are quite a few who believe themselves to be the only surviving Catholic Workers.

Oh yes, our movement is full of generals, and full of Pecksniffs to such an extent that the air positively reeks with piety and smugness and self righteousness at times and I wonder people do not flee from us in disgust. I keep taking vows of holy silence to escape it, but I reek of it too. Alas. It is so easy to talk, and so hard to do. It is so easy to love people in theory.

But anyway, we do hang on to those principles that each should be the least, should take the least place, that each should take less, so that others can have more, that each should regard himself as the worst.

And then we go ahead and fall seven times daily, and seven times seven. We talk about taking the least, and then we accumulate books. We saw them put them in the general library, and then all the nice autographed editions of Eric Gill and Maritain disappear. I still moan over losing a Philip Hagren catechism twelve years ago.

How little detached I am. We try to make our own corner in our slum attractive with paint and curtains and soap and water and so we are luxuriating in the midst of poverty. We seek privacy in which to read and study and write and pray, and privacy is the most valuable thing in the world and the most expensive.

Dorothy Day, “Letters on Hospices,” Catholic Worker, Jan. 1948, (DOC #183)


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