Mark and Louise Zwick of the Houston Catholic Worker now have a commentary up online for “Caritas in Veritate.”
Tag Archives: Catholic Worker
The Duty of Delight: The Diaries of Dorothy Day, Edited by Robert Ellsberg
669 pages, ISBN: 978-0-87462-023-8, Marquette University Press, 2008
In this large gathering of Dorothy Day’s daily personal journaling, we are given the gift of careful recollections, on things small and great in Dorothy’s life for over four decades. In our age of sound bytes and ever shortened attention spans, Dorothy welcomes us back to a way of life that values every moment as precious and every other life as important. Dorothy’s lens on life and relationships is truly unique. She struggles out loud with her sins, questioning herself and her intentions, and relying in the end on the mercy of God as her solace.
Reading Dorothy’s diaries draws me into the present, into things that are truly important, but that I’d forgotten to value, like the sounds of my surroundings, the neighborhood outside my window, the food I eat, the clothes I wear, the beauty in the sounds my children make (which often annoy me). Dorothy pays special attention to what I used to consider the small things in life. Reading her diary gives me a peek into her daily habitus, the routine in which she chose to honor God. She makes this habitus beautiful by honoring it. She honors the people she shares her life with, she honors the provisions she has, but most of all she honors God with her telling. If, as Josef Pieper wrote, love is acknowledging the other’s being, Dorothy Day demonstrates a love for all she is given, and this makes her many years of notes instructive indeed!
The Catholic Worker After Dorothy:
Practicing the Works of Mercy in a New Generation by Dan McKanan
Liturgical Press, 2008
240 pgs., $19.95
Reviewed by Chris L. Rice
The appearance of this slim volume finally gives the many Catholic Worker houses across the world their due. Dan McKanan, assistant professor in peace studies at the College of St. Benedict and St. Johns did hundreds of hours of interviews with Catholic Worker members and put in time himself in a communal kitchen in order to really understand his subject. The Catholic Worker After Dorothy accomplishes two goals simultaneously: it answers the movement’s serious critics who charge that after Dorothy Day’s death the movement has been on the wane, and it carefully unpacks the actual vision set up by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin.
McKanan says that the Works of Mercy themselves form the hermeneutic by which to understand the creative differences in the many different approaches to the different Catholic Worker houses today. I find this compelling, especially since McKanan is candid about the many tensions within the movement. On issues such as abortion and gay unions different houses do hold very different views. The decision within the Movement overall to concentrate specifically on the Works of Mercy, showing hospitality and identifying with the least of these, seems to create space for disagreement and yet continued involvement.
Many, many different issues get raised within this book. How do families with children create space for themselves and still stay active with hospitality? What does nonprofit status do to the Catholic Worker vision? How does the movement include nonCatholics in its spiritual vision when the founders vision is so Christian in nature? These issues and many more are reviewed in this book. Dan is not afraid to ask the hard questions of this generation of members as they look to the future. He notes for instance that not as many houses are applying the Works of Mercy to this generation’s challenges as was done previously. Nor are they engaging recent papal encyclicals. In this way this is a challenge to continue the work by engaging the spiritual sources.
This book is important reading for anyone interested in doing community with the poor. It is ambitious in its scope, doing what many other histories neglect, namely the socialization process. This served as my first real introduction to the Catholic Worker movement. Reading it caused me to dig into the movement’s writings like the online Dorothy Day archive at catholicworker.org. It also caused me to finally go visit my neighborhood Catholic Worker house. I’ve found these to be sources of spiritual refreshment, and I’m sure this is only the beginning. One other source that I’ll be plumbing is Marquette University’s archive of audio/visual materials. I found out these are available through my local library’s interlibrary loan program. In Christian ministry we need all the witnesses we can get. Brothers and sisters on similar journeys. Saints whose lives testify to God’s enduring love for ordinary people. This book is a great point of entry.
I’m currently reading Dan McKanan’s book The Catholic Worker After Dorothy: Practicing the Works of Mercy in a New Generation. A review is coming, but for now, I highly recommend it. Through it I’ve learned about Casa Juan Diego and the Houston Catholic Worker Newspaper. On their site I found Peter Maurin’s “Easy Essays” which I’ve quickly added as meditative reading on my Ipod.