First Tuesday in Advent: Remembering Dorothy Day

Dorothy Day, 1929
Dorothy Day, 1929

November 29 marks the anniversary of Dorothy Day’s death. I owe much of my formation as a Catholic, as an activist, and as a writer to Dorothy Day and the Worker movement. Currently, I’m making my way through the recently released The Duty of Delight: The Diaries of Dorothy Day, edited by Robert Ellsberg. Dorothy’s personal papers were embargoed for 25 years after her death. Ellsberg has done a phenomenal job in sifting, collecting, tracing, and editing. (I’ve written a few times about D. Day and the Catholic Worker movement for Sojourners.)

Below is a poem by my friend Ted Deppe, recalling Dorothy:

House of Hospitality
Tivoli, NY, 1976

Down the hall, someone’s playing Schumann and cursing,
and Dorothy says, ‘That’s why we call this a house of
hostility. At least we don’t turn away those in need,
but all our farms are failures.’ She quotes Dostoyevsky
to sum up fifty years of the Worker: ‘Love in dreams
seems easy, but love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing.’

Outside, the ice on the Hudson keeps breaking with loud booms,
and Dorothy recalls the San Francisco quake
when she was eight. Which prompts an elderly man, silent so far,
to clear his throat and say, ‘I was there—I heard Caruso
sing from the window of the Palace Hotel. We were running
down Market Street when Mother stopped, pointed up,

and there he was, testing his voice they say—he was afraid
he might have lost it during the disaster—singing from La Boheme,
that magnificent tenor of his floating above the sound of collapsing
buildings.’ ‘And you heard him sing?’ asks Dorothy, ‘you heard
Caruso?’ and the man—a very articulate schizophrenic—says,
‘I saw a city destroyed and heard Caruso sing on the same morning.’

‘What a life!’ Dorothy says. ‘See, I was in Oakland,
where it wasn’t so bad. I only read about Caruso. And his valet—
did you see him? A character out of Ignazio Silone!
I mean, I love opera, I love Caruso, but this valet, when the quake hit,
reportedly came into the maestro’s hotel room
and told him, “Signor, it is nothing—nothing—but I think

we should go outside.” Then, once he’d waited in the shaking
building for Caruso to sing, a cappella, the complete aria,
once he’d finally escorted him safely to the open square,
he climbed six floors to that Room with a View
to pack the great man’s trunks, and carefully—apparently
calmly—carried them down, one by one.’

This poem appeared originally in The Shop and will appear in Orpheus on the Red Line (Tupelo Press, 2009)..

OCT 7: Just Peace, Just War, Just Catholic: Where Are We Going?

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Just Peace, Just War, Just Catholic: Where are we Going?

Speakers: Rose Marie Berger and Judy Coode
Date: Friday, October 7, 2016 @ 7:30 p.m.
Place: Dorothy Day  Catholic Worker: 503 Rock Creek Church Rd. NW,
Washington, DC, 20010

In April an unprecedented conference took place in Rome on re-centering the Roman Catholic Church on active gospel nonviolence. Hear about the gathering from those who were there. More than 80 Catholics from around the world gathered with the Vatican to discuss how to renew active gospel nonviolence as a “instrument for peace,” to paraphrase Pope Francis. Join the global conversation on moving from a war church to a peace church.

Sign the appeal asking Pope Francis for an encyclical on nonviolence. Be part of Francis’ 3-legged legacy: A church of the poor, defense of creation, and radical Christian nonviolence.

Rose Marie Berger is a Roman Catholic peace activist and senior associate editor at Sojourners magazine. She contributed a framing paper on Just Peace to the April conference in Rome. (Read No Longer Legitimating War: Christians and Just Peace.)

Judy Coode was lead organizer for the conference and is program coordinator for the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative (www.nonviolencejustpeace.net).

For more info contact the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker:[email protected] — (202-360-6416)

Dorothy Day: It’s the Saints That Keep Things Going

Dorothy Day (Photo by Vivian Cherry)

This week (November 29) marked the 35th anniversary of Dorothy Day’s death. My life continues to be shaped by the path she forged with her life and that of the Catholic Worker movement. I’m sure she was shocked when Pope Francis spoke her name on the floor of the U.S. Congress during his visit!

I’m grateful to Robert Ellsberg for his release of Day’s selected letters. Below is an excerpt from a letter she wrote to WWII conscientious objector and sociologist Gordon Zahn. It seems as fresh today as when she wrote it in the autumn of 1968.

“As a convert, I never expected much from the bishops. In all history popes and bishops and father abbots seem to have been blind and power loving and greedy. I never expected leadership from them. It is the saints that keep appearing all through history who keep things going. What I do expect is the bread of life and down thru the ages there is that continuity. Living where we do there certainly is no intellectual acceptance of the Church, only blind faith. I mean among the poor.

The gospel is hard. Loving your enemies, and the worst are of our own household, is hard.”–Dorothy Day in letter to Gordon Zahn

All the Way to Heaven: The Selected Letters of Dorothy Day, edited by Robert Ellsberg

Dan Delany’s ‘Wild, Prophetic, and Holy’ Life

Chris & Dan Delany founded Loaves & Fishes in Sacramento.
Chris & Dan Delany founded Loaves & Fishes in Sacramento.

Dan Delany: May perpetual light surround him. What a giant of a man! I like thinking of all the faces lining up to greet him — all the people that he helped along his Way. Dan died last week, released at last into God’s pure passion.

Catholic Workers’ Dan and Chris are part of my pantheon of spiritual heroes. Not only for their dedication to becoming living epistles of Matthew 25, but in their personal lives and struggles.

Dorothy Day mentioned Dan in at least one “On Pilgrimage” column (The Catholic Worker, January 1972, 1, 2, 4) saying:

… since Jan Adams mentioned in her article all those social alternatives that mean working from the bottom up and with people as they are, rather than from the top down (government), I’d like to write about the “earthy spirituality that Christians need to recover,” that Rosemary refers to. In a way, “Christians” is not quite the right word. The Jews in the tales of the Hasidim show themselves to be masters of that “earthy spirituality.” There is certainly more than a touch of the “wild, prophetic and the holy” in movements like Cesar Chavez’. It is “alive” in the sense that Jesus Christ meant when He said He has come “to bring life and to bring it more abundantly.”

I am sure that it is in the Catholic Worker movement too, and I sensed it in the new houses of hospitality, in San Francisco, run by Chris Montesano, and the one in Los Angeles, run by Dan Delaney, Jeff Dietrich, Sue Pollack (whose article appears in this issue) and several other young men. It is the only thing which keeps me from falling into a state of despair when I see the apparent hopelessness of the destitution situation around us here in New York.

Obituary: Dan Delany co-founded Loaves & Fishes, fought for the poor

He was a Los Angeles priest who fell in love with a nun. Together, they left the Catholic Church, got married, moved to Sacramento and soon began helping the needy in their new hometown by making sandwiches and handing them out from the back of their van.

The need grew and so did the work to address it. Soon the van was not enough and the couple opened Loaves & Fishes. That was 37 years ago.

On Wednesday, Dan Delany, a towering figure in the local plight of the homeless and the battle against injustice, succumbed to a lengthy bout with dementia. He was 80. He is survived by his wife and co-founder of Loaves & Fishes, Chris Delany; their two adult children, Becky and John Delany; and three grandchildren.

Renowned as a storyteller and a wit, Mr. Delany could also be a fierce and persistent voice for the poor. And in many ways, he and his wife lived like those they served, taking only a small salary and never wavering from their vows of poverty they made through the church.

Loaves & Fishes began as a modest soup kitchen and expanded through the years to become a broad-based campus with a private school for homeless children, a shelter for chronically homeless and mentally ill women, a kennel for pets belonging to the poor and a kitchen that continues to serve meals to thousands on every day but Christmas.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/article41399673.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://lacatholicworker.org/2015/10/23/lacw-co-founder-dan-delany-joins-heavenly-cloud-of-witnesses

83-Year-Old Teacher Gives Drone Squad a Civics Lesson – Reads Constitution, Gets Arrested

Eve Tetaz, 83, was found not guilty on Tuesday, Sept.16, in De Witt Town Court for her protest opposing Reaper Drone war crimes at 174th Attack Wing at Hancock Air Base near Syracuse, N.Y.

I’ve spend many extremely hot or bone-chillingly cold hours with Eve sitting in the back of police vans. She’s a wonderful soul. And Mark Goldstone is one of the heroes of the D.C. legal community. I’m a huge fan! He’s helped so many of us press our points in the court and helped us use the law to improve our country.

According to reports:

Immediately after Onondaga County prosecutor Jordan McNamara rested his case against D.C. peace and justice activist Eve Tetaz, DeWitt town judge David Gideon granted Ms Tetaz’ motion to dismiss. Ms Tetaz represented herself pro se with the support of D.C. attorney Mark Goldstone.

Ms. Tetaz had been arrested on April 28, 2013, along with 30 others as she stood reading aloud the Preamble to the UN Charter and the First Amendment of the Constitution on the edge of the driveway leading into the Hancock Reaper drone base. The prosecution’s video of Ms Tetaz’ arrest showed the arresting officer grabbing those documents from her hands and tossing them aside.

Continue reading “83-Year-Old Teacher Gives Drone Squad a Civics Lesson – Reads Constitution, Gets Arrested”

A Prayer for All Saints’ Day

Naomi the llama at Jonah House.

The Jonah House Catholic Worker community lives in inner-city Baltimore on the property of a 150-year old Irish Catholic cemetery. The llamas and goats keep the weeds trimmed back. The Catholic Workers in residence honor the dead — and tend to the living.

I’ve always wanted to spend All Saints’ Day on retreat at this location, practicing a walking meditation in the circuit through the old cemetery, amid the pawpaw trees, looking through the fence at the Section 8 housing that borders one edge and the tire reclamation center that rides the other side. I want to walk and remember the dead. I want to rejoice with them. I want to linger in their presence. I want to meet them in holy communion.

A few years ago, I spent a quiet day at Jonah House–healing the soul. Below is a litany that I used. It’s also especially suited to Ember Days in November, All Saints’ Day or Reformation Day, or Day of the Dead memorial at the end of October.

Liturgical Notes. This litany works best when read responsively. It can be divided in to multiple parts. Each part can begin with the leader saying, “We call to mind the great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us in faith…” and concluding the section with the “Grant us…” triplet.

This is not an exhaustive list. It’s made to be adapted. It contains some saints recognized by the church and many holy men and women of God who have served the cause of the gospel or the spirit of liberation through the ages. Not all of them are Christian, though all are Christ-like. We encourage each community to add the names of those known locally who have inspired us to live a Godly life in the service of others.

Many of the names listed here will not be familiar to the congregation. We invite you to use the month of November to tell the stories of those who are part of our Great Cloud of Witnesses, including remembering those who have died who personally have influenced us. This litany can also easily be set to a plain chant or other simple musical refrain. Find an easily printable version here.—Rose Marie Berger

All Saints Day: A Litany of the Great Cloud of Witnesses

by Rose Marie Berger

We call to mind the great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us in faith…

Our parents of earth and life, Adam and Eve…Pray for us.
Mothers Sarah and Hagar, and Father Abraham…Pray for us.
Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob, Leah, and Rachel…Pray for us.
Puah and Shiprah…Pray for us.
Miriam, Moses, and Aaron…Pray for us.
Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz…Pray for us.
Daughters of Jeptha…Pray for us.
Daughters of Lot…Pray for us.
Dinah and Tamar…Pray for us.
Bathsheba, Uriah, and David…Pray for us.
Women of Midian…Pray for us.
Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea and all Hebrew prophets…Pray for us.
Judith, Deborah, and Jael…Pray for us.

Continue reading “A Prayer for All Saints’ Day”

Force-feeding at Gitmo: ‘What you have said in darkness, shall be proclaimed in light’

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A “feeding chair” at Guantanamo.

Today there will be a public witness in front of the White House at noon to demand the closing of Guantanamo and a restoration of the rule of law. As Ramadan starts, there are 106 prisoners on hunger strike and at least 45 are being force fed.

Luke 12:3 seems appropriate here:  “Whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed from the housetops.”

Below is a note from the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker in D.C. and Witness Against Torture:

“Where is the world to save us from torture? Where is the world to save us from the fire and sadness? Where is the world to save the hunger strikers?”  Adnan Latif, Yemeni Guantanamo prisoner held for ten years without ever having been charged with a crime and cleared for release on four separate occasions, found dead in his cell on September 8, 2012.

July 12 will be day 156 of the Guantanamo hunger strike. As many as 120 prisoners are now participating in the hunger strike. The military admits that 45 are being forcibly fed by tubes snaked through their noses twice a day because they have lost so much weight.

Prisoners have appealed to doctors not to participate in this forced feeding. Obama, who knows force feeding is condemned by the AMA and the United Nations, said on May 17, as he once again promised to close Guantanamo, “Look at the current situation, where we are force-feeding detainees who are holding a hunger strike. Is that who we are?”

Apparently it is. And as Andy Worthington says, “We wait and we wait and still nothing happens.” Instead an additional 125 U.S. troops were recently sent to the prison to “contain” the situation.

On July 8 U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler dismissed a Syrian detainee’s request to end force-feeding saying she lacks jurisdiction to rule on conditions at the prison. However, she condemned the military’s practice of force-feeding detainees as “painful, humiliating and degrading” and said President Obama has the authority to stop it.

The vast majority of the 166 men have been held for more than 11 years without any charge or fair trial, with no end to their detention in sight although 86 have been cleared for release for years. Nearly two months has passed since Yemeni officials seeking the repatriation of the 56 Yemenis cleared for release agreed to set up a rehabilitation center to help reintegrate them. But nothing has happened since Obama lifted his ban on their repatriation.

Finally, word of the resistance actions is making it to the men at Guantanamo, and making an enormous difference to them. An attorney for several men at Guantanamo recently wrote Witness Against Torture to say:

I was at GTMO all week meeting with clients. I wanted to share with you the following words from . . . Moath al-Alwi, a Yemeni national who has been in U.S. custody without fair process since 2002.

Moath was one of the very first prisoners to reach GTMO, where the U.S. military assigned him Internment Serial Number (ISN 028). He has been on hunger strike since February and the U.S. military is now force-feeding him. Moath shared the following during our meeting, translated as accurately as I could from the Arabic:

“I recently had an interesting conversation with one of the Navy officers in charge of my force-feeding here at Guantanamo. He told he was here to make sure I was treated humanely as I was being force-fed. So I answered through the interpreter, saying:

‘What I am enduring now is torture and the American people will tell you as much. Humanitarian organizations, various human rights bodies, as well as American groups such as Witness Against Torture and Doctors Without Borders have all declared that what is taking place at Guantanamo is a violation of human rights and that it amounts to torture.’

The officer’s face changed and he walked away.”

The men at GTMO are fully aware of your work and their eyes literally tear up when I describe the various protest actions you and your fellow activists have undertaken in solidarity with their plight. To say they are grateful would be an understatement.

In response to this moving statement, WAT members Jeremy Varon and Datt Daloisio wrote: “Our eyes fill with tears as we contemplate the significance of what Moath shared: that our actions — however inadequate we feel them to be — help the men at Guantanamo resist assaults on their dignity and confront their persecutors, with added confidence in the justice of their position and the world’s concern for their plight. There can be no greater affirmation of the value of our efforts, nor greater motivation for us to work harder.”

Keystone XL: A Victory in Slow Motion

Catholic Worker Bob Waldrop, 60, locked to Keystone construction equipment on May 13, 2013.
Catholic Worker Bob Waldrop, 60, locked to Keystone construction equipment on May 13, 2013.

It’s been more than two years since the oil industry predicted an easy win on permitting the Keystone XL pipeline and still no new tar sands pipeline has crossed the Canadian border. Bill McKibben gives an update (Keystone: What We Know) on this quintessential David vs Goliath climate fight:

…  Gradually, the silliness of the arguments for the pipeline has begun to erode their credibility. It’s possible that somewhere in America someone believes the American Petroleum Institute statement this week that approval of KXL would lower gas prices this summer, but it’s hard to imagine quite who. By now most people know that the project’s jobs have been routinely overstated, and that the oil is destined to be shipped abroad.

7) And gradually the horror of climate change is convincing more and more people what folly it would be to hook us up to a project that guarantees decades more of fossil fuel use. Since we started, the U.S. has seen the hottest year in its history, an epic Midwest drought, the largest forest fires in southwest history, and oh yeah a hurricane that filled the New York subway system with the Atlantic ocean.

8) One more thing — since it’s entirely clear that stopping Keystone by itself won’t solve the climate crisis, the green movement has shown it can go on offense too. Charged up in part by the KXL battle, student groups around the nation have launched a full-scale campaign for divestment from fossil fuels that has spread to over 300 campuses and inspired city governments from Seattle to San Francisco to explore selling their stocks.

There’s still that one thing we don’t know, however, and that’s what Barack Obama will do. Congress isn’t going to take this decision off his hands; a shoddy State Department environmental study, which even his own EPA rejects, won’t be much help. The decision will be the president’s. If he blocks Keystone then he’s got himself a climate legacy as well as a bargaining chip — he’d be the first world leader to block a big project because of its effect on the climate. If he doesn’t — well, no beautiful speech on the dangers of climate change will convince anyone.

It was two years ago that the National Journal polled its 300 “energy insiders” and 91 percent of them predicted a quick approval for the project. Since then we’ve kept half a billion barrels of the dirtiest oil on earth in the ground. The smart money still says we’re going to lose, but it’s not quite as sure: the Canadian business press is reporting this week that no one wants to buy tarsand leases or finance new projects — prospects for the future have become “uncertain.” And it’s not just Keystone — analysts said earlier this spring that in the wake of the KXL battle it’s likely every new pipeline will face a battle. Tarsands barons like the Koch brothers still have all the money, and they’ve still got the odds in their favor. But the smart money has lost a few IQ points. —Bill McKibben

Read the whole article.

Video: Dorothy Day’s ‘Pacifist, Anarchist Movement’

Religion & Ethics Newsweekly ran an 8-minute segment on Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker movement on Feb. 8.

If you’ve never heard Dorothy speak for herself, here’s your chance. Wonderful clips! As well as excellent interviews with heroes of the movement: Robert Ellsberg, Jane Sammon, Carmen Trotta, Joanne Kennedy, and Patrick Jordan.

Watch The Life of Dorothy Day on PBS. See more from Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.

“The Catholic Worker is essentially a school, you might say. I mean, it’s a place where you…where you…a lot of young people come to us…It’s a pacifist, anarchist movement, and they come to us to learn more about this point of view of beginning a change from the bottom up, rather than from the top down—through unions and credit unions. You do away with banks by credit unions…you do away with interest, you do away with…by mutual aid. You do away with possession of goods by sharing.”–Dorothy Day, interview in 1974

Learn more here.

Shelley Douglass: ‘The Gospel is Dynamite’

Shelley and her husband author Jim Douglass are elders in the movement for justice and peace. This year they mark 20 years in Birmingham offering radical hospitality in the Catholic Worker tradition.

Below is an excerpt from the seasonal newsletter by Shelley from her location at Mary’s House Catholic Worker in Birmingham, Alabama.

She reflects on a recent Vatican program to improve the Catholic image. It’s known as the “new evangelization.” It’s purpose is to “re-propose the Gospel to those who have experienced a crisis of faith.”

“For months now I’ve been reading articles about the new evangelization. Usually they are proposing wasy to spread the message–through social media, or better texts for theology in Catholic Schools, or more careful adherence to doctrinal purity, or better art and music at liturgies, or any number of ways to make Catholicism more attractive and better understood. Now I love beautiful music, and I’m all for clarity (and brevity) in teaching. I have nothing against twittering and tweeting, although I don’t know how myself. It does make me wonder though: how on earth did Jesus manage to spread his message without all our modern advances in communication? Or how did Dorothy Day and the early Catholic Worker community evangelize before the internet?

Peter Maurin used to say that the message of the Gospel is dynamite, cloaked and hidden by theological language. For him, a new evangelization would be to uncover the social teaching of the church, and put it into practice. For Dorothy and for Peter, evangelization was to begin to live the good news themselves, by practicing the works of mercy in daily life. For Jesus, the good news was simple: the Kingdom of God is at hand! Change your lives, and live as though it were true!”–Shelley Douglass, Mary’s House Catholic Worker (Magnificat, January 2013)

P.S. I’ll be leading the Mary’s House Lenten retreat in Birmingham, Alabama, March 15-17, 2013. Come join us! To find out more information, email Shelley Douglass (shelleymdouglass at gmail dot com).