Pope Francis: ‘The Holy People of God Living On the Peripheries of History’

Woman portraying figure in Nativity scene puts lamb around neck of Pope Francis during visit to Rome churchThis morning Pope Francis met with the participants in the national assembly of the Italian Confederation of Major Superiors (CISM).

“Charisms [spiritual gifts],” he said, “are not to be conserved like bottles of distilled water, but to be put to the service of history.”

Below is an excerpt from his presentation:

“Faced with the witness of a brother or a sister who truly lives a religious life, people ask themselves, What is there here? What is it that leads this person beyond a worldly horizon? This is the first issue: helping the body of Christ grow by attraction. Without proselytizing: attraction.

The second point is that radicality, in different forms, is required of every Christian, but in the case of religious persons it assumes the form of prophetic witness. The testimony of an evangelical life is what distinguishes the missionary disciple and in particular those who follow the Lord in consecrated life. And prophetic witness coincides with sanctity. True prophecy is never ideological, it does not oppose the institution: it is institution. Prophecy is institutional, it does not follow fashion, but is always a sign of contradiction according to the Gospel, like Jesus was. Jesus, for example, was a sign of contradiction to the religious authorities of His time: to the heads of the Pharisees and the Sadducees, the doctors of the Law, but also to the others, such as the Essenes, Zealots, etc.

“We do not want to fight rearguard battles in defense, but rather to spend ourselves among the people,” to quote the [president of the Italian Major Superiors of Men’s Orders], “certain of the faith that God has always made germinate and grow in His Kingdom.” This is not easy, it is not to be taken for granted; it requires conversion; it requires, first and foremost, prayer and worship; and it means sharing with the holy people of God who live in the peripheries of history. Removing oneself from the center. Every charism, to live and to be fruitful, is required to decentralize, because at the center there is only Jesus Christ. The charism is not to be conserved like a bottle of distilled water, but must instead be made to bear fruit, with courage, placed at the service of current reality, of cultures, of history, as the great missionaries of our institutes teach us.”–Pope Francis, 7 November 2014

Dorothy Day: Previously Unpublished 1933 Essay ‘Our Brothers, The Jews’ Published for First Time

Dorothy Day, 1925
Dorothy Day, 1925

Fr. Charles Gallagher has discovered a previously unpublished essay by Catholic Worker co-founder Dorothy Day, which lay in a correspondence file in the Dorothy Day-Catholic Worker Collection at Marquette University. I’m stunned!

Dorothy Day was a lay Catholic woman with radical politics, a deeply rooted faith, and a phenomenal amount of courage. She co-founded the Catholic Worker movement with Peter Maurin in the 1930s.

The manuscript titled Our Brothers, The Jews was written in autumn 1933. It is published for the first time in the November 2009 issue of America magazine.

Five years before Adolph Hitler became “The Fuhrer,” when he was still chancellor of a coalition government and head of the Nazi party with the Nazis holding a third of the seats in the Reichstag, Dorothy Day called to account Catholics who supported and fostered Hitler’s hate-based political agenda in the U.S.

Her point of view was very unpopular at the time. So unpopular in fact that she had a hard time getting her essay published anywhere. (America magazine rejected it when she submitted it to them in 1933.) But race-baiting and Jew-hating was on the rise in the U.S. and Catholic speakers in Brooklyn, near where the Catholic Worker was based, were drawing cheering crowds when they excoriated Jews.

“She keenly foresaw the dynamic that five years later would lead to the rise of Brooklyn’s powerful Christian Front movement and its quasi-terrorist anti-Semitic plot, which was scuppered only by a spectacular set of arrests in early 1940 by J. Edgar Hoover’s Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Day’s warning about how Catholics ought to deal with Hitler rested on two of the main pillars of her faith—scriptural reflection and concern for social justice. Her deep beliefs rested on an apostolic zeal that held out the possibility for all men and women to be fully integrated into the mystical body of Christ,” the editor’s note concludes.

Here’s an excerpt from Day’s essay:

For Catholics—or for anyone—to stand up in the public squares and center their hatred against Jews is to sidestep the issue before the public today. It is easier to fight the Jew than it is to fight for social justice—that is what it comes down to. One can be sure of applause. One can find a bright glow of superiority very warming on a cold night. If those same men were to fight for Catholic principles of social justice they would be shied away from by Catholics as radicals; they would be heckled by Communists as authors of confusion; they would be hurt by the uncomprehending indifference of the mass of people.

God made us all. We are all members or potential members of the mystical body of Christ. We don’t want to extirpate people; we want to go after ideas. As St. Paul said, “we are not fighting flesh and blood but principalities and powers.”

Read the whole essay here.

The discovery of this Day manuscript is astonishing–for its historical resonance and insight into social activism. Day’s examination of hate politics from the perspective of her deeply rooted Catholicism provides us with clues for today. It forces the question: How do we bring scriptural reflection and the concerns of social justice to bear on the Tea-Partyers, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Lou Dobbs, and others who use hate as a political strategy to gain power?

I was particularly touched by the comments of one contemporary reader of Day’s article who wrote, “I am an 80 -year- old Jew who lived thru the 30s in New York, and my hard heart is melted at seeing for the first time that we had such a beloved advocate. Is that what makes a saint?”

Indeed, Dorothy Day is on the path to official canonization in the Catholic Church (read my article on that here), but papal process is not what makes her a saint. Her prophetic stance rooted in faith and the response of an 80-year-old Jewish woman are.