On Suffering and Futility: Dorothy Day's Words on a Revolution of the Heart

Saturday, February 22, 2014 - 6:50am

On Suffering and Futility: Dorothy Day's Words on a Revolution of the Heart

"One of the greatest evils of the day among those outside the proximity of the suffering poor is their sense of futility. Young people say, 'What good can one person do? What is the sense of our small effort?' They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time; we can be responsible only for the action of the present moment but we can beg for an increase of love in our hearts that will vitalize and transform all our individual actions, and know that God will take them and multiply them, as Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes.

The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us? When we begin to take the lowest place, to wash the feet of others, to love our brothers with that burning love, that passion, which led to the cross, then we can truly say, ‘Now I have begun.'"

Dorothy Day, from Loaves and Fishes

While looking for an image to lead our episode with Paul Elie, I happened upon this lovely illustration in Malissa Winkowski's thoughtful post on digitizing Ms. Day's work for The Catholic Worker. The takeaway: live "your love out loud even when it seems you have nothing to offer." So lovely.


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Trent Gilliss

is the cofounder of On Being / KTPP and currently serves as chief content officer and executive editor. He received a Peabody Award in 2007 for his work on "The Ecstatic Faith of Rumi" and garnered two Webby Awards (in 2005, and again in 2008). The Online News Association nominated his journalistic work multiple times in the general excellence and outstanding specialty journalism categories. Trent's reported and produced stories from Turkey to rural Alabama, from Israel and the West Bank to Cambridge, England.

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On this line, I thought I'd post a recent blog entry of a friend of mine who recently moved her family to the inner-city of Kansas to minister to the poor.It's a powerful entry that challenges us all to look at our own lives to see what we can do, to see what we are avoiding.

so, where can I get some of the T-shirts?

From "The Young Indiana Jones":

"But... what can you possibly hope to accomplish? This whole continent is festering with disease. What you're doing, is like trying to hold back a tidal wave."

"I see it more as, ehm, gathering pebbles from a beach. I couldn't carry them all, of course, but I can certainly carry a handful each day. And each pebble I save has value. Well, I saved you, nicht wahr?"

"[narrating] Sometimes our light goes out, but it's blown again into flame by an encounter with another human being. Each of us owes the deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this inner light. Albert Schweitzer said that. As I stood on the dock, watching Sweitzer and his wife be taken back to Europe as prisoners of war, I reflected on the very deep truth of what Remy had said. He'd been right all along: it was a fools errant."

" [cut back to the present day Indy in the hospital] The hospital was reclaimed by the jungle. It vanished entirely as if it had never existed. But after the war, Schweitser came back to Africa and started again. He built another hospital, bigger and better than the last. He never stopped gathering those pebbles."

The podcast with Paul Elie motivated me to read "The Life You Save Ma Be Your Own." I'm intrigued by the way literature became a tool for pilgrimage for Day, Merton, Percy and O'Flannery. Thank you for a great show!

It takes a deep faith in Jesus to speak the truth about Jesus, and only one with the deepest of faith will dare to speak the truth that Jesus spoke. One who did was Dorothy Day, who knew herself to be “a mean impatient soul” although others called her holy.

In her early twenties, Dorothy hung with playwrights, socialists, communists, anarchists, bohemians, chain-smoked, drank and wrote an autobiographical novel based on her passionate love affair that broke up the day she had an abortion and rebound into a marriage to a man sixteen years her senior that broke up when she realized she was using him.

Not long afterwards, as an unwed mother she shocked her progressive friends when she announced she was entering the Roman Catholic Church and from the inside, she also began to critique it and agitated church as much as state in The Catholic Worker newspaper she founded in 1933.

In her penny a copy paper, Day publicly proclaimed her faith and commitment to the poor, to seek social justice and struggle for a green revolution and new society “where it is easier to be good.”

Day understood that only the works of mercy could lead to justice and peace and she readily challenged the works of war.

The works of mercy include feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the needy, visiting prisoners, sheltering the homeless and caring for the ill.

Day is famous for noting that “all our problems stem from our acceptance of this dirty rotten system” and it disturbed her deeply that more was done to provide a degree of relief for victims of social evils then was ever done to rid society of those evils.

Dorothy is also famous for proclaiming, “Don’t call me a saint, I won’t be dismissed so easily” meaning she believed we are all called to be saints and all a saint is, is anyone who attempts to follow Jesus and live according to the Sermon on the Mount.

Dorothy Day understood that God is Love and "Love is not the starving of whole populations. Love is not the bombardment of open cities. Love is not killing. Our manifesto is the Sermon on the Mount, which means that we will try to be peacemakers."

Inspired by Dorothy Day, I founded the Internet newspaper WeAreWideAwake.org in response to my first of 8 trips to both sides of The Wall in Israel Palestine as I TRY to be a peacemaker!

Currently reading Day's autobiography "The Long Lonliness" (wonderfully honest!). What becomes clear is how it is not 'the poor' who are really the ones changed, but ourselves as our hearts are softened and opened to SEE. The 'abundant life' Jesus spoke of is not an abundance of things, but an a abundance of awareness and compassion that leads to eliminating the us/them mentality. There is true joy in living our gifts by giving ourselves. That is living the abundant life!

Can anyone tell me the exacta page number of Dorothy Days quote "The greatest challenge of the day is how to bring about a revolution of the heart" I know it is from Loaves and Fishes