Over the last year I've really fallen in love with Dorothy Day. I came to Day because of my continuing interests, personal and professional, with expressions of Christian hospitality and you can't get very far into this without engaging with the Catholic Worker's houses of hospitality.
During our family vacation last month I was reading Day's book Loaves and Fishes, her account of the beginnings and history of the Catholic Worker movement. And during our vacation we were going to be visiting Jana's sister in New York City where Day started the Catholic Worker and opened the first house of hospitality.
For those who do not know, the Catholic Worker is both a movement and a paper. Centered mainly around houses of hospitality, the Catholic Worker movement is comprised of communities who, are, in the words of the Worker website:
...committed to nonviolence, voluntary poverty, prayer, and hospitality for the homeless, exiled, hungry, and forsaken. Catholic Workers continue to protest injustice, war, racism, and violence of all forms.Founded by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin in 1933, the early focus of the Catholic Worker was on poverty and practicing the works of mercy. The community later became known for its pacifism. These remain the defining features of the movement. The first Catholic Workers around Day and Maurin shared a common life and practiced voluntary poverty. Many Catholic Worker communities continue this tradition. Many decades before a movement called "new monasticism" there was the Catholic Worker.
But The Catholic Worker is also a paper. Day was a journalist. So the first thing she and Maurin did was to publish a paper. Working with a shoestring budget they published their first paper on May 1, 1933, selling copies in Union Square (the picture above is of people reading the paper in Union Square in 1937).
The paper cost 1¢. And to this day The Catholic Worker costs 1¢.
Of course, having become a fan of Day I wanted to subscribe to The Catholic Worker. But being a very low tech operation--voluntary poverty and all that--you can't sign up for a subscription online or shoot them an email. You have to send a letter through the post. Yeah, like write a letter, get an envelope and buy a stamp. That kind of post.
But since I was going to be in New York this summer I figured I'd just drop in.
The family and I were in Chinatown. St. Joseph House--the location of The Catholic Worker--was about a mile away. Day's first house of hospitality had moved around the Bowery a few times, but it eventually settled at St. Joseph House were it remains to this day. Leaving the family to do some shopping along Canal St. I walked to St. Joseph House to see about getting on the mailing list.
The house was busy when I arrived. The workers living there were preparing food in the kitchen and they were also in the middle of giving out some clothing. You know, works of mercy.
I've forgotten the name of gentleman who welcomed me, but we chatted while he supervised those who were going in and out of the clothing room. He was pretty busy so I didn't stay long. I just told him I was fan of Day and wanted to make a donation and to get on the mailing list. He could identity with being a fan. He told me he'd met Day as a young man in that very house and that, as he described it, she blew him away. Changed his life forever. He's been a part of the Catholic Worker movement ever since.
After our brief chat I headed out, needing to catch back up with my family. Outside I turned and took a picture of the hospitality house started by Dorothy Day. Still practicing the works of mercy here in the year 2012.
|St. Joseph House--Founded by Dorothy Day--And Still Practicing the Works of Mercy|