Mr. Breen

The Catholic Worker communities founded by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin are known for their radical hospitality. If you've read the work of Dorothy Day you know how a lot of idealistic people were drawn to her Catholic Worker community in New York but were repulsed by all the drunks, dead beats and downright crazy people in the Catholic Worker house.

But Dorothy Day wouldn't kick anybody out. Not even Mr. Breen.

Mr. Breen was hard to live with. He was irascible and racist. Because of his racism and angry outbursts people wanted Dorothy to kick Mr. Breen out of the house. But learning to live with and love Mr. Breen, Dorothy repeated over and over, was a part of the "harsh and dreadful love" God had called us to. Mr. Breen would stay.

And Mr. Breen had his good points. He was always ready to help out around the house. The cranky old man became a fixture in the community.

That angry, racist old man should have died alone. But he didn't. Mr. Breen died with the Catholic Workers.

"He left only his cane," Dorothy Day wrote in her Catholic Worker column "On Pilgrimage," "that cane he used to shake at people in arguments. Many a time he had threatened to wrap it around the neck of one or another around the house. That cane is now mine. And when I use it on the hills around the farm, I shall think of Mr. Breen, part of our family who is now gone."

The only other thing Mr. Breen left behind was a poem he had recently wrote: 
Red Fox, step lightly
On the crisp, gray moss;
St. Francis said his prayers here.
Look where his cross
Is sunk in the stone!
On the bracken and brier,
Let four feet and two
Seek the shortest trail
Through moon-filtered dew.
And each in innocence
Folded in night,
Lie on the heart of God
Safe until light.

This entry was posted by Richard Beck. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply