Thursday, July 06, 2006

This Day and days to come

I spent most of yesterday reading about Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker, in an anthology of essays editted by William Thorn, Phillip Runkin, and Susan Mountin. A lot of her ideas and methods really appeal to me, speaking of concensus process. She and the co-founder of Catholic worker, Peter Maurin, developed these really exciting communities build on personalism, which was basically an adaptation of anarchism. No centralized structure, no party line, decisions by concensus and local autonomy... it's downright Baptist! (Recognizing that I use Baptist in the historical sense...) But she also had a really interesting relationship with the church, sometimes taking mass and protesting at the same cathedral. This book was particularly interesting for the range of uses the writers called Day out to support- some Catholic workers raged against others for not being authentically Catholic, and opposing the church, and other writers wrote as if it was against the spirit of the Catholic worker to not oppose the church. Both were true of Day's life. This kind of radical orthodoxy might be reflected in my own life, and my own attitudes to towards the church. A powerful love that recognizes the need for, and demands, appropriate reform and transformation... Perhaps this is something to aspire to. I look forward to learning more about the Catholic Worker movement.
I also learned that the house I'm applying to live in (in Chicago) is different from most houses, or at least most houses before Day's death in 1980, in that it is incorporated as a 501-C3 non-profit. Most Catholic Worker houses rejected this status as too close an alignment with an imperialist, militaristic, and capitalist government, and the accompanying evils. Many Catholic Workers also refused to take interest on any money in savings, seeing interest as usury and condemned by God. I don't know if I'm ready to ask my bank to stop compounding interest on my savings...
A few good lines that I copied down: the first is a quotation from Candinal Emmanuel Suhurd of Paris, that Day inscribed in her journal: "To be a witness does not consist in engaging in propaganda or even in stirring people up, but in being a living mystery; it means to live in such a way that one's life would not make sense if God did not exist."
The second is a line from Day's work, explaining what Peter Maurin was like. "Peter made you feel a sense of his mission as soon as you met him. He did not begin by tearing down, or by painting so intense a picture of misery and injustice that you burned to change the world. Instead, he aroused in you a sense of your own capacity for work, for accomplishment. He made you feel that you and all men had great and generous hearts with which to love God. If you once recognized this fact in yourself you would expect and find it in others."

My kind of method. I feel like I could basically live the rest of my life in Chicago, and among Catholic Workers, if I wanted to. Not that I want to right now, just that there's enough stuff to learn and do there, that I could without being bored.

I hope I get into the house in Chicago.


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