The Wisdom of Dorothy Day, continued

Dorothy Day speaks of love as “a harsh and dreadful thing” when she writes:

Destitute pea pickers in California. Mother of seven children. Age thirty-two. Nipomo, California. Dorothea Lange, photographer. 1936. U.S. Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information. Prints & Photographs Division.

We are not expecting utopia here on this earth. But God meant things to be much easier than we have made them. A man has a natural right to food, clothing and shelter. A certain amount of goods is necessary to lead a good life. A family needs work as well as bread. Property is proper to man. We must keep repeating these things. Eternal life begins now, all the way to heaven is heaven, because He said, ‘I am the Way.’ The Cross is there of course, but ‘in the Cross is joy of spirit.’ And love makes all things easy. . . . Love is indeed a harsh and dreadful thing to ask of us, of each of us, but it is the only answer. . . . To the saints everyone is child and lover. Everyone is Christ.

Can we agree that “love is the only answer?”  But also that at times love is indeed “a harsh and dreadful thing to ask of each of us?” 

“Tiananmen Square, Amazon” Photo by A.K. Rockefeller, Flickr

Clearly Dorothy Day is not speaking of the love of soap operas and fairy tales.

She is speaking of something much deeper and more demanding, something that is connected to justice-making and standing up for justice and against injustice, folly, forgetfulness of others or denial of what is harming them.

This includes not only future generations but also the more-than-human dwellers on our planet: the forests and trees, rivers and oceans, elephants and polar bears, insect and birds that are going extinct at unheard of levels.

Dorothy Day marches in protest, April 1959. Photographer unknown; posted on Flickr by Jim Forest.

Day instructs us in a Cosmic Christ awareness “Everyone is Christ.”  This is the real teaching and revelation of the Christ path.  That everyone is Christ; or Buddha nature; or image of God. 

Day’s friend, Thomas Merton, celebrated the Cosmic Christ. Like Day, Merton declares:

We are other Christs…In us, the image of God which is compete and entire in each individual soul, is also, in all of us ‘the image of God.’

He goes on:

Bruce Cockburn sings of the Cosmic Christ:
“Behind the painfear/Etched on the faces/
Something is shining/Like gold but better/
Rumours of glory…”

We do not see the Blinding One in black emptiness.  He speaks to us gently in ten thousand things…He shines not on them but from within them.

Yes, the Christ is shining out of all beings, it is the light all beings beam, the “radiance” as Thomas Aquinas puts it that is found in all things.  It also follows that “everything that is, is Holy.”

Adapted from: Matthew Fox, Christian Mystics: 365 Readings and Meditations, p. 304.  

And from Matthew Fox, A Way To God: Thomas Merton’s Creation Spirituality Journey, pp. 225, 232.

Banner Image: “Christ of the Breadlines” by Fritz Eichenberg. One of Fritz Eichenberg’s many art donations to the pages of The Catholic Worker — Posted to Flickr by Jim Forest.

Queries for Contemplation

Dorothy Day is speaking in paradox, as so many mystics must. She says “love makes all things easy,” and then she warns us love is “a harsh and dreadful thing.”
Is it both? Apparently so. Have you experienced both aspects of love?
Day adds that we are all lovers and all other Christs. Merton concurs.  What follows from that awareness?

Recommended Reading

The 365 writings in Christian Mystics represent a wide-ranging sampling of these readings for modern-day seekers of all faiths — or no faith. The visionaries quoted range from Julian of Norwich to Martin Luther King, Jr., from Thomas Merton to Dorothee Soelle and Thomas Berry.


In A Way to God, Fox explores Merton’s pioneering work in interfaith, his essential teachings on mixing contemplation and action, and how the vision of Meister Eckhart profoundly influenced Merton in what Fox calls his Creation Spirituality journey.

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1 thought on “The Wisdom of Dorothy Day, continued”

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    Aaron’s war unveils the harrowing experiences of individuals entangled in conflicts. This evocative term encapsulates the personal struggles, sacrifices, and resilience within a larger narrative. It symbolizes both the intimate battles fought and the broader impact of war on lives, portraying the intricate interplay between the personal and the global.

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