Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton on a “New Normal”

Dorothy Day once said that her life’s work was to make it more easy for people to be good.  That seems like a very worthy goal and philosophy of work indeed.  Because from goodness comes, one hopes, love.  And joy that accompanies love.  She is putting values and the virtues that implement out front.  This would be a New Normal, wouldn’t it?  Putting values forward as our common goal in efforts to bring about a common good?

Dorothy Day portrait by Geoffrey Gneuhs. Photo by Jim Forest on Flickr.

Day speaks about her vocation on another occasion:

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. 

And hard.  For 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.

Dorothy 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.”

During his 9/24/2015 speech before Congress, Pope Francis highlighted the work of four “great” Americans: Abraham Lincoln, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton. Commentary posted to YouTube by Democracy Now!.

Is it both? Apparently so. Have you experienced both aspects of love?  Day adds that we are all lovers and all other Christs.

Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton were good friends.  Both—one as a founder of alternative communities in the urban darkness and the other as a monk in the woods—were seeking common goals and values and “new normals” including the normal that we are all other Christs. 

In his New Seeds of Contemplation Merton writes:

If we believe in the Incarnation of the Son of God, there is no one on earth in whom we are not prepared to see, in mystery, the presence of Christ.

Buddha and Christ as brothers. Iconographer unknown.

Merton spoke frequently to our being “other Christs.” He writes:

We ourselves are ‘the Second Adam’ because we ourselves are Christ.  In us, the image of God, which is complete and entire in each individual soul, is also, in all of us ‘the image of God.’…We ourselves are Christ and that we are all dwelling in one another, by virtue of the unity of the divine image reformed by grace.

Not only us, but “everything that is, is holy,” he insisted.  All beings carry the image of God and of Christ, and of the Buddha nature within them.  And again,

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.

This too is Cosmic Christ teaching. 

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Christian Mystics: 365 Readings and Meditations, p. 305. 

And from Matthew Fox, A Way To God: Thomas Merton’s Creation Spirituality Journey, pp. 225-233.

Banner Image: “Thomas Merton and Dorothy Day, pray with us…” Combined photo of Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton. Uploaded to Flickr by Felton Davis.

Is love a “harsh and dreadful thing to ask of us?”  It is not easy, is it?  It often creates enemies and misunderstandings and even lies.  What follows from the awareness that we are all lovers and all other Christs?  Do you see the Blinding One speaking gently in ten thousand things, shining from within them?

A Way to God: Thomas Merton’s Creation Spirituality Journey

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.
“This wise and marvelous book will profoundly inspire all those who love Merton and want to know him more deeply.” — Andrew Harvey, author of The Hope: A Guide to Sacred Activism

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3 thoughts on “Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton on a “New Normal””

  1. Avatar

    Powerful words this morning, Mr. Fox. They express my view of this world precisely. God in every thing and every one. Beautiful. And the video featuring the Pope before Congress is also informative and inspiring. Thank you. Clay O’Reilly

  2. Avatar

    I recently prayed, “A prayer by Matthew Fox for the New Year and the New Decade”. I believe it was published last year. However I think it very appropriate for this New Year as well and could be thought of as part of the “New Normal”, our reflection-topic for today.
    Maybe you would be willing to reprint it for the Daily Meditators who may not have a copy.

  3. Avatar

    I cannot thank Matthew Fox enough for inviting the mystics into our everyday reflections, prayers, and lives. I (we) have a Catholic Worker House and community here in WI and Dorothy Day’s presence is embedded in all that we do. Dorothy and Thomas Merton, mystics along with Meister Eckhart, have demonstrated that not only is Christ here, but WE are the CHRIST.

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