443) “She Had God”

   

     Dorothy Day (1897-1980) was a journalist and social activist.  Her parents rarely attended church, but Dorothy became active in an Episcopal church when she was a teenager.  She joined the Catholic church at the age of 30.  Along with Peter Maurin she founded the Catholic Worker Movement, which combined direct aid for the poor with non-violent activism on their behalf.  She is now being considered for sainthood in the Catholic church, though she once said, “Don’t call me a saint– I don’t want to be dismissed so easily.”  

     In the following piece she recounts a formative childhood memory of a simple, faithful Christian witness (Meditations, pages 7-8):

     It was Mrs. Barrett who gave me my first impulse toward Catholicism.  It was around ten o’clock in the morning that I went up to Kathryn to call for her to come out and play.  There was no one on the porch or in the kitchen.  The breakfast dishes had all been washed.  These were long, narrow apartments, and thinking the children must be in the front room, I burst in and ran through the bedrooms.

     In the front room Mrs. Barrett was on her knees, saying her prayers.  She turned to tell me that Kathryn and the children had all gone to the store, and then she went on with her praying.  And I felt a warm burst of love towards Mrs. Barrett that I have never forgotten, a feeling 0f gratitude and happiness that still warms my heart when I remember her.  She had God, and there was beauty and joy in her life.

     All through my life what she was doing remained with me.  And though I became oppressed with the problems of poverty and injustice, though I groaned at the hideous sordidness of man’s lot, thought there were years when I clung to the philosophy of economic determinism as an explanation of man’s fate, still, there were moments when in the midst of misery and class strife, life was shot through with glory.  Mrs. Barrett, in her sordid little tenement flat, finished her breakfast dishes at ten o’clock in the morning, and then got down on her knees and prayed to God.

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Psalm 84:5a  —  Blessed are those whose strength is in you…

Psalm 88:13  —  I cry to you for help, Lordin the morning my prayer comes before you.

Psalm 102:1  —  Hear my prayer, Lordlet my cry for help come to you.

Proverbs 3:5-6  —  Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

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O Lord, give us a mind
that is humble, quiet, peaceable, patient and charitable,
and a taste of your Holy Spirit in all our thoughts, words, and deeds.

O Lord, give us a lively faith, a firm hope,
a fervant charity, a love of you.

Take from us all lukewarmness in meditation and all dullness in prayer.
Give us fervor and delight in thinking of you,
your grace, and your tender compassion toward us.

Give us, good Lord,
the grace to work for the things we pray for. 

–St Thomas More (1478-1535)

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