On the Front Page

Although she died in 1980, Dorothy Day made the front page of  The New York Times yesterday.   Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbiship of the New York Diocese, has been talking about this divorced mother, journalist and social activist.

How did a woman with a “bohemian” youth,  including an abortion, who rejected religion find her way to God? And possibly sainthood?

“She completely trusted God’s love for her and did not wallow in guilt over the mistakes of the past”. (Stephen J. Krupa, S.J., America Magazine)  Her path to God is one of joy and love, chronicled in her autobiography, From Union Square to Rome.

The birth of her daughter, Tamar Teresa, catapulted Day into God’s arms.

Day could think of nothing better to do with the gratitude that overwhelmed her than arrange Tamar’s baptism in the Catholic Church.  “I did not want my child to flounder as I had often floundered. I wanted to believe, and I wanted my child to believe, and if belonging to a Church would give her so inestimable a grace as faith in God, and the companionable love of the Saints, then the thing to do was to have her baptized a Catholic.”

(from A Biography of  Dorothy Day, by Jim Forest)

Day was already committed to causes of social justice, labor rights, and poverty.  This experience offered her another path into God.   Day so identified with the poor that she co-founded the Catholic Worker Movement, and voluntarily spent her life in poverty, operating ‘houses of hospitality’ for the needy.

The mystery of poverty is that by sharing in it, making ourselves poor in giving to others, we increase our knowledge of and belief in love.” (Dorothy Day)

A post-election political angle was picked up by the NY Times.  Day is of interest to both poverty-motivated (left-wing) and right-to-life driven (right-wing) Catholics.  Cardinal Dolan calls her a “saint for our time”, and a woman whose journey inspires.

For us, her faith journey is very well documented, and an inspiration to those of us, who, like her, live in a modern world.  Her faith was the basis for her life, and her life is a testament to God.  

“Your love for God is only as great as the love you have for the person you love the least.”

Whether she ends up titled ‘Saint’, or not, Dorothy Day is a model of strength and justice, especially in this Year of Faith.   Most of us will never make the front page for our spiritual journey or charitable efforts.  No need to.  Our job is to keep God on the front page of our lives.


Cool…An Altarpiece by Keith Haring

I have been on the lookout for contemporary religious art, and have had trouble finding much I like.  Then I found this.  Check it out: Keith Haring‘s last work was an altarpiece, made two weeks before he passed away in 1990.

Keith Haring dies of AIDS-related complications in 1990 at the age of 31, after an enormously successful (and controversial) career in pop art that began in the subways of NYC.

This  Altarpiece: The Life of Christ, made of white gold-leaf and bronze, now hangs in the AIDS Chapel of the Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.  The dean of Grace at the time said “Haring woke people up and made them see…This altarpiece is … amazingly joyful. It’s an affirmation of life and belonging.” 


Thanks… a Challenge

Find one thing you are thankful for about each person you meet over the next few days.

Are there people you are NOT looking forward to seeing?  Maybe it’s know-it-all cousin Dennis who tells you the route you should have driven to your mother’s house.  What about the cranky checkout girl at the grocery store?  I mean, it’s Thanksgiving.  Couldn’t she be nice?

When someone irritates me, I try to remember this: God loves them too.

I know God loves me.  But them?  They’re so…

Yes, them.  God loves them as much as he loves me and you.  And if God wants the best for them (like he does for us), we should help.  We should see them the way God might.

NJ Turnpike northbound at Exit 8A, inner lanes

NJ Turnpike northbound at Exit 8A, inner lanes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cousin Dennis has trouble connecting with people, so he always starts with the NJ Turnpike.  Thank God that he is willing to talk to anyone and everyone, including crazy, deaf Grampa Joe.  Aside from traffic, ask about his life. You might learn something.  What was the most unusual job he ever had?  What’s his favorite memory of your grandfather?

IGNORE THIS - Present Credit Card to Cashier

IGNORE THIS – Present Credit Card to Cashier (Photo credit: nickgraywfu)

That girl at the checkout — how many rude customers has she seen today?  Maybe she has a meal to prepare herself, and worries about having enough for her family at the traditional Thanksgiving ‘feast.’  Your smile or kind word might lift her mood.  It’s worth a try.  If nothing works, pray for her.

The magic of this challenge is that it’s not about the people you meet.  It’s all about you.  The better you are to others, the better you’ll feel, and the better others are to you in return.  Like a good karma sort of thing.

Take the challenge.  Let me know how it goes!

Dig In

The door of faith is always open to us…” Pope Benedict XVI

Where is that door?

One of the things I have found most useful in pursuing my faith is scripture.   While opening to a random page is always interesting, for a more structured and insightful approach, consider these options.

 The Easy Start

For a quick reflection, I love Living Faith.  This quarterly booklet, about the size of a passport, is also available online.  Living Faith offers a daily biblical quote (one sentence or less!) and then a brief observation.  Written by a variety of authors, each day feels different – one day a personal story, another a faith insight.

Time:  This takes one to two minutes.  Doesn’t get much quicker than that.

 Daily Readings

The Mass readings for each day are on-line (the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, or EWTN Global Catholic Network, for instance), as well as published in a booklet by Magnificat (my favorite).  Each month, Magnificat offers (for a fee) a booklet or an app with prayers and readings for each day. Also included are summaries of the Saints lives, as well as a helpful ‘Meditation of the Day’ (often excerpted from the global writings of holy luminaries) which is always robust and credible.

Time: Magnificat can take as little or as much time as you would like to give.  Usually, I spend ten or fifteen minutes.

 Bible Study

Sounds scary?  I thought it would be filled with people shouting random bible verses, or throwing themselves to the floor wailing in prayer.   In fact, in my local Scripture Study I was surprised to find quite a few people I knew, and really liked, pop up.  People don’t advertise it.  They just go.   I found new friends, and a few old acquaintances became good friends.

If you can go to a Scripture study in person, I recommend it.  The support of a community,  and thought-provoking discussion can’t be matched in a virtual world.  (Check the website of a local church.  Don’t worry if you haven’t been to Mass or services.  Give in to the desire to learn more.  Trust God.)

That said, on-line options are plentiful and can be accessed anytime, anywhere.  Just make sure it’s a reputable and well-established group or leader (you know the risks with on-line personas).  Ask questions, think, test.

There is also a published series of studies that has great insight: Six Weeks with the Bible.  Titles address books of the Bible (Luke:  The Good News of God’s Mercy), or themes (Jesus the Healer) and include Old and New Testament.

Time:  Most Scripture Study meetings/sessions are 60 to 90 minutes.

Start with whatever feels right to you.  Let yourself enjoy it.  If you have any feedback or other suggestions, please add your two cents.


Sins of the Saints

Saints were not always saintly.  What sins did our models of holiness commit before turning to God?  Where did they start?  If they were able to grow beyond their weaknesses, can we?

You may have heard Augustine’s famous quote: “Lord, give me chastity.  But not yet.” Augustine (354 -430 a.d.) wrote an entire book of Confessions.  He fathered a child with his concubine, drank liberally and lived a hedonistic lifestyle for many years.

As an intellectual, he studied philosophy and religion. Inspired by his study of St. Anthony of the Desert, and a mystical voice telling him to “Pick up and read,” Augustine converted to Christianity in his early 30’s.  As his knowledge grew, his grace and relationship with God grew too.  Augustine became a Bishop and Doctor of the church. 

Thomas Merton (1915-1968)  a Trappist monk and one of the most influential modern spiritual writers of the Catholic Church (including the best-selling autobiography The Seven Storey Mountain) is said to have fathered a child during his ‘worldly’ youth, before he entered the priesthood.  Merton converted to Catholicism while at Columbia University.

Known for his commitment to non-violence and plain-spoken theological reflections, Merton is not a saint yet, but he is a great inspiration.  One of his many famous quotes:

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. (Thoughts in Solitude)

Dorothy Day half-length portrait, seated at de...

Dorothy Day half-length portrait, seated at desk, facing right (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dorothy Day (1897-1980), Servant of God, worked for social justice and peace, and founded the Catholic Worker Movement.  As a young adult, she had an abortion.  Later, after the birth of her daughter and her newfound passion for the gospel, she lived a life that many call saintly.  Quote:

“Don’t call me a saint — I don’t want to be dismissed that easily.”

St. Ignatius (1492 -1556) was a passionate soldier and a man admired by women.  His sins are not clear, but he spent years atoning for them.  While recuperating from a battle injury, he was given a book about the life of Jesus instead of a book about romance, which could not be found.

He discovered that thoughts of, and from, God filled him with peace and tranquility; other thoughts might excite him briefly, but left his heart heavy in the end.  Ignatius went on to found the Society of Jesus, as well as give us the Spiritual Exercises which are still in wide use today.

(Note:  this post neither condones nor invites you to do all those sinful things you’re thinking about!  But you knew that.)

These people made a decision to follow God.  We consider them holy.

Their lives did not change in one lightning-strike moment.  They thought, they prayed, they learned about God and studied their faith.  Day by day, year by year, they grew closer to God.  As this relationship strengthened, so did their awareness of goodness and their desire to do what God asked of them.

You too can walk these stairs.  Just take it one step at a time.  Use the Year of Faith as an impetus to begin.  Do one thing today.

Pop into church (temple…) for a prayer.  Bow your head and ask God for his help (remember, you already have his love.)  Ask for forgiveness, and grace.  Get that spiritual book you’ve been meaning to read.  Check out  Sacred Space.  Open the Bible and read a few lines.  Write the prayer that comes to your mind. Find something for which you are grateful.

Just start. Just one thing. It can lead to wondrous places.

Spilling and Sowing

Quotes to contemplate today:

“When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment; he needs help. That’s the message he is sending.”

― Thich Nhat Hanh

(There are so many great quotes from this Buddhist Monk. I saw this one at Diamond Mike Watson’s site.)

Where there is hatred,

let me sow love.

Where there is injury, pardon.

Where there is doubt, faith.

– St. Francis of Assisi

God wants to reach out to others through your hands. He wants to speak to others through your lips, and God wants others to look into your eyes and see Him… give God permission.

– John Cardinal O’Connor

Find more inspirational quotes at Mission Moment.

Have a Better Day

In an effort to continue to deepen my faith I went to a weekday morning Mass.  Again, I find it is so worth it — like a 25 minute power nap, except it’s full of prayer and wisdom.

Two nuggets to share:

That’s what we do.

In doing good, and doing right, we are only doing what we are supposed to do.  Sometimes the world sees that as extraordinary and tremendous.  It’s not.  It’s the way the world should be.  As good people, people of God, etc. (describe yourself here) that’s just what we (try to) do.  See the Good Samaritan for a good example.

Don’t look for trumpets blaring and pats on your back.   Know that you did the right thing.  Know that God knows.  True heroes don’t stand and look for applause.  They almost always say “I just did what had to be done.”

See the gospel reading here.

Prayer Opens Your Heart

The more I pray, the more I want to pray.

I enjoy it more; I need it more.  I hear more and talk less.

Do good.  Pray.  You’ll have a better day. Promise.