Dorothy Day on the True Anarchist – UPDATE

You only love God as much as you love the person you love the least. — Servant of God, Dorothy Day

It is an awful indictment, but it’s true.

Dorothy Day (“I am an obedient daughter of the church”) died 31 years ago, today. The more confused our world becomes, the more her voice speaks plainly and with clarity. Right now I am reading her diaries, The Duty of Delight (it’s diary entries; I can read a little each night, and that’s all the reading I am managing, lately).

I like this — part of a long entry, it seems to suit the times:

“The true anarchist asks nothing for himself, he is self disciplined, self denying, accepting the Cross, without asking sympathy, without complaint.

The true anarchist loves his brother, according to the new law, ready to die rather than compel his brother to go his totalitarian way, no matter how convinced he may be that his way is the only way.”

I think my son would like that.

Related: To Misunderstand Dorothy Day is to Misunderstand Mercy

UPDATE: Pat Gohn’s Among Women podcast appreciates Dorothy, too

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Dan C

    Dorothy promoted war tax resistance. She went to jail in the 1950′s during NYC bomb drills. She promoted war resistance during WW2. Her last arrest was for a cause deeply attached to her core-for the United Farm Workers, a union of mostly illegals.

    She is a fantastic Catholic. As difficult as the real St. Francis.

    The Duty of Delight is a good read. But, like you, I found it slow. Dorothy’s writing never held me much. Books ABOUT her were different. Her writing was chaotically organized.

    I am re-reading On Pilgrimage, The Sixties. I like this book best.

  • esc

    i’m lovin’ me some dorothy day…

  • zmama

    During the fall of my senior year of college I read Dorothy Day’s autobiography The Long Loneliness. That year over Christmas break I spent a week in orientation with the lay community at Covenant House in NYC. Between her words and the experience of praying the liturgy of the hours with the faith community I KNEW by the end of that week where I was supposed to go after graduation. I also knew that Dorothy had led me there.

    To this day, whenever I am in NY I think of her descriptions of the city and esp. its smells. Some things never change.

  • Dan C

    She was an anarch-communitarian, not one who pursued dessicated freedom like the libertarian, who embraces economic and personal theories of responsibility like Larry Flynt (an anarcho-individualist).

    For her, unlike in conservative blogs, subsidiarity was a matter of personal responsibility, not trotted out in a weary way to end welfare support of “Holy Mother City” as she called the local government. This is an uneducated, underinformed use of the term subsidiarity. Also, subsidiarity isn’t giving to a charity with low overhead, it is doing the charity oneself.

    For Dorothy, it was an embarassment that the Church was unable to do what the government ended up doing-that the People of the Church did not bring the poor into their homes. As a good anarchist, she fed the poor, did not have tax exempt status (most Catholic Workers today still do not), and expected that the government would get out of the business of helping the poor when it no longer needed to do so.

  • Paul Stilwell

    Why post an “icon” by Robert Lentz? She hasn’t been canonized, therefore depicting her in the iconographic tradition (though that “icon” is by no means iconographic) with a halo is denigrating of the sacredness of real icons.

    [I posted it because I likes it. Your mileage may vary. You don't have to like it. That's what freedom is all about. And once upon a time, someone would say, "well, meh, I don't like it, but it's a free country and there's no accounting for taste." Then the internet happened, and everyone decided they had to comment on everyone else's choices, all the time! :-) -admin]

  • fiestamom

    Thanks for the quote, that’s a hard kick in the tush for me. Guess I needed it.

  • daisy

    I wish I could like Dorothy Day. She may have been a saint but some–not you—some of the people who tout her give me the willies.

    [Why not read her for yourself and get to know her based on her own words and not by the words and behaviors of others? Only seems fair! :-) -admin]

  • Sherry

    Dorthy, like Catholicism, is better in reality than common perception. I did not think much about or know much about Dorthy before I read this. Likewise, I thought that what I did know, I did not think I’d like. I was wrong. That being said, reading this book was hard because it isn’t her writing as much as it is her recount of things of the day that were important to her. She wasn’t writing to an audience in this book, but for herself to remember or recall or thresh things out.

  • Patti Day

    Rest in peace Dorothy.

  • Dynan

    She talked the talk but could not walk the walk. I love God with my whole heart,mind and soul, yet am still a child. When my heart, mind and soul grow up, I shall love Him more. Others are merely humans, to be loved as humans with all their vices and virtues, not anywhere in God’s league. Dorothy was a socialist who
    thought people were God-like. Large mistake! Certainly no saint, yet!

  • Paul Stilwell

    But you see Mrs. Scalia, it’s goes beyond what you “likes”, or what I like. It was pretty obvious by the fact that you posted the “icon” that you likes it. Nor am I impinging on your freedom by asking what I asked.

    I asked a simple question that brought up the fact that the “icon” – aside from being the work of one who blasphemes God, degrades the saints, and the iconographic tradition all together – uses a halo for Dorothy Day (just like he uses a halo for Thomas Merton, Martin Luther etc.) when she has not been canonized.

    You are perhaps aware of iconographic language and symbol. Using the halo in iconography is veritably, literally the same as writing “Saint” – officially. It is the exact same as if you were to write, “Saint Dorothy Day” in total seriousness as though that is what the Church has declared.

    This sort of willy-nilly use of iconographic language is denigrating of the sacredness of icons. You post it because you like it. That’s nice. There are some things that require one’s consideration to go beyond “likes”.

    Yes, the internet happened, which is where you post your writings on a public blog (which also happens to garner you financial support just by me clicking on your blog). So yeah, me asking you that question is not exactly the same as me nosing into your personal likes. I don’t care about that.

    But thanks for your patronizing response.


  • Greta

    I have read Day and have to say she is not my cup of tea. In my mind, she was nothing like Mother Theresa who I think represents the correct teacing on the poor which is to go out and do the work and attract others while remaining totally in sync with Catholic teaching. Day seems more like the occupy crowd or socialist demonstrators. She seemed to be very opinionated and proud. Of course it has been years since I looked at Day and maybe now I would have a different outlook.