Into the Desert

"Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; see, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? In the desert I make a way, in the wasteland, rivers." (Isaiah 43:18,19)A good friend of mine, Matt Talbot, once wrote of the desert, “The austere and naked land reminds me … of my own impermanence and ultimate vulnerability. Abundance too often leads to confused priorities and muddles my perceptions of what my life is, and what my life mea … [Read more...]

Ivan Illich Never Fails Me

Ivan Illich is a writer I frequently return to, not only for information and argument, but just for entertainment. Where else can I find a book of research on modern medicine, riddled with statistic and references, that calls doctors “rash artery-plumbers?”[1] And it is a rare spirit who can sardonically refer to his own cancerous tumor as “my mortality.”At any rate, the book I picked up this week was Deschooling Society. I was drawn to it because I wanted some lively, engaging reading materi … [Read more...]

Bankers in Hell

In 2009 I was working on a project in Chicago which put me in contact with an investment banker, an amiable chap who, as it happened, had left Lehman Brothers in New York for a Chicago job just before the New York firm’s collapse the previous year. I waited until we had a casual moment together and then asked him what he thought of the fate of his old firm in New York.“Here’s when I got a sense for what might be coming. I was in an elevator in the Lehman building just a few months before cras … [Read more...]

“Why Are You My Friend?”

About four years ago I gave in to the temptation of speaking to a men's retreat at my parish, the well-known Christ Renews His Parish program. I think of it as a temptation because it's easy for me to want to parade my learning (such as it is), embellish episodes from my picaresque personal history, and promote myself as a regular pillar of sanctity.I gave my witness, as it's called, near the end of the weekend. Afterwards one of the attendees, whom we'll call Ralph, approached me to … [Read more...]

The Mystery of the Poor

“Christ is at once rich and poor: as God, rich; as a human person, poor. Truly, that Man rose to heaven already rich, and now sits at the right hand of the Father, but here, among us, he still suffers hunger, thirst and nakedness: here he is poor and is in the poor.” -St. AugustineChrist “is poor and is in the poor,” says St. Augustine, providing a most succinct justification of the Church’s “preferential option.” Structurally, the poor share an intimate identity with Christ that demands our … [Read more...]

Journal Entry of a Working Man

I have abhorred work for as long as I can remember. I don’t mean that I’m against exerting myself. I do that all the time, but my exertions, it has always been made abundantly clear, do not qualify as “work.” Work, as an American institution—work with capital “W”—is something foreign to my nature.It isn’t just that I find it unpleasant and unfulfilling. It is also that I’ve never been able to force myself to respect it, even way back when I still felt ashamed for that failure. Even when I fel … [Read more...]

Hospitality, Smallness and the Butterfly Effect

The prospect of living with - as distinct from near or among - the poor is perhaps the most daunting aspect of the Dorothy Option, especially for a middle-class suburbanite whose "home is his castle." It's one thing to bring food and toiletries to a homeless person. It is something else altogether to negotiate cooking chores and bathroom time with that same person in a shared home.Dorothy understood that embracing radical hospitality had to be accomplished in small steps. In a December 1936 … [Read more...]

Encountering “the Other” on the Road

Strange as it may seem, my own journey towards the Dorothy Option began with Cormac McCarthy's dystopian novel The Road. Certainly, neither the author nor the work are known for their orthodox Christian sensibilities, and yet, reading the book led me to reflect more deeply on three of the most critical aspects of life for people of faith today- our own complicity in evil, the struggle to live a moral life- to, in the words of the book, "carry the fire"- in the midst of the cultural wreckage of mo … [Read more...]

A Better Paradigm for Class Analysis

John Michael Greer over at The Archdruid Report has produced a great piece of analysis on the American economic arrangement an, as a consequence, the Trump phenomenon. He redraws the lines of political class and the picture he develops is useful: "It so happens that you can determine a huge amount about the economic and social prospects of people in America today by asking one remarkably simple question: how do they get most of their income? Broadly speaking—there are exceptions, which I’ll get … [Read more...]

Revisiting ‘Catholic Citizenship and the Dorothy Option’

Welcome to the first post on Solidarity Hall's new group blog, The Dorothy Option. Our title is taken from a June 2011 post of mine at Vox Nova titled, "Catholic Citizenship and the Dorothy Option." For the historical record, it's worth noting that my use of the now ubiquitous "Option" device appears to have been the first. Rod Dreher didn't propose his Benedict Option, now the gold standard of the breed, until December 2013. In the wake of the BenOp, we've been treated to alternative forms of th … [Read more...]