In 1965, Dorothy Day wrote a column titled, “What Does Ammon Mean?” It was an appreciation of a long-time Catholic Worker collaborator, Ammon Hennacy. The article concludes with a plea for and promise of prayers for Hennacy, who had recently left the Catholic Church – into which he had been baptized only a decade earlier – because, in Day’s words, “he did not give wholehearted assent to the Church any longer, seeing only her faults.”
… perhaps Ammon is on the way to going through another conversion in his long and adventurous life, and I do not mean a conversion to another faith but a return to and a deepening of his understanding of the Catholic faith.
I cannot help but feel, of course, that we have failed him, that our example was such that he was not inspired, enlivened, by Catholics as he was by such people as Dave Dellinger, editor of Liberation, and Clarence Jordan, of the Koinonia community in Americus, Georgia. These two men had his whole-hearted respect. Realizing this, our own failures, we can only pray that God will give him further light, that another conversion, that is, a turning to God and a return to his own strong mission, will come about, and that he will begin to see the Church in perspective, as founded by Christ on the Rock of Peter and enduring to this day in spite of the tares among the wheat – in spite of the scandals. Reading that same book, Resurrection, previously referred to, I remember how the hero, suddenly faced with the degradation of the girl he had ruined, and his own sense of responsibility for it, suddenly hated all his surroundings and all the people in them, friends, relatives, servants. But as his recognition of his own personal responsibility increased, he was filled with light and joy and began to love them as poor fellow human beings, and not to judge them, but only himself. So we hope Ammon will some day see the wheat, not the tares, in the Church.
We will continue to print Ammon’s accounts of his life at Joe Hill House and St. Joseph’s Refuge and pledge faithfulness to our friendship with him, but at the same time we ask for prayers for him, “that all things work together for good to them that love God,” and we ask especially the prayers of St. Joan of Arc, his favorite saint, for him. She herself recanted once and went against her “voices,” but later repented of her recantation. And at the same time that we pray for Ammon, let us ourselves pray for final perseverance and faithfulness to the end, to that Church, our Mother, who nourishes us from the “breasts of her tenderness,” as well as with the strong meat of the Gospel, and with the Body of Our Lord Himself in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar.
Day, Dorothy. “What Does Ammon Mean?“. The Catholic Worker, June 1965, 3, 7. The Catholic Worker Movement.