Ninety years ago on May 1, 1933, at a Communist rally in Union Square, Dorothy Day and a small group of friends distributed the first issue of The Catholic Worker newspaper. As the first editorial announced, “For those who think that there is no hope for the future, no recognition of their plight, this little paper is addressed.” In proclaiming the radical social message of the gospel, the paper became the foundation of a movement that continues to this day.
Having at one time served as managing editor of the CW, this anniversary holds special meaning for me. But in many ways this date marked a new model of the church that resonates today with the vision of Pope Francis: a church that emphasizes mercy, justice, and peace, that goes to the peripheries to touch the wounds of Christ. Pope Francis recognized this in calling Dorothy Day one of four “great Americans” in his 2015 speech to Congress. Her cause for canonization is in process. In the meantime, I was happy to enjoy the maiden voyage of a new Staten Island Ferry, “The Dorothy Day,” glad in knowing that Orbis serves as a primary source for books by and about her. (See list here.)
The work of three other great spiritual giants of our time take us on different journeys.
Henri Nouwen’s Ukraine Diary is based on accounts of pilgrimages the famous Dutch priest made to Ukraine thirty years ago. As I note in the preface, I actually rejected his proposed book at the time. But current history has provided a new context and meaning for this work, which reads prophetically like a letter addressed to the present moment. The connection is drawn directly in the introduction by Borys Gudziak, Nouwen’s good friend and now Archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, who describes the background of this story, the moral and spiritual questions that drew Henri to Ukraine, and their relevance to the current struggle of the Ukrainian people. Teilhard de Chardin: A Book of Hours, edited by Kathleen Deignan, CND and Libby Osgood, CND, is a spiritual treasure. Drawing on prayers and texts from the great Jesuit mystic and scientist, the book offers readings in the format of liturgical hours for “Dawn, Day, Dusk, and Dark.” Throughout, these texts invite us to pray and meditate on the divine presence of love in the universe, our world, and our daily lives.
David Steindl-Rast, an Austrian-born Benedictine monk, now 96, is a renowned spiritual master who was once a guest on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday. In You Are Here: Keywords for Life Explorers, Brother David sums up the lessons of his life, writing especially for young people wanting to discover “what it is all about.” Brother David calls us first to situate ourselves in relation to others, to the world, and to the divine mystery that underlies all reality. Moving on to the meaning of vocation, love, suffering, death, and the call to “grateful living,” he offers a handbook for seekers of all types.
Dorothy Day spoke of her daily life as a pilgrimage, a journey in which all our actions and encounters find their meaning in our final destination.
Peace and safe travels,