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Dorothy Day

Friday 20th January 2023

I am not sure how long it is appropriate to wish one's friends "Happy New Year', but as this is the first blog post that we have published in 2023 and we are only 20 days into the new year, it feels right to offer you - a blessing and a hope - that this year will be one that one holds for you deep joy, peace, love and purpose. Happy New Year!

A poem that often comes to my mind every January, when Christmas is beginning to feel as though it was a long time ago, is that of the American theologian and civil-rights leader, Howard Thurman:

When the song of the angels is stilled,

When the star in the sky is gone,

When the kings and princes are home,

When the shepherds are back with their flocks,

The work of Christmas begins:

To find the lost,

To heal the broken,

To feed the hungry,

To release the prisoner,

To rebuild the nations,

To bring peace among the people,

To make music in the heart.[1]

"The work of Christmas begins..."

Taking the theme of this poem and thinking about what the work of Christmas may entail for each one of us as we stand at the beginning of this new year, we are hopefully going to offer some real #SoulTalk inspiration - daily - for the next five weeks via Facebook and Instagram. The inspiration will come via the words of the 20th Century American journalist and social activist, Dorothy Day. She is a woman who has had a huge impact on so many people who want to live lives that speak of God and that make a difference to their neighbourhoods, communities, cities and countries. (If you look over a number of our Soul Food and Soul Talk blog posts you will notice that I often quote her. It was her life and witness that was especially inspirational as we were beginning Soul Food and it continues to be as we consider the ways in which we hope that Soul Food could grow.)

Dorothy Day was someone who felt deeply about the injustices in her city (New York), country and throughout the wider world. Politically and socially active and also a person of deep Christian faith, she lived her life on behalf of others, unceasingly paying attention to the inequality of the world. Dorothy famously co-founded the successful Catholic Worker newspaper and the Catholic Worker Movement in 1933, in the shadow of the Great Depression. This movement has been described as the most prominent, radical religious movement in United States history, with a lasting legacy of truth and justice. The Catholic worker, reported on social issues and injustices and as a movement worked tirelessly to bring about change for those dealing with poverty, homelessness, racism and oppression. The movements aim was (and is) to 'live in accordance with the justice and charity of Jesus Christ'. And one of its main values is that of hospitality towards those on the margins of society. Day, along with her co-founder Peter Maurin, began 'Houses of Hospitality' for those who were homeless and they themselves lived in those communities throughout their lives. Today there are 174 of these communities throughout the United States.

The rule of life that Dorothy lived by was one inspired by the Gospels and the life of Jesus. The revolutionary words of the Sermon on the Mount and the parables of Matthew 25 were especially important to her and shaped the ways in which she lived and worked.

From Monday 23rd January until Wednesday 22nd February (Ash Wednesday) we will be posting a Dorothy Day quote on Facebook and Instagram each day. We will be sharing a little more about her too. Sometimes the language of the quotes may sound a little old-fashioned but the heart and vision of her words are as prophetic and as pertinent today as they were 80 years ago.

As the quotes come to end and Lent begins, we will also be offering two book clubs. The first book club will discuss D.L Mayfield's excellent book about Dorothy Day called 'Unruly Saint: Dorothy Day's Radical Vision and its Challenges for our Times'. We will be posting further details about this in the next week and let you know how you can sign up to take part. We will also have a copy of the book to give away. But more about that next week...

For now, I leave you with our first quote from Dorothy Day who D. L Mayfield describes as being "a high energy activist with a cigarette in one hand and a coffee cup in the other (who) would become a figure of promise for the poor":

“The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us?”

The work of Christmas begins...

[1] Howard Thurman The Mood of Christmas and Other Celebrations (Friends United Press)

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