Posted by: runningwave | March 11, 2015

Dorothy Day – Saint with Thorns

I heard about Dorothy Day years ago, when I was a young radical. She was an advocate for women’s rights before American women had the vote. She was arrested and went on a hunger strike. She advocated for the poor, the homeless and immigrants. She lived poor among the poor. She was fearless and outspoken. She wrote for radical newspapers at a time when nice girls from middle-class households were expected to be quiet, get married, and have children.

I was a young woman from a rural working class family. Television and a high school education introduced me to a wider world. I couldn’t wait to leave home, and eventually got out of an isolated community when I was seventeen years old. I soon took off for Colorado to camp out in the mountains, headed back to coastal New England, had two children, and lived what could be described as a hippie lifestyle in communal houses, traveling a lot, getting back to the land. This all got tedious within a few years. We weren’t realizing any of our ideals. Hippie and counter-culture life had devolved into lassitude and grumbling about the oppression of having to work for a living. The mainstream public had already bought all of the rainbow candles, macrame plant hangers and tie-dyed t-shirts they wanted. Post-1970s hippiedom fell apart. We all went on to other things.

I was drawn into a profound, deep faith in God. Despite the role my church played in the dominant culture, I took the scholarship and history and found a new kind of counter culturalism, based on the way of Jesus Christ. Out of a sense of adventure and motivated by the curiosity that had led me to travel, sail, and climb mountains, I entered into meditative prayer as if I was going someplace new. The country of the soul was unexplored territory.

I read St. Teresa of Avila, C.S. Lewis and Thomas Merton, the usual suspects. I read the Bible, once again, with a new viewpoint, from higher up the mountain. I had been led through Bible reading as a child and teenager, in a traditional Baptist church. We made frequent stops for exposition, the conservative teaching of the most dour of Reformers. And it isn’t that Teresa, Jack, and Tom contradicted the strictures and self-denial I had been taught. They gave me better, greater, more noble reasons.

After reading “Interior Castle,” I began to look for more women writers in theology and activism. I had spent a decade under an oppression of conformity, tied to an on and off relationship with an ambitious man. I was ready to be more than an ornament, a prize, a woman made over into a shell of womanhood. I was not going to be an echo of a man’s desires.

Dorothy Day’s “The Long Loneliness” came back into my life. Her early adulthood reflected much of mine. Radicalism, relationships that offended convention: I had moved in the same direction. I was inspired by her devotion to causes of equality, and her immersion in Roman Catholicism as an expression of the commonality of the working class.

I should have been more inspired. Unlike Sister Dorothy, I could be remarkably swayed by the ambitions and opinions of others, despite the early negative experiences. I was still looking for that perfect relationship, where I would be myself while being with someone I loved. Each time I accidentally fell into the orbit of someone’s goals and dreams, I would rediscover Dorothy’s life and work. I would get the backbone from her to move on, working always toward being the person God meant me to be.

The counter cultural revolution of the 1960s and 1970s that liberated us from the relationship conventions of our parents and grandparents failed in one big way. It didn’t liberate us from our attitudes of dependence. Friends and I have recently talked about how the sexual revolution, in many ways, was misogynistic and exploitative of young women.While we may have been freed from expectations of virginity and marriage roles, we weren’t freed from STDs and unexpected pregnancy. The cost of free love was the price of birth control and antibiotics. Dorothy Day’s radical group had left the legal aspects of marriage and societal norms, as well, and the price they paid was out of wedlock births or illegal abortions, as well as the very high health cost of sexually transmitted infections for which there weren’t effective antibiotics. Day’s choice, after she parted from the father of her daughter, Tamar, was to remain single. She immersed herself in faith and justice.

Day is best known as one of the founders of the Catholic Worker Movement, which formed cooperative housing projects, took in the homeless, and distributed copies of their publications. Usually in under-privileged neighborhoods, the CW houses faced many challenges – poverty, lack of services, crime, harassment. The Movement has lasted from the 1930s to now, however, with young and old volunteers working on issues of immigration, peace and disarmament.

Posted by: runningwave | December 20, 2011

The Laavu

i dreamt of lying in the laavu

in this northern cold bed

under reindeer hides

edged in bright soft wool

lying awake in my dreams

listening to the reindeer

stir in their sleep

dreaming of sleep

sleeping with dreams

if i dream in another life

in what dream am i living

my dreams go to a life

pared down stripped bare

of all but what is necessary

to stave off the cold

prayers too become essential

a few words a plain gesture

perhaps just a thought

perhaps less

Posted by: runningwave | December 12, 2011

river hunt

the river must be cold

as the heart of a glacier

the eagle skates

between the ice and the ice

eyeing the last trout

to seek the pale sun


Posted by: runningwave | December 12, 2011

(Song for) a Winter’s Night

night snow at Kambara, Utagawa Hiroshige, 1797

The sky in a minor key

accompanied by brittle

red tipped weeds

mumbling in a snowfall

of melancholy drifting

no peace on the wind

Posted by: runningwave | September 25, 2011

Child of God

Think carefully – who is thy enemy?


Posted by: runningwave | September 13, 2011

From “The Lamb’s War”

By Micah Bales:

Posted by: runningwave | September 11, 2011

Wisdom: Let Us Attend

Forgive your neighbor’s injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven. Could anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing from the LORD?” –Sirach 28:2-3

Posted by: runningwave | September 11, 2011

Teach Your Children Peace

‘We will not learn how to live together in peace by killing each other’s children.’

Jimmy Carter

Posted by: runningwave | September 8, 2011

Choose This Day

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor…”

Bishop Desmond Tutu

from Mennolink

Posted by: runningwave | August 26, 2011


Uist Winter

The Christian should not let the sun set on an angry fit of a brother, lest night separate both from each other.

Basil the Great

 From: The Fathers Speak

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