I suspect that most of us have heroes and heroines either who are still living at the present time or some from the past whom we have met in history. Isn’t it true that this is one of the reasons we are always encouraged to read biographies of the saints from time to time? Our circumstances in our lifetime might be very different from theirs, but the relationship they had with God, the struggles they encountered along the way, and the people who supported them throughout their lives were similar to our situation. I remember reading the stories of Saint Dominic Savio, Saint Francis DeSales, and Saint Joan of Arc while I was in high school, and their lives spoke to me as I was growing up.
I have always been fascinated with the likes of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Florence Nightingale. History always came alive for me when I tried to read it through the lens of real people making it happen. And after I entered the Franciscans, I learned what being a friar really meant partially from studying the Rule and Constitutions, but more from how I witnessed friars with whom I lived show me the way by who they were and what values they evidenced to me day by day.
One of my all-time heroines is Dorothy Day. What appeals to me most about her life is that she went through many stages, had to deal with a variety of problems, lived from moment to moment trying to respond to what God gave her, and through it all probably became a saint. She was born in 1897 in Brooklyn, the third child of parents who did not practice their faith. In 1904 the family moved to California where, at the age of eight, she had an experience that marked the start of her religious consciousness. She writes, “I remember being in the attic with my sister. I was sitting behind a table, pretending I was the teacher, reading aloud from a Bible I had found. Slowly, as I read, a new personality impressed itself on me. I was being introduced to someone, and I knew almost immediately that I was discovering God.”
After a religiously involved childhood, she kept God at arm’s length. As a teenager she turned her attention toward the social writings of anarchists and revolutionaries. Living in Chicago at this time, she began to experience firsthand the lives of the working poor by pushing her baby brother in his carriage through some scary West Side streets. Writing later, she observed, “Where were the saints to try to change the social order, not just to minister to the slaves but to do away with slavery?” Early in her life she grasped the need for structural change in the social order.
During her college years at the University of Illinois at Urbana, she ended her childhood involvement with religion and joined the Socialist Party. “I felt that religion was something that I must ruthlessly cut out of my life. For me, Christ no longer walked the streets of this world. He was two thousand years dead, and new prophets had arisen to take his place.” The new prophets she had in mind were the men and women who were actively working to change a social order plagued by unemployment and poverty in Depression America. She moved to New York City, became a journalist, wrote for socialist publications and enjoyed the bohemian night life of Greenwich Village.
In 1917 Day began work as a nurses’ aid during World War I. After an obsessive first love affair with a womanizing newspaperman, Lionel Moise, and the abortion of their child, she married a literary promoter, Barkeley Tobey, “on the rebound.” When she and Tobey returned to New York from a yearlong honeymoon trip to Europe, she became aware that she did not love him and then left him.
The mature love of Day’s life was Forster Batterham, a biologist and anarchist with whom Day entered into a common-law marriage in 1924. Batterham opened up the beauties of nature to her and he fathered their child, Tamar Teresa, who was born in March 1926. Unlike many people, including many saints who experience a conversion to God out of a sense of guilt or sorrow, Dorothy turned to God in joy. She writes that the joy she experienced during this time in her life through the beauty of nature, the love of a man, and the birth of her child led her to God. “No human creature could receive or contain so vast a flood of love and joy as I often felt after the birth of my child. With this came the need to worship, to adore. It was because through a whole love, both physical and spiritual, I came to know God.” During these happy years she began to pray daily and to attend Mass on Sundays. She entered the Catholic Church in December 1927. Because of this commitment eventually she broke her relationship with Batterham, a confirmed atheist.
She resumed her involvement with the social movements that so engaged her in her earlier years. She travelled broadly and wrote for a number of magazines on what she found living among the poor. However, the dual passion of her life—social concern and deep love for God—could not, it seemed, be reconciled through Catholicism. Only the Communists and Socialists, atheists though they were, were doing anything about the plight of the poor. One day she went to the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception at Catholic University and implored God that some way might open up for her to use what talents she possessed for her fellow workers and for the poor. Returning to her New York apartment, she was greeted by Peter Maurin, a wandering and educated French peasant who had learned about her from the editor of Commonweal. Day always believed that Maurin had come to her in the last month of 1932 as an answer to her anguished prayer.
Maurin immediately proceeded to indoctrinate Day into Roman Catholic teaching, the writings of the popes and theologians and the teachings of the Church councils. He also shared with her his ideas for a radical form of Catholic life based on a “three point program”: 1) houses of hospitality where the works of mercy could be practiced daily; 2) roundtable discussions for the clarification of thought, and 3) farming communes, where workers and scholars would live and work together on the land away from the dehumanizing conditions in industrialized urban America. This three-point program, along with the publication of a newspaper that would instruct readers in Roman Catholic social thought, provided Day with a model for radical Christian living and direct action. A synthesis of social justice and intimacy with God from within Catholicism now seemed possible.
(to be continued next week)
FIFTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
In the First Reading, Moses challenges his people to heed the Lord’s voice by keeping the Commandments. Their familiarity with the law is such that they can recite it with their mouths and are aware of it in their hearts. However, more is required; they need to carry it out in their actions.
The Gospel reading also gives attention to the carrying out of the Law. A scholar of the Law asks Jesus, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus elicits from him the essence of the Commandments, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself.” Demanding more precision, the lawyer asks, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus answers with the story of the Good Samaritan.
In this parable, a Samaritan cares for a man who has been left for dead after a priest and a Levite pass by the man. The Samaritan tends the man’s wounds, finds lodging for him, and pays for it. With this act of compassion, the Samaritan loves the stranger as his neighbor. Jesus concludes his story by asking the lawyer, “Which of these three (the priest, the Levite, and the Samaritan) in your opinion was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?”
Now Jesus’ question to the lawyer draws attention to the fact that the Samaritan is the true neighbor! This poses a problem for the lawyer because Jews considered Samaritans to be enemies. The lawyer finds it difficult to answer Jesus’ question. He cannot say, “The Samaritan!” Instead he answers, “The one who treated him with mercy.” Jesus leaves him and us with the challenge, “Go and do likewise.”
To the question, “who is my neighbor,” Jesus responds with a story of mercy. He relates that the individual who loves God will show compassion to any of God’s children. Pope Benedict states in Deus caritas est: Union with Christ is also union with all those to whom he gives himself. I cannot possess Christ just for myself; I can belong to him only in union with all those who have become, or who will become, his own. We become ‘one body.’ Love of God and love of neighbor are now truly united” (#14).
As Jesus describes an act of mercy done by a person outside the community, he invites the scholar of the law to look anew at his adherence to the Commandments. Disciples continue to be called to conversion as people seek to enter their land. The United States Bishops’ document Strangers No Longer: Together on a Journey of Hope states: “Conversion of mind and heart leads to communion expressed through hospitality on the part of receiving communities and a sense of belonging and welcoming on the part of those in the communities where migrants are arriving”(41).
Jesus describes a man in need of mercy as completely dependent on another. Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Redemptoris missio states that the dignity of these children of God should not be overlooked. He states: “The poor deserve preferential attention. They have been made in the image and likeness of God to be his children, but this image has been obscured and even violated. For this reason, God has become their defender and loves them. In the spirit of the Beatitudes, the Church is called to be on the side of the poor and oppressed in any way” (#61).
For Your Reflection: If the law of the Lord is in your heart, then how would you act towards others? When in need, do you first turn to the Lord or to others? Who have you failed to treat with mercy?
ST. PETER’S GALA
Our St. Peter’s Gala is almost here, and, as of this writing, we still have tickets to sell for the event. Several people have told us in the past they were just waiting until the time was closer to purchase their tickets. NOW is the time. We hope as many as possible will join us on Thursday, July 18, from 5:30-8:30 at the Union League Club for some delicious food, friendship and a time together in order to make the Gala a grand success once again this year. You won’t regret spending quality time with many of your friends and helping us to reduce St. Peter’s deficit at the same time. Tickets can be purchased from the volunteer in the lobby or from the receptionist at the office. If you think you cannot afford the price of a ticket, or if you are not available to attend on the 18th, we would appreciate a donation toward the success of this fundraiser. Through the mail, indicate “Gala Donation” on your check; you may also drop off your donation at the front office if no one is at the table in the lobby when you stop by. Thank you so much.
THEOLOGY ON TAP
We invite all young adults between the ages of 20-40 to join us for our second session of Theology on Tap which will take place on Monday, July 15, from 5:30-7:30 P.M. in the St. Clare Auditorium on the lower level of St. Peter’s Church. There will be food and drink at 5:30, followed by a presentation at 6:00 and then sharing. The evening will be finished by 7:30.
Our speaker this week is Father Ed Shea, O.F.M., who will speak on the topic “Open My Eyes, Lord.” The movement from blindness to sight is a Gospel narrative that is also a call to conversion. This talk invites us to take seriously the call to conversion, even in the smallest ways, in our own individual lives. “May the eyes of our hearts be enlightened” (Ephesians 1:17).
Father Ed is a well known friar here at St. Peter’s, and he is also well known all over the city of Chicago (and beyond). A Franciscan who loves to sing and tell stories, Father Ed loves to celebrate the sacraments of the Church and finds delight in celebrating God’s goodness in all of creation.
ADORATION OF THE BLESSED SACRAMENT
One of the marvelous gifts we have in the Catholic Church is the fact that we always have the presence of the Lord in our churches due to the reservation of the Body of Christ reserved in the tabernacle. But that presence is even more manifest when the Consecrated Host is placed in the monstrance and then publicly displayed for the veneration of the faithful in what we call the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Here at St. Peter’s we have the opportunity to visit Our Lord in this special way every Monday-Friday for the three hours between 1:45 and 4:45 in the afternoon. I hope you try to take advantage of this devotion at least once or twice a week. You need not stay for a longer period of time; even a short visit allows you to focus, to thank the Lord for blessings received, to acknowledge that you owe everything to His goodness and love, and to praise Him for all he has done and continues to do for you. It also gives you a bit of quiet time to just be in His presence and to give Him a chance to speak with you as He sees fit.
ST. PETER’S BOOK AND GIFT SHOP
Do you realize that our Gift Shop is one of only two Catholic bookstores in the Loop? The other is that run by the Pauline Sisters at 172 North Michigan Avenue. We try to stock items that appeal to a wide Catholic audience with gifts for the important celebrations of our Catholic faith: baptisms, confirmations, First Holy Communions, weddings, etc. We also have materials on how to celebrate the liturgical seasons of the year, with particular emphasis on Advent and Lent. You will find religious cards for all occasions, religious articles, statues and crucifixes, as well as a large array of books primarily with a spiritual flavor. We invite you to come down to the store either to browse or to purchase: Monday-Wednesday 10:00-3:00, Thursday-Friday 10:00-6:00, and Sundays 9:30-2:00. You will find wonderful gifts for yourself, family and friends with staff available to answer all your questions.
A SUMMERTIME CHUCKLE
Our minister announced that admission to a church social event would be six dollars per person. “However, if you are over 65,” he said, “the price will be only $5.50.”
From the back of the congregation a woman’s voice rang out, “Do you really think I’d give you that information for only 50 cents?”