on June 7, 2005
"The Long Loneliness," is one of the most enriching testimonies of an individual's search and discovery of faith that I have ever read, although I found the first 60 pages a bit slow (about her background and coming of age). I am very happy I persevered, because it only got better and more inspirational, as she began to perceive glimpses of God and tried to learn how best to follow Him.
Dorothy Day was a journalist who lived in the early 1900s and died in 1980. She was raised an agnostic. Her family did not practice a religion. Early in her life she attended churches with neighbors, and loved the feeling of communal worship, but felt discouraged by so many people who attended church only on Sunday and thought that was the end of their religious obligation to others.
An early memory that had a great impact on her was an earthquake during her childhood, in which the families who retained their houses opened their homes to those who had lost theirs, and the community banded together to help each other in brotherly love. She lived her life searching for this sense of community. During her college years she began an activist involved in political causes such as women's voting rights, and labor rights for women and children, and had sympathies with communist organizations, that, from her perspective, seemed to assist the needs of the poor more than any Christian church.
This is a conversion story, much similar to Thomas Merton's "Seven Story Mountain," but which inspired me much more than his good work. She felt an incredible need to worship God, so much that she believes that human beings have a deep psychological need to worship and when their devotion is misplaced on humans rather than the divine, it is a recipe for disaster. The First World War and the Great Depression was the background for her conversion. She worked as a nurse during the War and began attending church with a colleague, but latter returned to writing in an environment where there was less church, but she continued to pray.
She had a common law marriage with a man, whom she loved dearly, but when she became pregnant, she decided that she must have the child baptized so that her daughter would not experience the lack of spiritual support that caused her so much confusion and soul searching. She felt such great love durign her preganancy, that she believed she required a supernatural channel to channel the love. She had hoped to enter a church with her partner as a marriage before God, but he was adamantly opposed to religion and perceived it as a form of imperialism. She left him with her daughter, in order to follow a life that she believed would be pleasing to God. It was not an easy situation for her, as she had hoped for a traditional life, and being a single mother is never and easy vocation in any time period. The anguish she described when she reached the conclusion of what she must do was only a page but it moved me to tears. The situation that the decision evoked was not easy, but reaching the decision for her seemed to be a simple matter, because of her great faith. She wrote about it as occasionally God offers s the same proposition to us that he gave Abraham; to sacrifice something we love in pursuit of Him, whom we should love above all created things. She worte too, that staying with him felt natural, but that she was aspiring for a supernatural life, which requires different considerations when making decisions. I would like to hope that I would have the same faith and courage in a similar situation, but I don't know.
The time period following her separation was difficult for her, and she experienced loneliness, as she searched to discover what would be her niche in the world, according to God's plan. She believed that the antidote for loneliness is involvement in community life. She started the "Catholic Worker" with Peter Maurin (who she felt was sent to her by God as a response to her prayers for guidance in her vocational quest), a paper which reported about the injustices confronted by the poor and that presented articles of helpful advice for struggling families. The paper is still in existence.
She also started a hospitality house that offered food and shelter to those who need it, and a space where people can find a voice. Eventually a chain of such houses grew and now are operating not only across the US, but across the world. Some became retreat centers. Day's life is a perfect testimony of an individual discovering God's love and learning to return the love with faith, not only through worship to God, but also through offering love and help to others.
This is a great book for people seeking to understand what is faith and how does it move people, and a great book for people dealing with difficult situations in their lives when they are seeking to find what it is that they are meant to do with their lives. I recommend her story to every one.
Catholic faith fascinates people. How did her spiritual life develop, and how did it influence the remainder of her life? Many wonderful authors, including but not limited to people such as William Miller, Robert Coles, and most recently Paul Elie, have written extensively about Dorothy Day and help us understand this amazing and complex woman, but nothing is more rewarding than reading the writings of Day herself.
THE LONG LONELINESS is a classic spiritual tome and is often referred to as Day's spiritual autobiography. In many ways it is similar to Thomas Merton's SEVEN STOREY MOUNTAIN, and it is easily a close second in popularity with many Catholics. Though Day's writing style is much drier than Merton's writing and her story is not quite as spellbinding as the artist and aspiring writer turned monk, the reader can sense God working powerfully in Day's life. If the book were published today, it would probably be categorized as a memoir, rather than an autobiography since day does not as much tell her story as reflect on how God called her to a life of faith.
The book is a "must read" for anyone who loves and admires Dorothy Day. It is also a book that will interest people interested in religious social activism. Yet the book may speak most powerfully to those who are on a spiritual quest themselves, either knowingly or unknowingly.
Dorothy Days life story is one that I hope will inspire and motivate many Christians -- many more than it already has. A full-on Bohemian in her twenties, she wrote for Socialist papers, joined strikes and picket lines, and spent her share of time in jail for protests. She was an activists activist.
And then she met Jesus. Actually the Call of the Spirit had been upon her, or inside her, since early childhood, but it wasnt until the birth of her child that she finally acknowledged fully and became a member of the Catholic church.
I can easily identify with her problems and issues with the church -- it always seems to be on the side of the Established, the Rich and Powerful, caring not and giving not to the poor and needy, the oppressed and voiceless. Dorothy found, as too few of us have, that God heart cries out for the poor, Jesus identified himself with the oppressed and voiceless, and, as James said, true religion that God honors is looking after the widowed and the orphans in their distress.
And so, with the help, mentorship and inspiration of her friend Peter Maurin, Dorothy continued her activist ways, in the name of Christ. She started the Catholic Worker newspaper, which championed the causes of the poor and working-class. She and her friends started hospitality houses, taking in and feeding any who needed it.
Like Mother Teresas, Dorothy Days story is really very simple -- she saw what there was to do, she took her Masters words to heart, and she started doing it. Without advanced programs, grants, visioning sessions, without much of a plan at all really, she just started doing it. And she has changed the world in important ways, giving glory to God all along the way. She is a hero of the faith to me, and I hope that God will use me as He chose to use her.
Dorothy Day trained herself as a journalist, a writer, and made her living as such all of her life. This training is evident in her writing -- the book is compact, imagistic, and quick to read. The first half is fairly chronological, as she relates her life up until the point of her conversion and move to New York. After that -- basically after she meets Peter -- it becomes more topical, and the timeline more of a blur. Which was probably true of her life, so much happening and unfolding that its hard to tell what started when and where the endings are, if there are any.
I enjoyed this book, and I learned from it -- most notably that the work of activism, of giving voice to the voiceless, is long and hard, with many defeats. But many defeats add up to slow victory, as we make progress over decades at a time. Things are better than they were in Dorothys heyday, and we owe much of it to her and her contemporaries. We also owe a great debt to her for the life she has modeled for us -- a modern day picture of Christ among the poor, the hope of many.
on February 6, 2001
Between this book and loaves and fishes, I have never been so touched by a single person's writings. I have friends who are all over the spiritual/political spectrum, and I try to get them all to read this book. Day's humility and honesty make for a beautiful work that chronicles her life from childhood, to radicalism, and eventually to the Catholic Worker Community (which ends the long lonliness). Such a beautiful work from such a beautiful person. If you want to be challenged, please buy this book.
on December 10, 2000
Dorothy Day is an absolutely amazing woman, and should be a true inspiration for all Catholics concerned with social justice and care of the poor. The Long Loneliness is Day's autobiography. It details her life, from her childhood until her old age. The book describes how Day's growing concern for the poor leads to a growing inspiration in Catholicism, and how the mysteries of the church deepen her love for other people in her life. Her growing faith is, as to be expected, tinged with doubt, and through this doubt the reader can truly experience Day's humanity. Different experiences, such as her pregnancy, are developed so that readers can begin to see how different moments throughout her life make a profound impact on Day's life and work. In addition to the life of Day herself, this book provides an excellent reference in terms of the beginning points of the Catholic Worker movement. The Catholic Worker has developed houses of hospitality in various cities throughout the United States (135 today), which focus on works of mercy for anyone who needs assistance. The Long Loneliness provides an overview of the history of this movement, from its beginnings as a radical Catholic newspaper, to the founding of the early Houses of Hospitality, to attempts at farming which ultimately failed. Day's autobiography paints a life of Christian love, and is an outstanding work for anyone with a concern for developing a life filled with the richness of service to others.
on November 5, 2005
The Long Loneliness by Dorothy Day has long been held to be an important social document as well as a meaningful written Catholic memoir, because it delves deeply into the intimate conversion experience whereby there is a moving epiphany that changes that person so completely and totally. And The Long Loneliness illustrates that point quite clearly. Even before the Catholic Worker was ever founded by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin, their approach to religious activism was almost on par with other lay Catholic social orgaizations, mirroring the motto of Catholic Action, founded in 1868, the best, whose battle cry is: Prayer. Action. Sacrifice. However, what makes this memoir so appealing is that it is outlined in a belief framework of pragmatic thought and a consistent work ethic, like Opus Dei. Dorothy Day, in the recounting of her conversion and the afteraffects of it, is not given to flights of supernatural fancy or prone to self-created mystical experiences or visions, which, when people do have them, are psychosomatic or psychotic, at best.
There are various reasons why people enter the Catholic Church, and for Day, she wanted her daughter-Tamar-to not flounder in a life of sexual radicalism and voracious wantonness, both of which wounded her quite grievously before she had her conversion experience. Before she became Catholic, Dorothy Day was a doer rather than a sayer; she put action behind her words, and she found comfort in the Gospel: feeding the hungry and clothing the poor. The latter was the very impetus for why The Catholic Worker was established, to make it real, living and vibrant for others. What is recounted in the Long Loneliness is not any caliber of theological scholarship or penetrating analysis of the Gospel. Rather, besides being lived, Catholicism in conjunction with pacificism, economics, helping the downtrodden and the labor movement is thoroughly explored. And yet, simplicity, simplicity, simplicity is exemplified throughout. Through her collected writings, especially her memoir, Dorothy Day illuminated that in accepting the Catholic ideal, everyone must carry their cross if they want the world to be even a slightly better place and that the Catholic faith is not one to take lightly.
on April 9, 2014
This is her autobiography -- she is an amazing soul,
beautiful in outlook, couragous in deed -- always
pushing the "limits" to work for the betterment of the human
situation. What a neat lady!
The other amazing thing I found is that her life takes us
through a time in the history of the US when Worker movements were
just being started. We see some days of WWI, the Depression, WWII,
and beyond. She combined her passion to help the 99% and the
completely down & out, with compassion and lodging and food --
real works of mercy. The many different personalities she met during
her life come to life in only a few words -- she's a gifted writer, which
makes the book read quickly. This is her story, the beginnings of the
Catholic Worker movement, and a time in history that has a lot in common
with our own.
on February 20, 2002
Dorothy takes us step by step through the encounter of Catholic Christianity with the conditions that created reform, radical and unionist movements in the United States in the first half of the 20th century. We see at first hand the tension between reality and the values of an articulate female activist brought up in the Catholic tradition. Once you pick the book up, you won't be able to put it down.
on April 23, 2016
Dorthy Day was an important person in the social justice movement in the 20th century. Unfortunately her name is not well known today. This autobiography is a great introduction to her personal life and work.
on October 7, 2016
I love Dorothy Day! I have read her diary & thought this would be about the same, but it's much more! The book could be reviewed in many ways. One could consider history of the times with dates, novels read, private thoughts, life in general or in particular, relationship to the Church, development of self, religious & spiritual development, her writing, radical, feminine, or maternal movements, love: both physical & other, her conversion to Catholicism, her leanings toward justice, unions or her development to her place in caring for others through the housing, meal, farming set-ups she became famous for. The book is dense but very interesting; I marvel at her memory! I was wondering about the title & finally came to it. Amazing insights she had, including that one. She was so aware of her thoughts, life, spirituality with its duality, love, work & especially always being pulled in two different directions. This is a beautiful, deep, readable book. Dorothy Day is highly intelligent, educated, talented, adjusted in any circumstance. Her emotions were strong: a reader can feel her pain & agony, love, joy! The history of the times is valuable for anyone to get a feel for her experiences & learn. Her spiritual journey is inspiring. Her maternal instincts were deep. I could go on about this strong, amazing, humble, holy woman. But it would take far too many pages & I would not do her or the book justice. So, my advice is: Read this great book! You will not be disappointed no matter which facet you're interested in.