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November 29 – Dorothy Day

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt

Read Psalm 42:1-4

As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?

More thoughts for meditation about Dorothy Day

Dorothy Day was born in Brooklyn Heights in 1897 to stable, middle class  and marginally Christian parents. After her family experienced several major relocations, Day was raised mostly in San Francisco and Chicago. After two years of college, she dropped out of school in Illinois and moved back to New York City. During these younger years, Day’s interest in adventure grew to include alternative social organizations, particularly socialist anarchism. She began working with several socialist publications around 1916.

Although she had been baptized in the Episcopal Church as a child, at this point she identified as agnostic. The next few years were full of adventure and rocky relationships including heartbreak, abortion, a short marriage, and then an unexpected pregnancy and birth of her daughter, Tamar in 1926. She wished to baptize her child, which caused more tension in her relationship with Tamar’s father. A year later, Tamar was baptized and so was Dorothy, now part of the Catholic church.

In 1932 she met French immigrant Peter Maurin with whom a year later  she would found the Catholic Worker movement. The publication of The Catholic Worker (almost named the Catholic Radical) began in 1933 and continues to be published. It’s goals were to promote Catholic social teaching in the depths of the Great Depression and to stake out a neutral, pacifist position in the war-torn 1930s.  The vision grew to include “establishing houses of hospitality to care for the destitute, establishing rural farming communities to teach city dwellers agrarianism and encourage a movement back to the land, and setting up roundtable discussions in community centers in order to clarify thought and initiate action.”

She became famous for saying “I have long since come to believe that people never mean half of what they say, and that it is best to disregard their talk and judge only their actions.” By 1941 over 30 independent yet affiliated Catholic Worker communities had formed in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. While the Catholic leaders told her to change the name of the publication because it did not represent the Church, they refused. By the 1960’s, Day became enamored by Catholics, organizers, and counterculture leaders. While maintaining radical social ideas and practice, she opposed the sexual revolution of the decade, describing the ill effects she had suffered years before. She continued to be critical of transnational companies like United Fruit and violent governmental policies and praised aspects of Communist movements in Russia, China, and Cuba.

Day was a prolific writer and joined movements for justice. At 75, she spent a week in jail helping Cesar Chavez working for justice for farm workers in California. Dorothy Day died on this day in 1980, three weeks after her 83rd birthday.

More:

The Catholic Worker Movement homepage [link]

The Dorothy Day Collection [link]

Day teaching on TV [link]

Suggestions for action

Dorothy Day’s radical views and uncompromising caused her grief and trouble. But her long loneliness, as she called it, made her faith deep and her influence wide. What is it that you must do?

March 20 – Gordon Cosby

Today’s Bible reading

Read 2 Corinthians 5:6-11

Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

More thoughts for meditation about Gordon Cosby

On this day in 2013 Gordon Cosby died at the age of 95, just a few years after retiring.

In 1944 Cosby helped invade Utah Beach on D-Day, where he witnessed enormous loss and served those injured and dying. From then on he was convinced of the futility of war and convicted to help the church equip people to make the transition into what is after death.

He planted the Church of the Savior in Washington, D.C. in 1946. By 1953 the group had become more official and had also purchased land in Maryland to build a retreat lodge for silence and rest. Over the years nine faith communities and several notable non-profits formed with Gordon and his wife Mary serving as catalysts.

As an activist, Cosby participated in numerous non-violent direct actions as well as creating space for people to organize for justice. In 1960, his church began the first Christian coffeehouse as a place to get the church further into needed social spaces in the world rather than being cloistered. Cosby led people to BE the church for over sixty years, beginning successful and lasting ministries for foster kids, the homeless, people with HIV/AIDS, housing creation, and job training,  The Church of the Savior has been a pioneer in numerous inward practices and disciplines such as retreating and linkage between urban and rural areas, as well as on the forefront of outward practices such as racial reconciliation and local justice work.

Jim Wallis of Sojourners recounts (link below) “Gordon Cosby never needed or wanted to be out front or become a famous public figure. He could have spoken across the country, and was often invited to do so. But he instead decided that his own vocation was to stay with a relatively small group of people trying to “be the church” in Washington, D.C.: the Church of the Saviour, which has produced more missions and ministries, especially with the poor, than any church I know of anywhere in the country — even the huge mega-churches who capture all the fame. He never…went on television, talked to presidents, planted more churches, built national movements, or traveled around the world. He just inspired everybody else to do all those things and much more. And the world came to him.”

Cosby has been credited as a mentor or inspiration by countless ministries, leaders, activists, pastors, and churches over the decades, including Circle of Hope. In a sermon in 1989, Cosby said “Faith is trusting the flow and reveling in the view and being carried beyond all existing boundaries. Faith is being excited about the final destination, even when the destination is mystery. When Jesus says, ‘Believe in God, believe also in me,’ he is saying, Get into the stream with us. It is a stream of pure grace and mercy. Go into its depths and find us there.”

More:

Church of the Savior online [link]

Obituary from Ched Myers’ blog [link]

Four minute piece on NPR’s All Things Considered [link]

Memorial piece in Washington Post [link]

Articles by Cosby on Sojourners [link]

Jim Wallis on Cosby [link] and his interview with Mary [link]

Suggestions for action

Gordon Cosby wrote several books. His Handbook for Mission Groups was influential in how we decided to form our compassion teams. You might want to check it out.

What do you think of Cosby’s conviction to stay local? He poured himself into his territory in Washington D.C. and into the people of his church. He resisted the fame game. How do you see yourself? Do you long to be more honored than you are?