“Indiscriminate Hospitality” (Dorothy Day and Robert Ellsberg)

For Dorothy Day . . . “spirituality and her social witness were equally rooted in the radical implications of the Incarnation. In Christ God assumed our humanity. And we could not worship God without honoring God’s image in our fellow human beings. We should feed them when they were hungry; shelter them when they were homeless. We should not torture them; we should not kill them. In the 1950s Day and the Catholic Worker took on a more activist profile. She was repeatedly jailed for refusing to take shelter during compulsory civil defense drills in New York City. In the 1960s her activities reflected the turbulence of the times—protesting the Vietnam War, fasting in Rome during the Second Vatican Council to advance the cause of peace. She was last arrested while picketing with the United Farm Workers in 1973 at the age of seventy-five. By this time she was widely honored as the radical conscience of the American Catholic church. But her life was not primarily occupied by activism or protest. She was a woman of prayer, beginning each day with meditation on scripture, attending daily Mass, and reciting the breviary [daily psalms, scripture readings, and prayers]. By and large, her life was spent in very ordinary ways, her sanctity expressed not just in heroic deeds but in the mundane duties of everyday life. Her ‘spirituality’ was rooted in a constant effort to be more charitable toward those closest at hand.” Robert Ellsberg

“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement
give you the same attitude of mind toward each other
that Christ Jesus had . . . .” Rom. 15:5 NIV

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Imagine the cognitive dissonance required to claim faith in God, while at the same time torturing or killing creatures made by God, loved by God, precious to God.
  • The simple daily life of Dorothy Day was both “ordinary” and “heroic” because she practiced something “ordinary” (hospitality) in a “heroic” manner (indiscriminately). Can you be indiscriminate when it comes to hospitality?
  • Is there a quiet, prayerful side of your life that enables you to rise to the mundane duties of everyday life in a simple, and perhaps even sometimes, heroic way?

God, help me to honor those you love without any preconditions.

For More: Modern Spiritual Masters: Writings on Contemplation and Compassion. Ed. Robert Ellsberg. New York: Maryknoll: 2008.

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Thanks for reading my blog. Please extend my reach by reposting on your social media platforms. If you like these topics and this approach, you’ll like my book Wisdom From the Margins.

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