Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Tom and Dorothy

"What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves? This is the most important of all voyages of discovery, and without it, all the rest are not only useless, but disastrous."
Thomas Merton
"Don't call me a saint. I don't want to be dismissed so easily."
Dorothy Day
To the best of my knowledge, Thomas Merton and Dorothy Day never met. There is no mention of their meeting in Michael Mott's seven-hundred page biography of Merton, nor does Day mention anything about their paths crossing in her memoirs. This is not terribly surprising; With very few exceptions, Merton rarely ventured outside the gates of Our Lady of Gethsemami monastery between the years 1941 and 1968, and only twice during that period of years did he leave the state of Kentucky. Although they did exchange letters, their correspondence apparently was not voluminous.
But it is kind of strange to think that these two extraordinary people - who more than anyone else personified progressive Catholicism in the twentieth century - were virtual strangers to each other.
Pope Francis
While watching Pope Francis address a joint session of Congress on Thursday, I almost fell out of my chair when he mentioned Merton and Day as two of the four Americans he admired most (the other two being Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King). I've been an admirer of Merton and Day for decades and have written separate pieces about them on this site. So little has been written about Dorothy Day in recent years that, after the pope mentioned her and thousands of people across America commenced to google her name, the piece I wrote on July 10, 2006 was one of the first things that they saw. I got a lot of hits on that day thanks to his holiness. I would have much preferred if he had mentioned The Rant by name, but we must be satisfied with what we get.

Dorothy back in the day
Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day - and Pope Francis - are radical reminders that progressive policies and Christianity are not, by any means, mutually exclusive. If you want a clearer understanding of what I'm talking about, do a google search of Jesus Christ's Sermon on the Mount. There is not a word in there that has a thing to do with the platform of the modern-day conservative movement - Nada. Blessed are the meek? In case you've failed to take notice, under right wing governance the meek haven't done very well at all. Although the middle class has done a bit better under Obama, it is still in danger of extinction in this country. It is in the so-called "red states" of this nation where they struggle the hardest. The most progressive country on this planet is arguably Norway. The happiest people on this planet are the Norwegians. Countless studies have proven this. Someday maybe America will put two-and-two together - but I'm not going to hold my breath.

Merton in the fifties
As my friend Annette Fedor Lemma remarked the other day on her Facebook page, "I've always thought converts make the best Catholics." She was referring to Thomas Merton and Dorothy Day, both of whom were baptized on the other side of the faith. Both of their conversions were earth-shattering in their personal lives. Although the two of them experienced brief flirtations with Communism in their youths, the similarities end there:

She went out into the world as an activist; he withdrew into the walls of a monastery; she founded the Catholic Worker Newspaper, a publication dedicated to economic justice for the poor and the homeless (the meek) which, eighty-two years after its founding, still sells for a penny per copy; he wrote Seven Story Mountain, a 1948 autobiography which was a tonic for many in the post war era who had become spiritually jaded in the aftermath of the most barbaric war in the history of the human race; she smoked cigarettes; he loved beer. What they had in common - whether they realized it or not - was that they were two of the last century's great spiritual guides. Both of them hungered and thirsted for righteousness.

FUN FACT: Both Thomas Merton and Dorothy Day had files in J. Edgar Hoover's FBI. I love it!. To be perfectly blunt with you, I'm suspicious of anyone of note who lived in that era that wasn't on Hoover's shit list. Think about it: Martin Luther King, Charlie Chaplin, Eleanor Roosevelt, John Lennon - Tom and Dorothy are in pretty good company!

January 31 of this year marked the centennial of Merton's birth. He died on December 10, 1968 in Bangkok, Thailand, where he was attending an interfaith conference of Christian and non-Christian monks. He was electrocuted when he touched an electric fan with faulty wiring. He was fifty-three years old.

Dorothy Day died peacefully in her old age on November 29, 1980, at the age of eighty-three. The world press barely took notice of either of them when they passed into eternity.

On September 24, 2015, Pope Francis gently forced America and the world to take notice.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


The Long Loneliness
by Dorothy Day

Seven Storey Mountain
by Thomas Merton

Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker


Thomas Merton 1915-1968


The last two are by yours truly. Not to toot my own horn but....


At 1:08 PM, Blogger Chuck Morre said...


I'm glad for your post because it required me to research the meaning of "blessed are the meek". I also want to thank you for clearing stating your position comes from one of a Christian progressive. For just as a conservative Christian will understand this passage in light of their political stand, so will a Progressive Christian.

However, to understand the words of Jesus outside the readers political view, one needs to understand the language of Jesus and the writers of the Bible. That is what I am asking you to do with the following quote.

"In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus opens with a series of statements known as the Beatitudes. The third Beatitude is “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). Jesus’ words echo Psalm 37:11, which says, “The meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity.” What does it mean that the meek are “blessed”?

First, we must understand what it means to be blessed. The Greek word translated “blessed” in this verse can also be translated “happy.” The idea is that a person will have joy if he or she is meek. The blessedness is from God’s perspective, not our own. It is a spiritual prosperity, not necessarily an earthly happiness.

Also, we must understand what “meek” means. The Greek word translated “meek” is "praeis" and refers to mildness, gentleness of spirit, or humility. Other forms of this Greek word are used elsewhere in the New Testament, including James 1:21 and James 3:13. Meekness is humility toward God and toward others. It is having the right or the power to do something but refraining for the benefit of someone else. Paul urged meekness when he told us “to live a life worthy of the calling [we] have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:1–2).

Meekness models the humility of Jesus Christ. As Philippians 2:6–8 says, “[Jesus], being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” Being “in the very nature God,” Jesus had the right to do whatever He wanted, but, for our sake, He submitted to “death on a cross.” That is the ultimate in meekness.

Believers are called to share the gospel message in gentleness and meekness. First Peter 3:15 instructs, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” The KJV translates the word for “gentleness” here as “meekness.”

Someone who knows Christ as personal Savior will be growing in meekness. It may seem counterintuitive, but Jesus’ promise stands—a meek person will be happy or blessed. Living in humility and being willing to forego one’s rights for the benefit of someone else models the attitude of Jesus Christ. Meekness also helps us to more effectively share the gospel message with others. Striving for power and prestige is not the path to blessedness. Meekness is."

It takes a meek person to admit they can not be good enough to escape the punishment due them when they break the laws of God.

What do you think?

At 3:10 PM, Blogger T. Paine said...

Chuck, thank you for your excellent comments above. You are absolutely correct in what you have written. Further, meekness is not something to be attributed exclusively with one political party or the other. I have met and call as my friends people of varying political persuasions that are all very good Christians. "Meekness" as you defined it above, is one of the qualities they all have in common.

I truly wish we could all come together more in that spirit instead of the ridiculous and juvenile casting of aspersions that occurs between people with differing political views. And yes, while I typically try to do so charitably, I often am guilty of this too.

At 3:51 PM, Blogger Tom Degan said...

I get a lot of comments on this site - some good, some not so good. That was wonderful. Keep 'em coming.

For the record, I am not implying that one party or the other has th market cornered on "meekness".

Tom Degan

At 4:34 PM, Blogger Dave Dubya said...

Meekness doesn't exist in politics, unfortunately. It would be called "weakness"; a favorite word used by Cheney and the far Right to demonize Obama and Democrats.

The pope, on the other hand, walks the walk. He actually visits prisons and washes inmates' feet.

No politician will ever do that.

While Obama may be the first president to visit a prison, and his community organizing was a service to the meek among us, his capricious power over life and death (Drones) and service to the servants of mammon (Pushing the TPP, and no prosecutions for Wall Street swindlers) leave him standing as just another politician.

Political ideology, extreme religious fundamentalism, nationalism, militarism, xenophobia and hate will often blind us to the fact we are all children of God.

So far the pope has been the "uniter, not a divider".


At 5:38 PM, Blogger Chuck Morre said...

Well TP, for a few hours honest adult, non political, non bashing dialog, the kind that Tom said was wonderful, could be found here. Then Davy came along.
Knew it was too good to last.

P.S. The Pope is not a politician, he is the leader of a Christian denomination.

At 5:39 PM, Blogger Annette Lemma said...

Some states are red, some are blue, but I think the state of Grace is purple. Deep, rich, passionate purple - a blend of all that is good.

Peace & Love,

At 7:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I get a lot of comments on this site - some good, some not so good. That was wonderful. Keep 'em coming.

Tom, try running some of Chuck Morre's comments through google, and you'll see it's a copy and paste job.

"Chuck Morre" why don't you share with us the name of the author; the person who wrote the words you posted? I mean, rather than letting people think you wrote them yourself?

At 7:58 PM, Blogger T. Paine said...

Sigh... as to some of the other comments.

Annette, you are so right. God bless!

At 8:28 PM, Blogger Chuck Morre said...


I said my in my post the following was a quote. Even used quotation marks. Yet you posted:
"I mean, rather than letting people think you wrote them yourself?"

Not my fault if you haven't mastered reading and comprehension. I never claimed I wrote the entire post.
What is your problem?

At 8:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, it didn't take very long for the name calling hate filled, extremely dangerous, radical far right to start slinging mud, did it. Typical of them, pure divisiveness ...

At 9:22 AM, Blogger Chuck Morre said...

Anonymous said...

"for the name calling hate filled, extremely dangerous, radical far right to start slinging mud"

Examples please.

At 11:32 AM, Blogger Dave Dubya said...

Anonymous is correct. Chuckie insulted me personally again, as if HE were being the adult here, instead of addressing the points. Same old hate.

Then he accused Anonymous of "you haven't mastered reading and comprehension" when it was Chuckie's fault for failing to indicate what was quoted and the source. He failed to indicate a large block quotation and failed to provide the proper quote within a quote marks to indicate and clarify his copy and paste.


Just the Facts.

At 11:52 AM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

Speaking of Frankie Goes to Hollywood for Ugly People and Kentucky, why the hell did he secretly meet with Kim Davis?

At 12:21 PM, Blogger Chuck Morre said...

Please forgive me Davy for pointing out you had brought politics into the thread with your post. I should know by now that if I post anything you disagree with you will feel I'm being hateful.

forgive me for you not understanding what I meant when I said the following quote and then used quota quotation marks to clearly show what was being quoted. I will at no charge to you, offer you basic English Comprehension class on line, if you give me your name and email address.

I hope both of you can forgive me for being so insensitive.

At 12:50 PM, Blogger Dave Dubya said...

Chuckie translated:

"Please forgive me as I ignore facts and insult you one more time."

At 2:50 PM, Blogger T. Paine said...

Well Chuck, at least you began the comment thread on a positive note, even if many of those that followed didn't also follow your example.

At 3:34 PM, Blogger Dave Dubya said...


Are you referring to, or ignoring, Chuckie's unprovoked personal attacks? He had no business insinuating HE was the "adult" and that I wasn't, especially in light of his personal attacks.

I suppose those are invisible to some folks due to their habitual SOP.

You have no idea how reprehensible and dishonest that person has been. I'm surprised you can't see his continuing MO of posting under stolen names, responding to statements directed to "Chuck Morre".

But then again, I'm not surprised by the biased process of partisan selective interpretation. It can happen to anyone.

I gave facts, and mentioned no one personally here. He started that personal crap, and if you can't see that, then I wonder what you CAN see.

At 4:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

GOP Benghazi Probe Now Longer than Watergate, Pearl Harbor & JFK Assassination
Spending by the Benghazi Select Committee has already outpaced the entire annual budget of the House Intelligence Committee, with the Benghazi Committee’s 18 GOP staffers enjoying an average full-time salary of more than $128,000 per year.

At 5:40 PM, Blogger T. Paine said...

Anonymous, it sure would be nice if Hillary would have cooperated from the beginning with that committee, admitted her wrong-doing, and accepted the consequences. Instead, she keeps stone-walling and hoping it will just go away... meanwhile she is costing the taxpayers even more money because she is uncooperative.

Dave, I see all sides. I have grown too thin-skinned with some of the rhetoric and nonsense too. You are guilty of this also, my friend. You are expecting to be offended with every post that Chuck makes; therefore, you respond in kind or provoke a verbal attack when none was otherwise forthcoming perhaps.

It would be far better for all of us to argue the issues than resort to the attacks.

At 6:08 PM, Blogger Dave Dubya said...

Good. I'm glad you saw Chuckie's unfounded personal attack AFTER his initial copy and paste. I'm not offended, just calling him out on it. I expect nothing civil from him by now. As I said, I can't hate a snake for being a snake.

I must have misinterpreted your "Attaboy" for him.

I prefer discussing issues, but Chuckie really does love to get personal. He can't focus on issues. When he demanded I prove him wrong, I did, like countless times before. Then he gets nasty.

Enough of him.

Could you tell us what specific crime, with supporting evidence, you believe Hillary should be charged? After all the tax dollars Republicans have spent, and their recent gloating that it undermines her support, why hasn't there been a formal charge? So far it fits the "politics of personal destruction" format, at public cost, over discovery of an actual crime.

Can you enlighten us?

At 9:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ROME — Vatican officials announced on Friday that Pope Francis did not hold a private meeting with Kim Davis last week in Washington — as has been widely reported — but that Ms. Davis was among dozens of guests ushered into the Vatican’s Embassy in Washington for a brief meeting with him.

Francis was unaware of the specifics of the case of Ms. Davis, the Rowan County, Ky., clerk who has refused to grant a marriage license to a gay couple, despite a judge’s orders that she do so. The case has become a focal point in the debate over the tensions between religious liberty and marriage equality in the United States.

“Pope Francis met with several dozen persons who had been invited by the Nunciature to greet him as he prepared to leave Washington for New York City,” the Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said in a statement released on Friday morning, referring to the Vatican’s term for its embassy.

Father Federico added: “Such brief greetings occur on all papal visits and are due to the pope’s characteristic kindness and availability. The only real audience granted by the pope at the Nunciature was with one of his former students and his family.”

“The pope did not enter into details of the situation of Ms. Davis, and his meeting with her should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects,” he said.


" it sure would be nice if Hillary would have cooperated from the beginning with that committee, admitted her wrong-doing, and accepted the consequences."

Back to Dave's question:
Could you tell us what specific crime, with supporting evidence, you believe Hillary should be charged? After all the tax dollars Republicans have spent, and their recent gloating that it undermines her support, why hasn't there been a formal charge? So far it fits the "politics of personal destruction" format, at public cost, over discovery of an actual crime.

Also, off the top of your head, can you recall the names of the victims of the dozen-plus consulate/embassy attacks that occurred while George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were in the White House?

At 11:12 AM, Anonymous HarleyA said...

I'm sure if she's done anything wrong, we'll be able to find it in her personal email accounts. Shouldn't be difficult...

At 11:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"HarleyA" couldn't think of a single name?

No googling! Remember, a name off the top of your head.

At 12:28 PM, Anonymous HarleyA said...

I was making a little joke. Lighten up. Take a deep breath... Enjoy the weekend.

At 7:05 PM, Anonymous James Hansen said...


Davey, you are so smart with punctuation. Why don't you go to night school to get out of your prison of underachievement?

At 7:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

U.S. Embassy and Consulate attacks under George W. Bush

January 22, 2002: US Consulate at Kolkata, 5 killed.
June 14, 2002: US Consulate at Karachi, 12 killed.
February 28, 2003: US Embassy at Islamabad, 2 killed.
June 30, 2004: US Embassy at Tashkent, 2 killed.
December 6. 2004: US Compound at Saudi Arabia, 9 killed.
March 2, 2006: US Consulate in Karachi, 2 killed.
September 12, 2006: US Embassy at Syria, 4 killed.
March 18, 2008: US Embassy at Yemen, 2 killed.
July 9, 2008: US Consulate at Istanbul, 6 killed.
September 17, 2008: US Embassy at Yemen, 16 killed.

Total deathes: 60

Outraged Republicans: 0

At 9:08 PM, Blogger Marty from North Dakota said...

I'd be curious to know how one can be Vicar of Christ while harboring Cardinal Bernard Law from appeals for justice?


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