The Long Loneliness

by Dorothy Day

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Based on this reading, describe three to five turning points of Dorothy Day’s spiritual journey as described in The Long Loneliness. What were her obstacles to make progress? How did she overcome these obstacles?

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To answer these questions, you might consider the Roman Catholic neighbor whom Dorothy Day found praying by her bedside as a spiritual turning point in her life. Though the Day family was Episcopalian, their family didn't invest much time or energy into the beliefs of the Church. By contrast, this neighbor demonstrated an intense faithfulness in her ordinary life. She was undeterred by Day's interruption and continued with her own prayers after kindly assisting the young girl. Despite being raised in an anti-Catholic home, this encounter was the beginning of Day's altered views of the Catholic faith.

Another point of growth in Day's life might be when she learned she was pregnant with Forster Batterham's child. Forster didn't want a child, believing that the world was too violent; furthermore, he wanted no part of Day's spirituality. Deciding to keep the baby (a daughter whom she named Tamar) and then baptizing her proved too great a conflict between Day and Batterham. Though she was initially heartbroken by the split, Day was led to develop meaningful relationships with others who shared her faith.

A third pivotal point in Day's spiritual journey might be her decision to take Peter Maurin's encouragement and begin a newspaper called the Catholic Worker, which was both radical and religious. It was a call to action, asking readers to embrace Christian principles in their daily lives. This, of course, led to further challenges as Day was led to those who were in dire need of tangible help, namely addicts, the homeless, and the mentally ill. Day used these challenges as an impetus that propelled the Catholic Worker movement.

Day faced numerous obstacles as she sought to provide real help to those in need. One was an oppositional attitude she faced that those she was helping weren't deserving of her efforts. Others attempted to use Scripture to convince her that the ills of society would always be around and that her own efforts were therefore futile. Day refused to become complacent in her efforts, determined to implement change where she was able and to maintain a commitment to the clients whom she sought to help, adopting them into her Christian family.

Please visit the eNotes study guide for more information about this work. You might find the section on themes particularly useful.

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