Loaves and Fishes

by Dorothy Day

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Dorothy Day: Dorothy Days writes this account of the Catholic Worker movement she founded in simple language without romanticizing or whitewashing the difficulties of helping the poor. She discusses her Christian faith, her belief in social justice, her respect for the poor, her faith in love, and the work of making the world a place where it is easier for people to be good. She comes across as an assertive, fearless, high-energy person who lived out a fusion of political activism, social activism, and Christianity.

Peter Maurin: The book opens with Maurin's arrival in Day's life, and he is a central character in the story. Day describes the coming of the enthusiastic Frenchman, bent on changing the world, as nothing short of providential, giving her the intellectual fuel she needed to move forward. It is with his encouragement that she begins her influential newspaper, the Catholic Worker, and launches Catholic Worker hospitality houses and farming communities. She depicts him as eccentric, energetic, and never without a plan. The two create a vibrant partnership based on shared ideas of radical reform of the social order meshed with Catholic theology. She admires him for living out his belief in poverty, for wanting people to believe in his ideas and not him, and his unwavering belief in God's provision.

Gertrude Burke: Burke was one of a group of rich women who generously supported the Catholic Worker movement. Burke is notable for having donated the Mott Street building in New York City to be a Catholic Worker house. Later she would sponsor black children from Harlem to come out to the Catholic Worker farm on Statin Island.

Mr. Breen: Mr. Breen was one of the colorful characters who populated the Mott Street Catholic Worker house in the early days. A difficult person and a racist, he was nevertheless accepted as part of the community. His acceptance illustrated, as Day puts it, quoting St. John: "Where there is no love, put love, and you will take out love."

Ammon Hennacy: A different sort of figure from Mr. Breen, Hennacy became an important anti-war activist during the period when the Catholic Worker movement was protesting the atom bomb. Day admired Hennacy for so wholly and actively living his beliefs.

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