Loaves and Fishes

by Dorothy Day

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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 429

God provides: A recurrent theme of the book is that God provides for the material needs of the faithful, as in indicated in the title Loaves and Fishes. This title refers to the biblical story in which the disciples of Jesus despair that they do not have more than a few loaves of bread and small fish to feed 5,000 people who have gathered to hear Jesus. Through a miracle, God provides all the food they need and more. The Catholic Worker movement is likewise financially precarious and generally on the brink of financial disaster, but Day shows that God comes through. For example, having rashly turned down the offer of a badly needed bigger Catholic Worker House in New York, Day decides to pray. She writes to Gertrude Burke and a house comes to the group. In another case, when the group had overdrawn their bank account by $200, Day came home to find a woman who, not knowing the group's situation, had left a check for $200.00. This is not "prosperity gospel," as Day and her movement embrace poverty and live in often uncomfortable situations, but a life of vulnerability and trust.

Faith must be lived in action: Day's book illustrates an almost dizzying world of action. Day admires people who get out into the world, get their hands dirty, and live out their faith, especially when it involves sacrifice. She herself models this type of Christian behavior. While she prays and attends Mass daily, she doesn't stop there. She feeds the poor, houses the poor, advocates for the poor, and works tirelessly to build a better society. Her example and that of the people around her is meant to inspire not just faith, but action.

The poor are important: Day never despises the poor or blames them for their problems. Instead, she treats them with dignity and respect as brothers and sisters. She does not romanticize the difficulties that this can cause, but she never wavers in her belief that the poor deserve our compassion and are more sinned against the sinning.

Love is the glue that holds the universe together: This may be the most important theme of all. Day believes unwaveringly in the power of love to heal a broken world. What saves the book from becoming simply an account of a "movement" is Day's simple, loving voice and the honesty and attention with which she treats even the least of those around her. She tells the stories of those she encounters in ways that depict their humanity and never fails to show compassion for their struggles.

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