The Long Loneliness

by Dorothy Day

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Dorothy Day: As is natural in an autobiography, Day towers as the protagonist. As she moves from communism to Roman Catholicism, she maintains the character traits that made her who she was: steely strength of will, compassion, leadership, fearlessness, forthrightness, and integrity. What Day believed in, be it communism or Christianity, she lived. Day emerges as a model of the person who "walked the walk" rather than "talked the talk." If Christianity called for feeding the poor, Day fed the poor. She lived as a bold champion of the downtrodden, and a formidable person who faced rather than ran from challenges. The portrait of her that emerges is not one of angelic sweetness, but of sharp courage and resolution as well as great faith.

Forster Batterham: Called Forster in the autobiography, Batterham was Day's lover, and in her eyes, common-law husband, in the late 1920s. Day uses lyrical language to describe their time together on Staten Island, where she had bought a beach "shack," as she called it, on a lonely tip of the island. Day characterizes Forster as a biologist and a somewhat weak loner who liked to row out by himself to fish. He was deeply dedicated to the communism movement. A pivotal moment in Day's life was her decision to baptize their baby, Tamar, as a Catholic, since Day knew this would break up the relationship and thrust her from love into loneliness.

Peter Maurin: Friends introduced Day to the fifty-something Frenchman Peter Maurin in the early 1930s. She wrote that that his "spirit and ideas" came to dominate her life. The Catholic intellectual and Day began a fertile partnership that lasted to the end of Maurin's life and made the Catholic Worker movement what it was. Day referred to Maurin as a "peasant," a word of praise from her. She described him as "intensely alive" and filled with a generosity of spirit that assumed people had unlimited potential as children of God. As Day put it, he saw Christ in people and "rejoiced to see men do great things and dream great dreams."

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