The Long Loneliness

by Dorothy Day

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What are three to five turning points in Dorothy Day's spiritual journey in The Long Loneliness, and how did she overcome her 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.

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Based on The Long Loneliness, describe three to five turning points in Day’s spiritual journey. What were her obstacles to making progress? How did she overcome these obstacles?

Day's spiritual journey in the first part of her life involved leaving behind her identity as a bohemian and communist to embrace a new path as a Catholic pacifist.

One obstacle in her path was the secular way she was raised by her middle-class family. Her parents did not take their Episcopal religion seriously, and although Dorothy was deeply moved by the examples of faith she witnessed in working-class Catholics, it ran against the grain of how she was raised to devote her life to Christ and the Catholic Church. She overcame this obstacle after she had a conversion experience at Catholic University in Washington, DC. She was helped in her journey as she studied Roman Catholicism with Catholic priests and sisters.

Another obstacle to her spiritual path was her partner, Forster. She loved him but knew that if she had their daughter baptized, he would leave her. The two had led a bohemian existence by refusing to marry and by rejecting religion in favor of embracing radical politics. To Forster, baptizing their child was hypocritical and superstitious. Dorothy did so anyway because, having had an abortion and believing she was, as a result, incapable of a bearing a child, the baby seemed to her to be a miracle. She decided that she had to be strong enough to put her faith over her relationship. This act did end the relationship.

Another obstacle was her former dedication to communism. She saw many parallels between communism and Christianity but feared that her communist friends, who rejected religion, would ridicule her. She overcame this, in part, by realizing that she could no longer agree with the communist reliance on violence as the avenue to change. She also overcame her fear of losing her dedication to social justice causes by folding social justice action into her faith.

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