Dorothy Day and Fr Zosima

I’m not sure what had given Dorothy such a warmth for Orthodox Christianity in general and the Russian Orthodox Church in particular, but one of the factors was certainly her love of the books of Dostoevsky, and most of all his novel, The Brothers Karamazov. Perhaps the most important chapter for Dorothy concerns a conversation between a wealthy woman and an elderly monk, Father Zosima. The woman asks him how she can really know that God exists. Fr. Zosima tells her that no explanation or argument can achieve this, only the practice of “active love.” He assures her that there is no other way to know the reality of God. The woman confesses that sometimes she dreams about a life of loving service to others—she thinks perhaps she will become a nun, live in holy poverty and serve the poor in the humblest way. It seems to her such a wonderful thought that it makes tears comes to her eyes. But then it crosses her mind how ungrateful some of the people she is serving will be. Some will complain that the soup she is serving isn’t hot enough, the bread isn’t fresh enough, the bed is too hard, the covers are too thin. She confesses she couldn’t bear such ingratitude—and so her dreams about serving others vanish, and once again she finds herself wondering if there really is a God. To this Fr. Zosima responds with the words, “Love in practice is a hard and dreadful thing compared to love in dreams,” words Dorothy often repeated. I think of the Orthodox monk Father Zosima as somehow a co-founder of all the Catholic Worker houses of hospitality.

By Jim Forrest

 

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Cardinal Bacci on Charitable Works

Charitable Works

1. Christianity is the religion of love. This is not to say that charity is sufficient without justice, for there can be no real charity without justice. But justice cannot always bring us very far. There are many complex and tragic problems which justice alone is powerless to solve. Only Christian love can comfort the human heart and heal some of the deeper wounds of poor suffering humanity. There is a sense in which it is true to say that Christianity is charity. This is what Jesus meant when He said: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12) “God is love and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.” (1 John 4:16) Anyone who is without charity is not really a Christian. Egoism is the absolute negation of Christianity. The egoist is deaf to human sorrows and loves only himself. A Christian should love God above all things and his neighbour as himself.

2. When Jesus was asked what was the first commandment, He replied: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind, and with thy whole strength. This is the first commandment. And the second is like it. Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is no other commandment greater than this.” (Mark 12:30-31) As St. Augustine says, the love of God and the love of our neighbour are two branches of the same tree, the tree of charity. “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother,” St. John warns us, “he is a liar.” (1 John 4:20) We must prove our love for God by showing charity towards our neighbour. All men are our brothers in Jesus Christ, Who has redeemed us by His precious blood. Our Lord has said that He will regard as done for Himself anything which we do for the least of our brethren. (Mt. 25:40) Like the Saints, we should see Jesus Himself living in the poor and suffering. The Saints gave Him everything they had, not only their possessions, but also their toil and love. Think how much those missionaries do who leave everything in order to go to foreign lands and win souls for Christ. Think of the charitable work of the sisters and nurses in the hospitals, asylums and orphanages. What are we doing ?

3. As well as the corporal works, there are the spiritual works of mercy. Everyone is not obliged to undertake the former; they would be impossible, for instance, for the destitute. But everyone is obliged to undertake the latter. Sometimes a kind word is more valuable than money. There are many ways in which we can carry out the spiritual works of mercy. There is the well-timed and understanding advice we can give to others; the visit to a sick man who is alone in his sufferings; the friendly and encouraging visit to an unfortunate prisoner; the tactful and patient instruction we can give to those who have gone astray through ignorance rather than through malice; and at times the rebuke we can administer to a hardened sinner in such a way as to make it quite clear that our only motive is to win him back to the real happiness which only goodness can give. Remember, however, that the practice of the spiritual works of mercy does not excuse us from the exercise of material works of charity whenever that is possible for us. (Cf. James 2:16)

Easy Essays of Peter Maurin

Peter Maurin’s Easy Essays speak volumes and are a good subject for meditation and will be a regular feature of the CVM blog. Here is a good one to start with.

 

Works of Mercy

In the first centuries of Christianity

pagans said about Christians:

“See how they love each other.”

The love for God and neighbour

was the characteristic

of the first Christians.

This love was expressed

through the daily practice

of the Works of Mercy.

To feed the hungry,

to clothe the naked,

to shelter the homeless,

to instruct the ignorant

at a personal sacrifice

was considered

by the first Christians

as the right thing to do.

Surplus goods were considered

to be superfluous,

and therefore to be used

to help the needy members

of the Mystical Body.