Mark and Rex highlight two powerful Christian voices of the 20th century: Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton.
Welcome to Jessup think I’m your host Mark Moore, and your co host Rex Gurney. And Rex On today’s episode, we’re gonna highlight two American writers, okay, bankers, who also both happened to be Catholic, who have have made an impact on American culture. But maybe you’re not as well known within the evangelical community. So we want to highlight them today. Okay.
And and these are two people that I for one had never heard of until I got into college, actually. And maybe even after that, I sort of grew up in a Catholic free world. And Ryan, I would never even know these people. I’m only to find out like, I found a whole lot of things out that they’re like world famous, and I just had never heard of. So.
Yeah, so we’re excited to dive into kind of a story of Dorothy Day, and Thomas Merton. So hope you enjoy.
Rex in 2015, Pope Francis actually became the first pontiff to address a joint session of the United States Congress, which I think is pretty cool. I remember that I remember watching him. And if you if you haven’t read, I’m sure you probably have you may, you may be already like posted on the wall in your office, I don’t know. But if you haven’t read the full transcript of that speech is actually extremely powerful, and covers a lot of ground. And he in the speech, he highlights for Americans that he’s been kind of deeply influenced by and who have influenced the world. And those four Americans are Abraham Lincoln. Check. Yeah, Martin Luther King, Jr. Check. Dorothy Day Who? Yeah, who I’m sure there were members of Congress are like, well, and Thomas Merton, huh. And, yeah, so it’s really interesting that those are the four. Yeah, and exactly your response, right. It’s like, we know, we know the story in the folklore of Abraham Lincoln. And, and we know MLK, and the work that he did, and, and Francis references both of them in their, in their messages, their messages of freedom. and and the the dream for justice, that MLK had that, that Francis said, He’s still influenced by that dream, and is still driven by that dream. And then he, yeah, he’s like, but I, but I also have to reference to maybe lesser known Americans, and endorsed today, so So today on the show, like you and I’ve kind of talked about this, we’re really just want to kind of maybe let our listeners know, a little bit about Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton, because in the evangelical community that both you and I grew up in, it was kind of a, we didn’t hear a lot about them. And maybe, particularly because they came from the Catholic tradition, and then there was there was this kind of division, that has been kind of narrowing, right, like, as has been lessening, which I think has been really good. And, and, and both of their stories are actually really interesting. They have some some unique similarities. Right. Right. And then they also have I mean, I think there’s a lot of application for us. I definitely think that, Jeff, I want to kind of, kind of dive into maybe Dorothy Day first. Okay, when when did you first kind of maybe hear about Dorothy Day? Or how did that you
know, I sort of don’t remember I, I want to say when I was like introduced to her writings, but honestly, you know, I’m probably thinking of Thomas Merton sort of Dorothy Day when I’m talking about writings I she wrote the long loneliness or a long biography, which is great and haunting died. Oh, yeah. It’s amazing. And if you know about her life, which I’m sure we’ll we’ll talk about, you can see our literary associations Also, you can see right, we come up with the title like that, but yeah, I don’t really remember I I remember knowing about Martin a little bit just, um, well, honestly, just when I started getting interested in, you know, the religious history of America. Yeah. And one thing I do when I, when I teach a course, that we teach every year here, history of religion in America, or every two years now, one thing that I’m wanting to do is just introduce my students to these people that I had never heard of that actually are really important in right, especially in the 1950s. It’s like, this guy’s one of the most famous Christian Jamboree figures in the 50s that you’ve never heard of, you know, right on the Samaritan, and probably the only Well, I tried to make a little, you know, fun of the fact that nobody’s ever heard of the trap as either it’s like he’s he’s probably the most famous monk in In America, probably the only famous monk in America. Thomas Merton. Right, but he certainly was. And yeah, it’s good to know who he is.
Yeah, it was and that would be Yeah, with the the writing side too. I mean, I think I was introduced to Martin before Dorothy Day, and now would have been kind of in college in that in a in a time of my life when I was longing for a deeper version of spirituality and her
story so cool as you know, I grew up where you always had your what BC and I don’t know ad stories you when you when you sit around this in the Yeah, in the circle and youth group and you know, tell your, your testimony, right and write good kids like me would always be embarrassed because everybody else had these great druggie testimonies, and it’s like, pick something up. But yeah, but she definitely did not have to make anything up neither to Thomas Merton. No, but Dorothy Day, her story is just amazing. It’s just
yeah. And I think the first time I actually saw her name, or you know, it kind of maybe heard her name in college and I was hearing Merton but you know, never heard a lot. Never heard a lot about her. And then when I moved at Sacramento, actually, and I was volunteering at loaves and fishes, which is a Catholic homeless outreach in downtown Sacramento. They had a Dorothy Day room. And that was where their orientation was. And I was like, Oh, yeah, or Dorothy Day, and you know, and then started looking up and, and there, there used to be a hospitality house, a Catholic Worker, hospitality house, here in Sacramento. And I know there’s some worker there. So that was kind of my entry into Oh, I want to want to get to know more about Dorothy Day. And like you said, her story is pretty amazing because she did not grow up in a necessarily religious home. Right. She often spoke that God wasn’t wasn’t really mentioned, they were kind of maybe nominal, a pice couples, right, but they didn’t, you know, they didn’t even really go every Christmas type thing that was just not really mentioned. And she grew up most of her life in New York.
But she does have a California connection that she does. She is alive during the San Francisco earthquake, which is Yeah, he’s a little kid during the day. Yeah. But that’s kind of fascinating. And speaking about first time you’ve ever seen Dorothy Day or, you know, at least a picture of her I think was when I saw a picture of her with sesor Chavez and the United farmworkers marching that had to be new the life that she’s there now front row along with sesor Chavez. And, and that definitely was California, too.
Right. Yeah. There’s a picture of her that I think is the last time she got arrested. And we’ll, we’ll get into the hacker was in 1973. And she was with Cesar Chavez in the Central Valley. Right here. So yeah, she has kind of a unique kind of Northern California connection. And yeah, she was born late 1800s, like 1897. And, and live till 1980. So actually lived a pretty long, full life. And but then, but yeah, as a little kid, right after the great earthquake of San Francisco, her family moves back to Long Island. Because it was it was just going to be so hard to rebuild, honestly, in San Francisco, so their father just saw the destruction and saw that and so they moved back. And she kind of grew up in, in this kind of New York intellectual, you know, it wasn’t necessarily her family, but she kind of started running in those circles,
right and faint with some famous folks. I mean, you know, there’s stories of hers Yeah. And down I’ll say Broadway but Right, right. arm and arm, you know, drunk at night with with people that later on become like, yeah, I mean, Dorothy Day becomes famous, but in her own circles, but people that everybody’s heard of,
yeah, she was she was she actually talks about, she was good friends with Eugene O’Neill, right. To play. Right. And, and actually, it was Eugene O’Neill, who started to pique her interest about Catholicism that he would she kind of talked about, like some nights and, and this is great. I think, Brian Lucas, he used to teach at Jessup and we’ve done a podcast together about old books he used to. He used to own my favorite used bookstore in the entire world, which was down in San Diego. It’s called Adams Avenue books. And him and I were talking about Dorothy Day, and he referenced like, she used to hang out in the village like he said, and she kind of had like a hard a hard drinking, hard smoking, swearing, you know, 20s and she used to hang out with Eugene O’Neill in a in a bar called the hellhole the hell in Hell’s Kitchen. And she used to say at night sometimes like on Tuesday on cold winter’s night, when you do nail, would you Jean No Neil would be drunk, he would start reciting the poem, The Hound of heaven. And he would talk and she said he was just impacted by he, he had, he kind of had this like, deep spiritual search that he was going through. And he grew up Catholic and kind of had that. And she said, that was a time when it actually didn’t turn her off to religion or Catholicism, it actually piqued her interest of like, maybe, maybe in the sense of like, Yeah, what I’m searching for something similar to what O’Neill’s searching for, or maybe has found and rejected. And then she also talked about a moment when she was a little, a little kid, probably, I think, like nine, nine or 10. And she ran to a friend’s house to, to call him, you know, to come play, and a little 10 in their house, you know, in New York. And the mom had just finished dishes and was kneeling in the kitchen, praying. And she remembers Haman. And the mom just kind of looked up and said, oh, they’re already outside and then went back to praying. He said that always stuck with her. Like, like her just that sense of like, you just finished the morning, breakfast dishes. And now you’re praying and and she she brought that up in, In her autobiography, Dorothy Day did. And so it is really interesting.
She was quite the Bohemian and yeah, folks was, who was the the guy with ended up? Actually, she flirted with communism for a while, sort of everybody probably did write circles. Yeah. And interestingly enough, even though I guess in some senses as an ideal ideology, especially an atheistic ideology, she ends up projecting that but as far as some of the purported aims of Marxism, you know, in action, right, you know, right, the sort of justice sort of issues with that she’s certainly carried with her all of her life and actually was criticized by especially conservative Catholics because of that.
Yeah. And that’ll be Yeah, that kind of her connection because yeah, a lot of those a lot of that early 20th century kind of New York intellectuals there was a there was a strong kind of Marxist right theme going through because it was kind of a reaction against the unfettered capitalism that was happening in you know, you just post Industrial Revolution. You have you have kind of factories popping up and you have kind of these worker issues now kind of popping up and you have Upton Sinclair’s the jungle, written in 1906, about the Meatpacking industry and
becomes governor of California, I was actually reading the day again, I was like, Oh my gosh,
right. And, and definitely kind of a strong and just a strong reaction to, to, to a capitalism that is left to its own devices that literally is just about consumption and doesn’t care for the worker or safety, or even the quality of, of the meat industry. I mean, there’s up to declare and endorsee de was really influenced by Sinclair and and becomes friends becomes friends with him. But yeah, that’s something so now in that world, it was kind of there was a lot of these kind of Marxist socialist themes. And and obviously that is before some of those conversations avenues right before World War One, right. And then and then clearly before World War Two, and and then kind of
she’s she’s definitely knee deep in Bohemia there. At least Yeah. Amy lifestyle down. In fact, um, there’s a movement. I guess the official word you would say, a cause for her canonization in the Catholic Church now. And I think we were talking once and you mentioned one of her most famous quotes about when people would call her a saint later on life. What What did she say after she said,
she said, Don’t call, don’t call me a saying I don’t want to be written off that either. I
don’t want to be she may not have any choice. But if that actually happens, she would probably be the first saint at least in my knowledge base. That would be ironically, a saint in the Catholic church who actually had an abortion. Right as early on in her life, you know, yeah, before Christ’s life she, um, she did.
Yeah. Yeah, now would be and that would be, I think, a really powerful story of redemption, and certainly wouldn’t be it. And grace because she, she’s in the canonization process. She’s She’s in the process where she is now termed a servant of God, which is A an actual designation on the road to to sainthood. So yeah, that would be that would be really interesting and and I hope that that would be a Yeah, that story of redemption could be highlighted in that because because she has yes he has abortion early and then she gets pregnant again and keeps her daughter I Tamar. Yeah. Which Yeah, I wonder if there’s a connection there with the Hebrew Bible Tamar if she’s, and it’s actually the birth of Tamar that causes Dorothy to move towards the Catholic Church. She wants to baptize her daughter so that she said that her daughter wouldn’t flounder the way that she had floundered. But her common law,
I guess, sort of a common law marriage she was in with Yeah, I guess foster batting hammer. Yeah, yeah. And he, you know, he was sort of an anarchist in a way and just wouldn’t you know, everybody, yeah. Would you get married? Yeah. Yeah. But that’s not really the breakup was that he just couldn’t support her or right, or move to faith, although they, you know, apparently kept in contact for the rest of their lives. But yeah. Fascinating. So once she does make that leap to faith, and sort of, you know, even if it’s sort of a circuitous route to it, why should we? Why is Dorothy Day? I mean, there’s a lot of people that actually, you know, have stories like hers that Yeah, but they’re not famous, like Dorothy Day. What did she do?
Yeah, wouldn’t she she was in similar to Merton. I mean, she was writing and mostly in journalism. And she had kind of worked at different papers and and foundered, and I think is in the early 30s. She meets this guy named Peter muran. Yeah. And, and Peter Moran. I heard he was a, he was a mixture of St. Francis of Assisi. And a Charlie Chaplin character from a silent film. Yeah, this is that one biography strange guys. Yeah. And, and he had this vision of creating a movement within the Catholic Church, that that, that fought for fought against poverty, that fought for the rights of workers, that that moved to, to open what were called houses of hospitality, where, where people could get fed. I mean, these were kind of soup kitchens. And so in their early 30s, she formed that and this is going to be it’s called the Catholic Worker movement
worker movement. And they had a little newspaper, too. I think they have a
little newspaper in the or something Penny cafe called the Catholic Worker,
and also bought a farm I think in upstate New York to actually get some of these folks that are just in the in the Bowery, you know, in nature for a little while. Yeah,
they they did yeah, that comes a little later. And that was kind of Peter Moran’s vision was to have this kind of communal living space out, you know, out in the country working, you know, with your hands. Now, it’s funny in the, in the biographies, they talk about how it wasn’t, it wasn’t always Oh, for sure. Clean transition, you know, because even Peter Moran wasn’t a farmer was exactly it was more of that ideal.
But transcendentalists actually kind of going out to nature and not having a clue as to actually survive.
Right? Yeah. What do you do when you’re out here? But that’s really where and many people say that she was like she was born to start the Catholic Worker movement with being around I get really she really comes to life when that and she finds her voice with the Catholic Worker this this newspaper that I think is still available today still penny a cop still a penny a copy. And, and started there in the 30s. So kind of right. During the Depression, yeah, during the Great Depression. So they started those houses of hospitality to to basically soup kitchens, I mean, soup lines, and then people would live there. And then different houses of hospitality popped up throughout the US kind of following her lead, and Peter Moran’s lead. And, and it was really through the paper, that she started to have that kind of voice of speaking out against poverty, especially like institutionalized poverty, and, and, and kind of speaking to workers rights.
It becomes sort of a social justice Crusader in the best sense of the term. He ends up becoming sort of famous for that. Yeah, actually. Yeah. And one of my favorite stories, actually, and I think we’ve talked about this before to one of my favorite stories about Dorothy Day. And actually, it’s one of my favorite stories about anybody was, she was already famous she was in New York is probably was in the 70s or something and a German journalist was going to do some sort of feature on her. And so he has this appointment, I guess with her. And he comes down early to a Catholic Worker house. And Dorothy Day sitting in a kitchen, and she’s talking. She’s deep in conversation with a homeless woman. And the reporter comes in, and she kind of acknowledges that he’s there. And then she goes on basically talking to this homeless woman, or mainly listening to her ramblings for another half hour or so. And then finally, she remembers the reporters there. Yeah. And she turns to him and says, I’m sorry to keep you waiting. Which one of us? Do you want to talk to? Which one? Are you here to talk to? And I just love that, you know, yeah, actually, you know, put the homeless woman on the same level as she was her story’s just as interesting as mine. Which one of us do you want to talk to? And I love dogs like that. I want to be that way. Right? Not most of the time, right. Want to be that way?
I think that’s Yeah, that is one thing that made Dorothy Day so unique, too, is that she, she was very focused on not just speaking out against poverty and and speaking out for workers rights. She committed to a life of poverty, run and committed to live with those who she served and extolled the dignity of the folks that she lived with and exactly served with. And she often I mean, in that ruffled some feathers in the Catholic Church, when she would see other when she would see other priests or nuns doing work. And then going home, there was a story she was staying with, with some sisters in an account and they would all go out and kind of work during the day in different kind of social justice and, and, and different volunteer places and then come back. And at dinner one night, Dorothy asks, like, why don’t you just stay with them? Where you live? And it was kind of everyone’s like, Oh, yeah, that you know, and so I think it was her commitment to, to being with the poor, not just being an advocate for the poor, but actually being with the poor. And then being a voice and being a voice that, that was heard. And, and she also was, was a very strong pacifist as well. And so she, interestingly enough, she did a little bit of nurse training at the end of World War One, right during the Spanish flu pandemic. And so she was working in a hospital during like, in 1918, like during, during the Spanish flu pandemic. And so she had a little bit of that in her background, and then obviously, when it came to even World War Two, and that she was kind of a pretty vocal opponent to war, which took a lot of courage during which did Yeah, yeah. And it didn’t didn’t make her a lot of friends.
It’s interesting, though, so so in God’s economy, a book I remember reading a long time ago, because we all had to read it. When I went to seminary, it was called the upside down Kingdom actually found it in the Jessup library. Yeah, guy named Kraybill, I believe, so I read it, and not quite as impressed with it now as I was back, I mean, mainly because I just totally agree with the message. So it’s not right, right. Yeah, not anything new. But the books entitled The upside down kingdom. And so God’s economy is not like our economy. And so interestingly enough, you know, her critics who probably at the time thought of themselves more, I don’t know, influential in their circle, right. Then she was obviously thought they had a platform to criticize her. So I, you know, we don’t even know who they are. Now. Nobody even knows who their names are. I mean, you could look it up. Yeah. You know, Dorothy days on her way to sainthood. And so right, there you go. God’s economy is different.
Yeah, it is. And she has a, she has a great quote, that I just found that I thought was interesting. And it kind of kind of speaks to that maybe that mid mid 20th century, early 20th century and in US history, and it can be helpful. Now, she said this, she said, when you feed the poor, you are called a saint. When you ask why they are poor, your call to communists? Yeah, I remember. And it’s and it’s just, yeah, that, you know, it’s kind of like, people are like, Oh, that’s good to to feed the poor and that, but then to get into issues of why they’re poor. Right. And that starts to get into issues
that are controversial. Yeah. Today, actually, exactly. The difference between ours is they get involved in social ministry, you know, and then social justice. Just advocacy, which are two things with sort of a similar end, but right, we still struggle with, you know, whether one’s even biblical or not. Right.
And so, and that seems to be Yeah, is really interesting. You mean, you look at the time, she’s coming up in the 30s, and the Great Depression, you also have kind of the rise of fundamentalism. Right? You know, and, and that was, was a move in a kind of a rejection of being involved in society and, and social issues. There was kind of this divide. And and I think that’s maybe what makes Dorothy Day and people like her so powerful as they dove into those social issues and saw them as spiritual issues and issues of religion as well, that it wasn’t just
that actually is a good transition into the other guy that we want to talk about. Yeah, as you know, he comes from literary circles also in New York, and you’re fascinating, you know, before he conversion story as well, and ends up basically retreating from the world, interestingly enough, sort of like in a different way. fundamentalism did for a while in the 30s 40s. Yeah. And then he becomes known later on in his career as an inveterate writer about everything and ends up being associated with a lot of social justice causes himself, right would be the other person that I’d never heard of when I was growing up, who ends up being famous also is a Samaritan.
And and with Merton, he was a he was about a 15 or so years younger than Rosie day. And, and in his kind of conversion story, or here or that, yeah, conversion story, and then even move into monasticism as captured in his kind of maybe most famous writings, seven story mountain. And that came out in the late 40s. I believe, I’ve
never gone out of print. I mean, it’s still it’s interesting. You can go into bookstores and see, which is it’s it’s a conversion story, actually. Yeah, conversion story to, I guess, one of the most Catholic of Catholic things you can do if you’re going to join the Catholic Church, become a Trappist monk. But yeah, it’s never been out of print. Because one reason i think is because Thomas Merton is a writer, he also comes to me, Lou, he’s, he’s a writer, he’s probably a writer almost before he’s a monk or before anything else, in some ways. And yeah, you know, there’s sort of never an end to Thomas Merton his writings, and it’s enjoyable read, because he knows how to ride. Yeah, and he has a lot to say. And, and because of that, he’s his appeals pretty wide.
Yeah. And it’s, it’s interesting to me, when you look back at his history, even the impact that it had, right away, right, in the late 40s, in the 50s, you know, post war, and you have this kind of trajectory of, of the American economy, and you have all this post war, rebuilding, you know, kind of the mid century American Dream happening, it goes the other way around. Yeah. And he rejects that, and, and goes the other way. And in that story, it becomes maybe so appealing, and it says, you know, one commentator noted that he sent a drove of maybe college students and even former war veterans, to run to monasteries, in in the early 50s. You know, who were also Travis Yeah, who were also kind of seeking, seeking a deeper meaning in life and, and and seeping seeking a different experience. Then,
sort of that just sort of become an issue with Thomas Merton though because he becomes sort of Thomas Merton trademark are a little bit later on in his life. And yeah, which is really interesting for the Saracens, actually, because they’re, you know, cut off. That’s actually a harsher form of monasticism than even the Benedictines, right. And yet, you know, he becomes the most famous monk in America. Yeah. Which becomes an issue actually. And it causes issues with him and and his Abbot and his fellow monks for the rest of his life. Although he never ends up rejecting that he has, he has, you know, chances to, and then he doesn’t.
Yeah, and it’s interesting that I mean that he kind of goes from New York, he also was studying a little bit at Cambridge and leaves and comes back and then was at Columbia for a little while. Right and He falls
into some folks that actually sort of lead him interesting enough in in sort of, you know, I don’t know, the English department of Colombia, which is where you would not think these people would be end up leading him towards Christianity, which is fast. Yeah.
And it’s really, and maybe both of these stories are kind of Dorothy Day is baptized in the Catholic Church in the late 20s. I think it’s like 1927. And then Merton would have been, you know, it would have been sometime in the late 30s, maybe early 40s. And yeah, it is kind of interesting that perhaps, at highlights a different time in, in American history, yeah. And in that where there was still this, this route of, of Christianity and even Catholicism in that, that was it was something should be Yeah, it was an option that was intellectually
respectable. Option is right, it right. Yeah. I still could attract, like de and meryton in ways that. I guess it still could. Today, but yeah, it’s just not so prominent in society is it was simply because religions not not as prominent.
Yeah. in it. And yeah, it’s kind of interesting that it, it was seen as, as an option in that kind of intellectual sense, as well. And that divide really started happening, kind of 40s 50s where it was kind of that religion and the intellectual community. You know, there was this kind of divide driven, especially in maybe evangelical communities. And and to see that, you know, maybe another reason why we didn’t hear a lot about Dorothy Day, or Thomas Merton growing up. Because it wasn’t Yeah, it wasn’t within that. within that circle, that if
you’re looking for a conversion stories, though, I mean, it reminds me as much as anything of of St. Agustin in some ways, yeah, there are bits and pieces of a Gustin and both Dorothy Day story, and now Thomas Merton story, now, but then once he starts writing, American begins writing about everything, and one of the most you know, he’s kind of omnivorous in the things that he writes about. But one thing he does do is, he kind of catches the first wave of the movement that introduces contemplative prayer into American spirituality. Yeah, and I think, even today, especially for Protestants that have heard of, or even evangelicals that have heard of Marin, I think that’s kind of the intro into his life is his writings on contemplative, contemplative prayer, which had been really influential.
Yeah. And now, I mean, his, his small book, called contemplative prayer was one of the things that really impacted me in college as I was looking for that deeper spiritual life. Looking for the, the how the spiritual disciplines could take me deeper into relationship with God and, and Merton and I know Merton highly influenced Henry now and, and then
and basil Pennington, and also Yeah, folks that end up writing a lot about that, right.
And Merton and Dorothy de influenced each other, they were connected and friends. And, and, and kind of especially, obviously, later in, in days life and then later in Mertens life who has an untimely death. In the late 60s. Yeah,
he he ends up being electrocuted in a bathtub. Yeah, sure. has to be one’s interesting ways to
go right. In Cambodia. Yeah. All right. Yeah. Oh, in Thailand. Yeah. I think Yeah. Yeah. So what’s he doing? What’s he doing in Thailand? Yeah. So this is another interesting American mug. Yeah, the 60s is, what’s he doing there?
Yeah. Another interesting twist, I think for Merton is that, you know, really, in the mid to late 60s, Merton started really diving into interfaith dialogue and dialoguing with other contemplatives of other traditions. And, and was was at a conference where there were Christians and and Buddhists and they were talking about their traditions. And, and was there and that and that was, I think, kind of interesting too, because you have within us history. You also in the late 60s have this interest in eastern spirituality, right and, and and a lot of college students making a pilgrimage east and and i Think I think Merton saw that not as a threat but as as another form of dialogue with how to yes as how to move people into a recognition of the spiritual life.
How can you learn from and this is something that is definitely kind of foreign to, you know, our evangelical genes. And yeah, that’s a whole topic for another time. But yeah, you know, how can you have inter religious dialogue? How can you learn from each other without trying to convert each other? Right? If when conversion is, at least for us, I guess is the whole point. Right? You know, it’s like, if, you know, if I can’t witness to you and get you to agree with me, then why am I even talking with you, actually, which defeats the whole purpose of interreligious dialogue at all, and of course, Martin’s not there. He definitely wants to see what we as American, you know, in our tradition, as American Catholics as an American Catholic monk, to teach a group of Buddhist monks and what might they be able to teach me without, you know, somehow dissolving into each other in some amorphous kind of spirituality that does damage to both of our traditions?
Right. Right. And yeah, and he really led the way and it was not a necessarily a popular not back then either decision at the time,
just like God zapped him in the bathtub. I’ve been facetious here, but a lot of people actually thought that’s exactly why that happened. Right? You know,
and it is, and that was in 1968, which is just me as an interesting year. You look at US history and, and other deaths in the US. And in the late 60s, and you’re moving into a time of, of social unrest. I mean, you’re moving into a time of year at the height of the civil rights movement, but you also have the Vietnam War, escalating as well.
And yeah, he’s involved in all those things. Yeah. Riding on that, right.
And, yeah, so it’s just such an interesting time. And I also saw that Merton was often called the conscious of the conscience of the peace movement, that he was able to speak into it because he was sometimes called a quiet pacifist. Which, which is maybe a version of pacifism, that’s just not as vocal or he’s a Trappist monk. Maybe that makes sense. He’s right. He’s not supposed to talk. Yeah. And so I think he was able to kind of speak into the peace movement, also speak wisdom into the peace movement. And so again, with that untimely death, you you see that, that I think America really lost his voice.
It’s so fascinating with folks like, and I’m not trying to lump them together on the same spiritual plane. So please, listeners, do not misunderstand me at all. Yeah. But it is interesting when when people sort of, you know, have an untimely death, and at the top of their influence when they are beginning to move in a different direction, but no one knows where that would have taken them, or whether they would have been able to reconcile that different direction with who they were. And yeah, those questions come up with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, those questions come up with Thomas Merton. I would like to think that they would have remained true to their convictions and just, you know, broadened them.
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So it’s so we’ll never know. Right? Yeah. We’ll never know. We won’t. But yeah, I think for me, and maybe with this episode is just trying to introduce some people who, who maybe haven’t heard that much about Dorothy Day, or Thomas Merton to kind of pique their interest to, to dive into their stories, because because they represent two really influential Christian voices of the 20th century. Right? That that we shouldn’t miss. Even if, even if elements of their message make us uncomfortable, that that we need to dive into them. They also represent to I’ve always been struck by and I think Brian Lewis and I were talking about this on the on the episode do a year ago or so that they were both like, crazy readers. I mean, they read anything they could get their hands on good writers are often good readers. It’s so true. Yeah. And and actually, it was for, for Dorothy Day, Dostoevsky was one of her main and and Tolstoy I mean that that Russian literature was a real main influence influence on moving her to speak to him. issues of poverty and you totally have to have Devin dedication to read through it is a journey to get through relative worth, it is worth it to me it is well worth it. Well worth it. It is. And, and so I think they can be, you know, I just think going back to Francis standing, you know, in front of the the US Congress and saying, I mean, look at all of the amazing people that America has produced, right? And saying, let’s look at these four people to we may know really well and then to bring in Dorothy Day and her voice and to bring in Thomas Merton and his contemplation and his depth of spirituality,
they are people worth checking out for Yeah,
they really are. Yeah, they really are. And, and so we hope maybe we’ve, we’ve piqued your interest to dive into their stories more their stories are even even, like more complex than than we can even get into in one episode. And, and I think they also kind of highlight, like you were saying Rex, very, very Augustinian in their in their life and in their conversion. Right. And and so they highlight this, this complexity of let’s say, with Dorothy Day, this complexity of sainthood, right? Like you we normally think of saints, maybe as, you know, people who are like angelic figures who were at work since they were six years old. Right, right. And right, diet eight, yeah. Yeah, angelic not human. Right. And not Dorothy Day. Right. Thomas? She was, yeah, she and Thomas Martin were very human. And that’s good. Yeah,
I am, too. And, exactly, um, we can relate to human beings a lot more than we can relate to plaster saints on a dashboard. That’s so true. And neither one of them are that.
Right. And I think one of the thing too, that kind of maybe leads to their, you know, we can just keep running with the sainthood line. morons in Africa. During the day, maybe, but there’s something that’s true, no. But they, they, they move us to a place of that, that kind of the reality of what it means to be human, and to still be deeply spiritual. And also, they take I think that next step two, they put action to their beliefs. A lot of people yeah, and a lot of with Merton, it was his writings. And and with Dorothy Day, it was the Catholic Worker newspaper and the Catholic Worker movement. Right. And it was her presence had a lot of places to be a voice and to speak up. And I mean, I that’s what I think is so powerful of that photo of her at, at, you know, almost age at a thing I don’t Well, yeah, she was she would have been late, early 70s. In 1973, in the middle of a hot field, in, in the Central Valley. And to be there on a chair, and setting in front of for, you know, police officers coming out to arrest the protesters who are protesting for workers rights, because of the conditions and the pay. And, in the treatment. Were were notably horrendous, and that
would be a cause to to Dorothy dsred.
Yeah. And that she would be there that she would leave the comfort of her own home, the comfort, you know, of that of New York and everything she had there to be a voice. And, and, and I think the other thing too, both with Merton and Dorothy Day, and Dorothy Day was, was very much a part of and she connected with, with Martin Luther King, Jr. On this. Both of them were very committed to non violent, right, direct action that sometimes led to nonviolent civil disobedience, where, you know, I think she was arrested like four times in her life, mostly just for setting somewhere and not moving. And, and, and I think that’s another aspect to their story, you know, of that, that direct action actually doing something. That is why we know about her. And we don’t necessarily know about all the people who condemned her maybe during that time were mentioned by Pope Francis before Congress right now. Yeah. So we hope you know, we could we could talk all day about pride Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton and there’s a lot of wonderful resources out there on them a lot of good biographies of Dorothy Day. Apple just came out this year PBS just did a documentary this year that you can search and and watch. And and I think it’s important that that we have these Christian voices that are still very much a part of the what is called the American Century. And and and their voices we need to know and and we need some of the
issues that they were dealing with are still with us today. And so yeah, there’s still there’s still a resource for those of us that care about those things. Definitely.
Well, thank you so much for tuning in. We hope you you do a little reading and maybe some further study. Thank you for listening to Jessup. Think Be sure to follow us on Twitter at Jessup think we would love to hear your thoughts on the episode and engage with any questions you have. Our aim is to provide a framework for further reflection and deeper exploration of these important topics. You can also help the show by leaving a review on iTunes these reviews help the podcast reach new listeners. Until next time, I’m Mark Moore and this is Jessup.
If you’re interested in learning more about Jessup, please visit us at jessup.edu. William Jessup is the premier fully accredited four year Christian University in the Sacramento area offering over 60 academic programs in undergraduate and graduate studies designed to see every student equipped and transformed into the leader they are called to be as you go Don’t forget to hit subscribe and share so you never miss an episode. Thanks for joining us for Jessup Think.