Here and Now: Dorothy Day

When I think of Dorothy Day, I immediately connect her life and work to Jesus’ words, “as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40).  She welcomed the stranger and showed compassion to those in need in ways that continue to inspire and instruct us today. [1]

And of course, the only place we can do this is here-and-now.  Dorothy Day’s diaries and letters are filled with one example after another confirming in spades that she lived her life this way.  She once described her meditation as taking place “here, there, and everywhere–at the kitchen table, on the train, on the ferry, on my way to and from appointments, and even while making supper or putting Teresa to bed.” [2]

Everything she referred to is a present-moment experience.  And in many ways, her statement summarizes everything we are attempting to say and emulate about here-and-now living.  Dorothy Day recognized the sacredness of each moment, seeing it as an invitation to penetrate the surface and discover God present and active in all people and things. 

This is present-moment mysticism; that is “having eyes to see and ears to hear” in ways that keeps the flame of love burning in our heart and moves us into a loving engagement with all of life.  As with everyone else we are looking at in this series (and anyone else, for that matter), the forms and practiced Dorothy used may or may not be the ones God calls us to use.  But the intention to live here-and-now will be the lens for seeing that every moment is a God moment, and that we live in each moment as participants, not observers.

[1] Her autobiography, ‘The Long Loneliness’ (Harper & Row, 1952) enables us to see all this directly from her own words.

[2] Michael Garvey, ed., ‘Dorothy Day: Selections from Her Writings’ (Templegate Publishers, 1966), 15.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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