Monday, December 01, 2014

A Catholic Worker documentary

With a new pope who seems more concerned with loving humankind than with institutional preservation, the witness of Dorothy Day again feels prophetic.

This 2007 documentary seemed to me a quite comprehensive and fair history of the Catholic Worker movement thriving around the edges of the Roman Catholic church: feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and generally attesting to the possibility that we could build a society in which it is easier to be good. Though Catholic Worker co-founder Dorothy Day is the ostensible focus, her community and her boundary-breaking project is also the story here. The filmmaker has gathered a trove of still photos from the C.W., particularly raising up images by Jon Erickson from the early 70s. It struck me that the faces of misery from that decade were not very different looking than the images from the 1930s. Poverty and homelessness in New York City may today present somewhat different faces -- more Black and brown, more children -- but those earlier decades seem to run together.

What you'll learn from this film, if you chose to visit its website and buy a full copy -- it's cheap, $5 or $7 -- is that Dorothy Day was beautiful. From youth through motherhood and into old age, her strong features are riveting. She is a gift simply to look at. Does that have anything to do with "sainthood"? I wouldn't claim to know.

Full disclosure: I lived in the New York Catholic Worker in the year that Jon Erickson was taking his photos.

1 comment:

Hattie said...

I think I mentioned this once, that we must have been in the NYC area around the same time. I was there 1969-71.