Thursday, November 08, 2007

What ties them together

Some time back, I bookmarked an ariticle on GodSpy, Mother Teresa and Dorothy Day - Two Radical Women by Jerry Dauost.

Mother Teresa once invited Dorothy Day to speak to her novices on the occasion of Dorothy's visit to Calcutta in 1970. Eileen Eagan, who was traveling with Dorothy, tells of the novices' reaction to Dorothy:

". . . I saw their eyes widen as she recounted the many times she had chosen to go to jail. They understood going to prison for truth and liberation, as Gandhi had done; now they were hearing it in a specifically Christian context, that of the Works of Mercy, of visiting the prisoner by entering prison. When Dorothy had finished, Mother Teresa took the black cross with the Corpus of Christ, as worn by the Missionaries of Charity on their saris, and pinned it on Dorothy's left shoulder. I know of no other case in which Mother Teresa gave the crucifix of her congregation to a lay person."

Eagan continues: ". . . It was clear to me that a like vision animated the two women. Mother Teresa served the dying of a scourged city, seeing each one 'as Jesus in a distressing disguise.' Dorothy Day stated that Jesus linked salvation to 'how we act toward him in his disguise of commonplace, frail, ordinary humanity.'"
It's a good article, worth the read. One point made in the article is how for both women the life of radical charity was rooted deeply in prayer. This is something that those of us doing this work have to keep returning to. We spend so much of our time working directly with people in need, or working with others to train and organize. For some of us, this is the first time we have applied our talents to something that matters beyond a paycheck.

We all, of course, know that it is important to feed our own spiritual lives, and may even get around to doing something about it. But we seem to forget in any practical sense that prayer is not just something we do to help us do the important stuff. Our intimate life with Christ has to be the center of what and why we do what we do. We go into places where human pain and need are immediate, and demand an immediate response. But we forget at our peril that our first response, no matter how brief, is prayer. The only way we can be sure we are doing God's work, is to start with God, and do the work with Him.

Long ago, my first spiritual mentor said: "In any situation, no matter how dire, the first and best thing you can do is pray." Doing that, one travels the same path as these two friends of God.

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