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The Long Loneliness by Dorothy Day

The Long Loneliness (original 1952; edition 1997)

by Dorothy Day

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9211414,945 (4.04)25
This inspiring and fascinating memoir, subtitled, "The Autobiography of the Legendary Catholic Social Activist," The Long Loneliness is the late Dorothy Day's compelling autobiographical testament to her life of social activism and her spiritual pilgrimage. A founder of the Catholic Worker Movement and longtime associate of Peter Maurin, Dorothy Day was eulogized in the New York Times as, "a nonviolent social radical of luminous personality." The Long Loneliness recounts her remarkable journey from the Greenwich Village political and literary scene of the 1920s through her conversion to Catholicism and her lifelong struggle to help bring about "the kind of society where it is easier to be good."… (more)
Title:The Long Loneliness
Authors:Dorothy Day
Info:HarperSanFrancisco (1997), Paperback, 304 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:spirituality, social justice, activism

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The Long Loneliness: The Autobiography of Dorothy Day by Dorothy Day (Author) (1952)


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Summary: A memoir of the life of Dorothy Day up to 1952, describing her search for God and a meaningful life, her conversion to Catholicism, her catalytic friendship with Peter Maurin, and the early years of the Catholic Worker movement.

This is the memoir of a woman who grew up in a middle class family, the daughter of a sports writer, a teen who read Upton Sinclair and Doestoevsky, spent two years at the University of Illinois, then left to pursue life as a writer on the lower east side of Manhatten, working for several Socialist publications, getting arrested for the first time in 1917 (her last was as a 75 year old!). She went through several love affairs with the likes of Eugene O’Neill and Mike Gold. Along the way, she had an abortion, and lived what one would call a very “bohemian” lifestyle. An unlikely candidate for sainthood, you might say, and yet the Archdiocese of New York has opened the cause for her canonization, allowing her to be designated “A Servant of God.”

The memoir covers her early life and all these episodes although it devotes very little time to the period she spent in Europe. What we see is a woman haunted by a longing for God, struggling with “the long loneliness” of human existence, the sense of being alienated or apart from even those closest in life. She appears to find a happy existence in a Staten Island home she bought with proceeds from selling a screen play. She is in a kind of “common law” relationship with Forster Batterham, socially conscious but a principled atheist. They seem to enjoy an idyllic life until the birth of daughter Tamar, which intensifies Dorothy’s spiritual search as she reads Catholic literature and talks with several Catholic sisters and priests. First she brings Tamar to be baptized, and then at the end of 1927, enters the Catholic Church, and leaves Batterham, who loves her but utterly opposes this decision. She speaks of the struggle she has with the decision, which literally ended up making her ill. Yet in the end, when faced with a choice between Batterham and God, she chooses God. Nevertheless, they remained good friends for the remainder of their lives.

Dorothy struggled with reconciling her concerns for the poor and social activism with her Catholic faith. It wasn’t until the searching convert and a wandering social theologian, Peter Maurin meet up that these two strains are reconciled in her life. It is a catalytic relationship for both, resulting in the launching of the Catholic Worker movement. She chronicles the birth of this movement with its paper sold for a penny (to this day), its houses of hospitality (now 216 in the U.S. according to their website), and their farming experiments. The vision was of places where laborers could find food, welcome, and thoughtful conversation and retreats that addressed the spiritual side of their existence as well as sustained advocacy for workers’ rights. Maurin helped Day integrate Catholic social teaching with her faith, and I think Day helped Maurin translate his visionary ideals into actual communities.

The book concludes with Day’s beautiful account of Maurin’s death, and their acquisition of a new house in New York City, which she attributes to Maurin’s prayers. In her postscript she comes back to the theme of “the long loneliness.”

“We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.

It all happened while we sat there talking, and it is still going on.”

This memoir suggested several things to me. It reminded me that the externals of how a person is living is not a reliable indicator of their spiritual hunger or the work of God in their lives. At several points Dorothy was exposed to very “other worldly” versions of Christianity that failed to capture her imagination because they did not address life in this world. And the book exposes the power of community, and the reality that even with all our human foibles and flaws, people drawn together in Christ might indeed find the “only solution” to our long loneliness. ( )
  BobonBooks | Nov 1, 2017 |
Just read it! This is a classic book that illuminates Catholic social teaching and the need to compassionately reach out to everyone, yes everyone, while offering much food for meditation and contemplation. Deeply spiritual, deeply moving, and deeply personal. ( )
  nmele | Sep 7, 2017 |
Wow! I have heard of Dorthy Day for years. The famous Catholic Anarchists. Being a radical myself I have been drawn to the idea for some time. In her autobiography I learn that she was much more complicated that I had originally thought.

I see so much of myself, and my wife, in her journey. My love of God no matter what, and no way to understand how one could ever live without him. My wife's content skeptism of the world and weariness of those outside of our immediate circle. An undying love for a child no matter how frustrating. A conversion story that occurs just as her loved one is strengthening resistance to religion.

She never meant to write about herself, and the autobiography only left me wanting more. How to live in peace with neighbors above all. How to love Christ with a heart, even when it seems like His world is not for us. Anarchy doesn't have to be about politics. Its...different. I long for more. I am certain her canonization process will be long and drawn out, and the body of Christ will have to grow before we can call her St. Dorthy Day. ( )
  fulner | May 22, 2017 |
Catholic social activist Dorothy Day's autobiography is a fascinating story. I mostly enjoyed Dorothy Days formative years where she as a radical bohemian decided to move into poor areas of New York and there became aware of the downtrodden and disenfranchised masses and her struggle to speak up for them as a journalist and writer and activist - and later her conversion into catholicism. Her account of her time in prison and the hunger strike is both heartbreaking and profound.

I lost all consciousness of any cause. I had no sense of being a radical, making protest against a government, carrying on a nonviolent revolution. I could only feel darkness and desolation all around me. The bar of gold which the sun left on the ceiling every morning for a short hour taunted me….a heartbreaking conviction of the ugliness, the futility of life came over me so that I could not weep but only lie there in blank misery. I lost all feeling of my own identity. I reflected on the desolation of poverty, of destitution, of sickness and sin.

It's also a somewhat frustrating read because so many "facts" are missing - at least for me - in the union struggle in USA. A lot of names and events are mentioned with little explanation. That part of her story was difficult to figure out.

But I liked the strong sense of community. So often she felt alone also in the marriage that eventually ended in divorce.

The only answer in this life, to the loneliness we are all bound to feel, is community. The living together, working together, sharing together, loving God and loving our brother, and living close to him in community so we can show our love for Him. ( )
3 vote ctpress | Sep 9, 2013 |
This book is autobiography, but is also about the author's conversion to the Catholic faith. A very significant conversion it was because it led to the creation of the Catholic Worker movement. From her youth Dorothy Day felt empathy for the poor. She wanted to work for social justice when she joined the Socialists and the Wobblies, but was unsatisfied with idealogies that denied God. So she explored Christianity and in time followed the Christian gospels—and her own instincts—into the realms of pacifism, direct service to the poor, and what she called voluntary poverty. Her meeting with Peter Maurin in 1932 provided the catalyst for the creation of the Catholic Worker newspaper and movement. Readers of this book will see the pieces coming together, falling into place, that made it possible, maybe even inevitable. Because to this day the Catholic Worker movement has its roots in her interpretation of the Christian gospels.

"We did not search for God when we were children," she writes. At university, she saw religion as "an opiate of the people and not a very attractive one." But by page 132 she writes, "I was surprised that I found myself beginning to pray daily." Then, "I began to go to Mass regularly on Sunday mornings." This book is about her gradual transformation from unchurched Bohemian to candidate for sainthood, how it happened and what she thought about it. The book is in three sections: pre-conversion, conversion, and post-conversion. Section three discusses Peter Maurin and the early history of the Catholic Worker community.

Her writing style is much like her life was, down-to-earth, simple, direct, personal. In section two she rambles a bit about her neighbors, but most of this book is action packed. And what food for thought! About spirituality and religion, practical philosophy, social justice, war and peace, family life and community. And history, of course, as she experienced it--and made it. Hers was an eventful life in the front lines of the struggles for peace and social justice, which makes for a riveting read.

Indexed. Illustrated with woodcuts by Fritz Eichenberg. ( )
  pjsullivan | Sep 12, 2011 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Day, DorothyAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Eichenberg, FritzIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Berrigan, DanielIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Coles, RobertIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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