Work Is Love Made Visible

On the subway last night, for the third time in recent months, I happily ran into E—we’d met at a party once, and we’ve been building a little friendship out of chance meetings on the C train. I was with my friends, and he was with his. His friends happened to mention that they regretted not having done anything for May Day. My friends and I looked at each other and smiled. We had.

Sharing the peace at Catholic Worker mass
Sharing the peace at Catholic Worker mass

Last night was the 76th anniversary of the Catholic Worker, the organization founded by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin to serve the poor and fight for justice. It began with a mass at St. Joseph House, with the kitchen table as the altar. Friends of the Worker piled into the small dining room and poured out of the doors and open windows into the rain. The highlight for me was the two verses sung of “How Great Thou Art,” accompanied by what sounded like an 80s Casio keyboard. The church sang boldly, in every which pitch.

By mistake, though the gospel reading was about a prophet in his home town, the sermon was on the Beatitudes. Above all, peace was preached.

Afterward, many of us moseyed through the rain, two blocks up in Manhattan’s East Village, to St. Mary House, acquired for the Worker in the 70s with the help of the Trappists at Genesee Abbey upstate. Formerly the home of the Third Street Music School, the house has a charming auditorium, newly-painted and decorated with Bread and Puppet prints. There we had a simple dinner of cold cut sandwiches, salad, and birthday cake which K of St. Joe’s had stayed up the night before baking.

Soon, food turned to music, and Workers took the stage of the auditorium with two guitars and a banjo. J, the boy dressed in a tux and top hat, tap danced, air-guitared, and sang along up there throughout.

Music at St. Mary House
Music at St. Mary House

Throughout the night I kept remembering a passage from Day’s The Long Loneliness that struck me so deeply when I read it years ago, giving the Catholic Worker, before I knew anyone there, a special place in me:

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

“Work Is Love Made Visible” is the title of Jim Reagan’s cover article in the May edition of the Catholic Worker newspaper.





3 responses to “Work Is Love Made Visible”

  1. Quentin Kirk

    Wow, that’s wonderful.
    We had a tradition in rural Illinois of putting a tiny basket of spring flowers on someone’s porch, knocking on the door, hiding in the bushes, and calling out “May basket!” when they came to the door.
    “and that love comes with community.” There is soooo little community in the world and I am not sure why.

  2. Sarah Curtis

    Encountering the work of Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin remains one of the most important moments in my life. I’m so happy to come upon this post. It inspired me to take out my copy of Loaves and Fishes. The first thing I noticed was a passage in which Day writes about Peter Maurin’s insistence that “works of mercy are the most direct form of action there is.” She goes on to point out that Maurin also insisted that “the truth needs to be restated every twenty years.” I’m sure more often than that…Thanks for restating Day and Maurin’s important truths, thanks for celebrating the Catholic Worker and reminding me of their good work. Thanks for fostering community.

  3. And thank you, Sarah, for sharing your reactions and your experiences!