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Monday, May 20, 2013

Spirituality: The Mystery of the Poor by Dorothy Day

I looked around [St. Joseph’s House of Chrystie Street in New York City] and the general appearance of the place was, as usual, home-like, informal, noisy, and comfortably warm on a cold evening. And yet, looked at with the eyes of a visitor, our place must look dingy indeed, filled as it always is with men and women, some children too, all of whom bear the unmistakable mark of misery and destitution.

Aren’t we deceiving ourselves, I am sure many of them think, in the work we are doing? What are we accomplishing for them anyway, or for the world or for the common good? “Are these people being rehabilitated?” is the question we get almost daily from visitors or from our readers (who seem to be great letter writers).

One priest had his catechism classes write us questions as to our work after they had the assignment to read my book The Long Loneliness. The majority of them asked the same question” How can you see Christ in people?” And we can only say: It is an act of faith, constantly repeated. It is an act of love, resulting from an act of faith. It is an act of hope, that we can awaken these same acts in their hearts, too, with the help of God, and the Works of Mercy, which you, our readers, help us to do, day in and day out over the years….

The mystery of the poor is this: That they are Jesus, and what you do for them you do for Him. It is the only way we have of knowing and believing in our love. The mystery of poverty is that by sharing in it, making ourselves poor in giving to others, we increase our knowledge of and belief in love.


  1. People are poor in many ways. I just hung up the phone from a long conversation with a person who spent the majority of her life in prison. Through the patience of her cousin who has a relationship with Jesus, my friend has come to know Jesus as well and although it has been a struggle, she has experienced a change in her lifestyle. My friend emphasized that her cousin didn't preach to her but she loved her in tangible ways. I told her that we are all in this life together and we all struggle in different ways. This is the gospel and this is what Dorothy Day did.

    1. All we can do is give a good example to others. It is in the silent, gentle ways that communicate most effectively.