Last summer I stopped in the Daughters of St. Paul Book Center in Chicago. I haven’t been in a book store in a long time, so that should have prevented me from going in right there. However, the nuns are so inviting, the books a treasure trove of Catholic writing, and the Lord is always home in the tiny chapel in the back. What more could you want?
After browsing for a few minutes, I spotted the book, Dorothy Day: The World Will be Saved by Beauty by Kate Hennessy, Dorothy’s youngest granddaughter. My first thought was, “I’ll read this during Lent.” Two weeks before Lent, I picked the book up and was introduced to a complex woman who lived the Gospel in action, not just words.
Dorothy Day (1897-1980) was considered radical in her time. She believed in feeding the poor and offering help to anyone who happened to come to the door of the Catholic Worker, the organization she founded. Sometimes she sacrificed her relationships for that organization, including her relationship with her only child, Tamar.
The book delves into those relationships through Dorothy’s life. Some famous, some forever intertwined in her life as the years passed.
Dorothy had one abortion and never married her daughter’s father. Her Catholic faith, a faith she embraced by being baptized in the late 1920’s was a contention between her and Tamar’s father. Dorothy wrote about her conversion in The Long Loneliness. It was not a happy time for her, but more of something she truly felt she needed to do.
Dorothy’s granddaughter, Kate Hennessy, writes a beautiful portrait not only of her grandmother, but of her mother Tamar, Tamar’s nine children and the people that belonged to the Catholic Worker. The Catholic faith was, for the most part, abandoned by everyone in the family except Dorothy.
I enjoyed Dorothy Day: The World Will be Saved by Beauty, but the book left me wanting to know more about Kate, her mother, and her siblings. Kate does talk about her relationship with the Catholic Worker and the legacy her grandmother left her family. Still, I hope she writes another book. I want to know more about this family.
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Copyright 2020 Pam Spano
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